Lightning Rod Special follows its spooky pandemic autumn offering, Superhost, with Sound Break, a series of three new standalone audio works that audiences can stream for free. Nosejob, the first in the series, weaves a misogynistic modern-day college prank with the legend of 9th-century noseless nuns who chose agonizing disfigurement over the threat of rape. (Is that a feminist move? And who’s telling this story?)
“Will we enjoy it?”
Lee Minora and Scott R. Sheppard’s script is full of prismatic tactile and visual moments—a turnip peel, a jersey duvet, the bits of turf caught in a football player’s helmet. The loosely configured narrative follows college student Devon (Annette Hammond) and her compatriots in the locker room, at a party, in the classroom, and in a historical landscape of her own imagining.
When a men’s prank that may amount to sexual assault has consequences for the team, an earnest locker-room lecture blurs fantasy and reality, and treats the bad behavior as an ill-suited attempt at romance, instead of the power play it really is. Meanwhile, the targeted women contemplate revenge—but what do they call it? What are the rules? And maybe most important, “will we enjoy it?”
Thoughtful, humorous, melancholy, and occasionally erotic vignettes investigate the origins of our daydreams and the stories we tell. Vocal performances under director Nell Bang-Jensen sensitively layer shared fantasy and imaginative soliloquy that effortlessly break the surface into more standard dialogue.
Leah Walton brings artful warmth to an omniscient narrator who’s not as objective as she seems—just as our lessons and fantasies about sex, connection, and power can’t be taken at face value, but have deep roots in gender dynamics and unreliable historical perspectives. “It’s not the kind of fantasy I’d hoped for myself,” Devon admits. “Is this really what gets me off?”
Minora and Sheppard chart a unique response to our own internal narrator: a direct and nonjudgmental engagement with that inner voice could teach us to conspire joyfully with ourselves, instead of dissociating or silencing our different parts. We might just be able to reimagine or color in a history that liberates our present.
Time for audio
Enveloping but subtle settings by sound designer Kathy Ruvuna, from distant hoofbeats to a college classroom, remind us how easy it can be to visit a place solely with our ears. Before the pandemic, I had rarely listened to a true audio drama, but after tuning into streams from Lightning Rod Special, in addition to original made-for-radio shows from the Wilma and Resident Ensemble Players, I hope this retro performance style stays on the radar.
Nosejob, running at about 50 minutes, is more of a brief exploration than a coherent story, and its different parts don’t quite coalesce—but what might not work onstage is a worthwhile audio experience. It’s the kind of experimentation—all the better for being so easy to access—that I love to see. Or hear.
Image description: A colorful illustration, the logo for Nosejob, poses a woman like an old Christian saint in a stained-glass window, with design segments that evoke flowers, the ocean, and a football field. She holds a knife, and her nose is missing. She wears a yellow shirt and a yellow Viking helmet with red-feathered crests.
What, When, Where
Nosejob. Written by Lee Minora and Scott. R. Sheppard; cocreated by Minora, Sheppard, Matteo Scammell, and Nell Bang-Jensen; directed by Bang-Jensen. Stream the open-ended run for free at Lightningrodspecial.com.
A written transcript of the performance is available by request through the show’s webpage.