PORTLAND, ORE.: Stephen Spotswood is that rare adult who actually enjoys working with teenagers. One of his day jobs has been teaching playwriting and theatre to high schoolers. “I love working with that age group—they’re experiencing everything for the first time. Every emotion is massive, as is every disappointment, every pain.” Teenage pathos is, in fact, the topic of his play In the Forest, She Grew Fangs, running Oct. 10–Nov. 15 at defunkt theatre in Portland, Ore. (It premiered in 2013, produced by the D.C.-based Washington Rogues.)
In Fangs, a high school junior named Lucy is an outcast who is continuously bullied. When a new student named Jenny moves in, Lucy develops a crush on her, and this is where the story turns. Via her transformative new feelings, Lucy slowly turns into a wolf-like creature and takes revenge on her abusers. Spotswood incorporates aspects of Little Red Riding Hood into the story, to show that, unlike in fairy tales, the line between villain and victim are blurry in real life. “Bullies were once bullied themselves. So you can be victim and perpetrator, and a hero, all simultaneously,” the writer says.
Spotswood considers Fangs a dark folk-tale/fable about how violence only begets more violence. The central question of the play is: How do we stop this from happening again? Spotswood admits he doesn’t have an answer. “There was a shooting in a middle school in Arizona during the run of the first production; then after defunkt announced they were doing it, there was a school shooting in Oregon. It’s a play that asks the questions that we haven’t answered yet—and probably should.”