New play features stories of former female prisoners of Columbus

rachels house

Scotland-based playwright Nicola McCartney’s newest work not only debuts in Columbus this week, it is titled after a local reentry support program for former female prison inmates.

Rachel’s House is located in Franklinton and is an arm of Lower Lights Ministries. In response to the fact that the number of women in Ohio prisons, which is typically higher than national averages, continues to grow, Rachel’s House provides resources for former inmates who choose to enter the program.

Addiction recovery is high on the list of program priorities, as is developing a path for economic and emotional stability.

McCartney, who is a longtime friend of a Rachel’s House staffer, visited the center in 2012 to conduct a creative writing session with the women in the program. She wove together the stories that that and following visits garnered into the play “Rachel’s House.”

The play’s stories come from former prostitutes, drug dealers and perpetrators of violent crimes. The stories are at times shocking, funny and sad. The women they belong to have varying outlooks on their responsibility in the paths they took. They are victims of poverty, of abuse, of themselves. It’s also a revelatory look at the prison system and the community and anti-community that can form under a female prison’s restrictions.

“Rachel’s House” premieres this week in Columbus and includes a private showing at Marysville’s Ohio Reformatory for Women.

“It’s not a very naturalistic play,” said Jessie Glover Boettcher, one of Wild Goose Creative’s co-founders and artistic director for “Rachel’s House.” “Watching it, you experience emotions in waves. I think the audience will have that experience of grieving with the women. There’s something about you that is revealed to you no matter what complex reaction you have to women in prison, women who are addicted or selling their bodies.”

McCartney’s editing of the stories aimed to not exploit nor sanitize the real experience but to also maintain the women’s point of views.

“It’s like the difference between a textbook and a memoir,” Glover Boettcher said comparing this play to if a film documentary were made on the same subject. “There’s subjectivity to it.”

“Rachel’s House” is relatable in a broad sense; its overarching theme is one of “recovery from all kinds of addictions and attachments and relationships,” Glover Boettcher said.

The production is also intriguing because it’s a safe space for stories we don’t typically get to hear–like how one woman’s near humorous resourcefulness got her home after waking up in Cincinnati after spending the night with a trick.

After its Columbus run, “Rachel’s House” will be performed in theaters in Oregon and the UK. Hopefully it brings some attention to the Franklinton program Rachel’s House, which has an impressive success rate of helping women stay out of prison–of the nearly 100 women who have chosen to enter the program only around 14 have been locked up again.

“There’s so much energy right now about Franklinton, and this is a long-standing organization there where these stories have developed,” Glover Boettcher said. “I’m hopeful for a real growing harmony between what was there and what is coming there.”

“Rachel’s House” by Nicola McCartney

Tickets: $10

May 15 @ Gladden Community House

May 16 @ Van Fleet Theater

May 17 @ Wild Goose Creative

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