Chunky in Heat Yearbook: Rachel Doehring

EiO’s upcoming opera Chunky in Heat follows the emotional life of a teenage protagonist, Cheryl (aka Chunky), as she navigates the perils of her changing world.  We asked some of the artists involved in the premiere to share how their own experiences in high school informed their work on the opera.

Rachel Doehring plays the role of Abigail/Shapeshifter in the premiere of Chunky in Heat.

Both of my characters’ lives in this opera revolve around their relationship with…you guessed it…FOOD! Who doesn’t relate to that?!  I love the way Alison (director) is framing both Abigail and the Shapeshifter the context of the story: as embodiments of the extremes of women’s hunger. On one side of the spectrum, we have Abigail, who is consumed by external pressures of image and perfection, and eats only one calorie at a time. On the other end is the Shapeshifter, seen onstage as a ravenous and indulgent coyote, totally indifferent to the gaze of society.

As a teenager, I was always somewhere in-between these mentalities. I can remember times when I single-handedly ate an entire pack of Oreos, or long summer days when I lived off of nothing but Diet Coke and the fumes of Hawaiian Tropic suntan lotion. I think many women, myself included, have experienced some combination of what Abigail and the Shapeshifter represent. What Chunky in Heat points out, for me, is the particular centrality of food and diet in women’s lives today: when it comes to food, no matter what you choose, you feel the weight of the choice. I couldn’t be more excited to explore these concepts in such a fantastic show! Teenage me was OBSESSED with opera, and definitely would have been psyched to do something this strange and awesome… I guess I haven’t changed that much!