The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Graduate play about Taylor Swift fandom kicks off IC New Play Festival

The festival began its 2024 season with Derick Edgren Otero’s play “Anti-Hero: Revenge of the Swifties,” on Monday.
Madison Frette
Actors rehearse for Anti-Hero: Revenge of the Swifties in the David Thayer Theatre in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. The play was written by Derick Edgren Otero and directed by Meredith G. Healy. The production is part of the New Play Festival held by the University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts.

Fans and haters of Taylor Swift came together Monday night to watch “Anti-Hero: Revenge of the Swifties,” the fandom-inspired opening production of this year’s New Play Festival.

The New Play Festival is an annual University of Iowa event that features four full productions and several stage readings. Each full-length play was written by a UI Master of Fine Arts playwright and developed by students in the theater department.

This year’s festival will take place from April 29 until May 4.

Written by playwright Derick Edgren Otero, “Revenge of the Swifties” has been in development since November 2022. Edgren Otero’s play explores what being a fan of something truly means.

“[Inspiration] comes from everywhere because Taylor Swift is everywhere,” Edgren Otero said. “I got inspiration from being on my phone, going on Twitter, and watching people talk about her albums.”

During his first live reading of the play two years ago, Edgren Otero believed that Taylor Swift was at the height of her popularity and was as famous as she would ever be.

“That obviously wasn’t true. Now she’s ten times as famous,” Edgren Otero said.

Though Swift has gained even more popularity since then, the play still regards her cultural impact as it was in the fall of 2022. His play has evolved in the two years since it was conceived — the main changes revolve around improved character arcs and plot clarifications.

“It seems like it’s just about Taylor Swift, but it’s really not. It’s more about fandom and consumerism,” Maggie McClellan, the play’s stage manager, said. “We see this young girl go through an overall arc where she learns being a fan of something doesn’t mean what she thought it meant.”

A first-year Master of Fine Arts candidate, McClellan has been a stage manager professionally since her time in undergrad and was thrilled to get experience working on an original play.

“It’s a really exciting creative space. I can see the work develop in a different way than I would if I continued to work in opera and musicals that are set in their ways and well known,” McClellan said.

McClellan said communication and creativity are key parts of her job that many people don’t consider in stage crew.

In “Revenge of the Swifties,” McClellan has often acted as a “creative collaborator” and has worked with other crew members to solve problems and ensure everybody has what they need.

“This group of students has a very well-developed bond,” McClellan said. “That’s been special for me.”

Similarly, the play’s director, Meredith Healy, has enjoyed the camaraderie and community in the production, even during the most hectic days.

“It’s been rewarding to see the full community coming together and helping out the different productions. They show up for each other on and off stage,” Healy said.

Healy would not necessarily call herself a Swiftie, however, she is friends with Swifties and, through them, has come to appreciate the lore and chaos that comes with Swift’s music.

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She first became involved in the production on her second day of orientation after one of the other playwrights asked about the most memorable part of her summer. When Healy answered it was her time at Swift’s Eras Tour,’ she was directed to Edgren Otero.

“I thought it sounded fun right off the bat,” Healy said. “We talked a lot about the script and what relationships we were most invested in, and which characters we thought could be adjusted.”

Healy and Edgren Otero also talked extensively about the humor and language in the show.

“Our rehearsal set pieces and props were like playgrounds for the actors,” Healy said. “We encouraged them to follow their impulses and the things they felt from the get-go.”

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About the Contributors
Riley Dunn
Riley Dunn, Arts Reporter
Riley Dunn is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in English and Creative Writing and Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to her time at the DI, Riley interned for Swimming World Magazine.
Madison Frette
Madison Frette, Photojournalist
Madison Frette is a second-year student at The University of Iowa double majoring in Business Analytics and Information Systems and Cinematic Arts. This is her first year working as a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan.