The Westfield Voice

The Student News Site of Westfield State University

The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

O’ Beautiful: Whose Side Are You On?


Westfield State students are staging the play O’ Beautiful, opening on November 14th in the Ely Blackbox Theater, to start a campus conversation and bring a story to life that deals with political and moral issues which affect our country today. 

O’ Beautiful deals with subjects like abortion, date rape, and aggressive patriotism toward the second amendment and gun ownership. These are many of the same arguments we have seen on the news and other forms of media for most of our lives. 

“It’s so relevant to what’s going on in this country as far as the ideas of us vs. them. This is just a national conversation. And then just specific issues of sexual assault, issues of gun rights, issues of abortion rights. This is just the time to talk about these things because theater is the place to do that,” said Eric Parness, director of O’Beautiful and a professor in Westfield’s theater program. 

“If there’s ever a place to have uncomfortable conversations it’s in college, and if there’s a place in college to have uncomfortable conversations that it’s in theater and art,” Parness said. 

“It [the play] deals with a lot of the issues that are on all of the ballots recently. Abortion and laws. Does the woman get to choose, or is she not allowed either way? It deals with racism, which seems to be on the uprise now. And suicide is still quite a problem, and it’s not really addressed all that much,” said Eveline Rossi, who plays the role of Alice Fletcher. 

“This play does a phenomenal job of showing how fear runs amok in the country today. As we speak, we have people who’re constantly fighting others online about gun rights, threatening to shoot people down on the spot, mass shooting and constant suicides,” explained Sam Fortilus, who is portraying the role of Ty Janaleris. 

The show focuses on two families. One of the characters is a young woman who comes from a very religious home, is raped, becomes pregnant, and struggles with the decision to get an abortion. 

The other character is a young man who is socially awkward, and whose act in a talent show and the mocking from his peers eventually lead to his suicide. Meanwhile, a new teacher challenges the town’s beliefs and asks if there is another way to looking at these kinds of situations and issues. 

Theresa Rebeck, a well-established playwright who has worked in TV and on Broadway, was commissioned by a theater company associated with University of Delaware to write this play. It’s had several outside productions with about forty cast members but has never been professionally performed. 

“We didn’t have the capacity to cast forty people in that theater with our community. So, what we did is we did a lot of casting where people would play multiple roles,” Parness explained. 

The Westfield State University Theater department has put on countless shows in the past, including Urinetown, Learned Ladies, Big Love, Spring Awakening, and many more.

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