by Ed Malin · February 27, 2016
Una Osato bring her latest solo show, WITH YOU! to the 10th annual Frigid Festival. Champion director Nelson Eusebio brings the show to life. The title comes from an exclamation you might hear when you are trying to pass to someone in rugby. Una knows a lot about this, and she charmingly and empoweringly relates one woman’s experiences at her all-female alma mater, renamed “Lesleyan” for the purposes of this show.
In her younger days, Una’s character went to communist summer camp and learned all the great songs such as “I’m stickin’ to the union”. As she led a non-competitive existence (sporting events always ended in a “peaceful” tie), perhaps she did not have Rugby Union in her thoughts. But when a role model counsel steers her towards asserting herself, she decides to play rugby at Lesleyan. The team is physically and vocally rowdy and loves their post-game drink up sessions. The Coach (“Big Puss”) and her close friend Maggie (“Little Puss”) are two of the main characters in a beautifully queer campus world where “do you like Ani DiFranco?” is a pickup line and one’s professor has a voice like whiskey when discussing feminism. Since heteronormativity has been thrown out the window (“in rugby, I love all the positions”), Una also moves to discard her past (“my whole life I’d been rooting for losers; communists, oppressed people, Jews…”) and embraces being on an undefeated team.
She is one of the activists in The Mighty Mighty Gender Avengers, they who demand genderless bathrooms in support of transsexuals. Una has been studying with Beck, a trans-man. While Una has a crush on Beck, Beck has a girlfriend and suggests that trans people don’t need her to liberate them.
Una spends a year studying abroad in Capetown, South Africa. Knowing that rugby is big there and that people are reputed to speak their minds, she expects the female solidarity she knows from home. However, the women there are not singing Dar Williams songs; they are living in the shadow of the male athletes’ sexism and shaming tactics. Only when the more enlightened folks come together to protest US involvement in Iraq does she get to sing the rallying songs she knows and feel part of something bigger than herself. On that note, she goes home, a force to be reckoned with.
If you’ve seen Una Osato perform, it may not surprise you that she has enough energy to play an entire rugby team. Her earnestness is quite inspiring. The many references to a decade some of us remember are quite joyous and full of hope. She also offers a window into a sustainable world of cooperation.