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Lea DeLaria Opens Up About Lesbian Representation in the Writers' Room, & More

Lea DeLaria Opens Up About Lesbian Representation in the Writers' Room, & More

Photography by Tina Turnbow

The Orange Is the New Black star chats with us ahead of her all-women show, Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties.

Reflecting on the countless lesbian stories being told by everyone but lesbians, Lea DeLaria has one question: "What the fuck is up with that?"

The Orange Is the New Black actor's new MCC show, Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties, is about five queer women -- all named Betty -- and it's taking action to right that wrong.

What can you reveal about the Betty you play?
I'm Betty 4! I am actually being asked to act -- like really act -- in a way I've never been asked to act before, even when I played straight girls. I play the sensitive one, which I have never been asked to do in my entire fucking life. She's a very classic butch in that she doesn't have a lot to say, because she's observant of the world around her. So when she does speak, it's pearls of wisdom like, "Everybody loving you is the same as nobody loving you." I love shit like that.

Why do you think this play is important right now?
It not only portrays lesbians but is really about women -- we're part of the conversation. So here's a play written by a very smart and savvy writer [Jen Silverman], who happens to be a dyke. Both the dyke roles are portrayed by dykes, and the bisexual woman is portrayed by a bisexual woman. This is a play about the modern queer world. One character says, "I'm bi." My character says, "I'm queer." That I can even say "soft butch" and "hard butch" in a piece of theater is amazing.

Why's it taking so long to see more lesbian stories told by lesbians?
It's not that it's taking lesbians so long to tell their stories -- it's taking society so long to let them. Do they give women money to make projects? No. Then, when we do finally get stories with lesbians, there are fewer and fewer lesbians in the writers' room. Lesbians are being thrown out of writers' rooms left and right in places where they're telling lesbian stories. We need to stand up. Why are we telling stories about lesbians all over TV and movies that have no actual lesbian involvement whatsoever?

Do you feel similarly about straight actresses playing lesbians?
There was recently a play in which both the lesbians were portrayed by straight women. But then people will go, "How can you play a straight woman?" Well, the reality is, they don't let me. If they're going to span the globe to find a trans actor to play a trans part, then they need to start fucking hiring lesbians to play lesbians. I ran out of fucks to give a long time ago. And I'm in an industry that does not reward people for running out of fucks.

What do you want audiences to take away from Collective Rage?
To leave not only [remembering] the humor but thinking, This is what women can do. If you let us. Unfortunately, we exist in a society, especially in show business, that just won't let us. So come see what we can do. And then we'll all go to the Cubbyhole.

Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Bettiesopens at the Lucille Lortel Theatre September 12.

Photography by Tina Turnbow

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