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A beauty pageant, “a lovely, messy protagonist,” and a story about growing up queer in the South. These unexpected strands come together in a show debuting this week at Chelsea Theatre Works, “Strawberry Princess: On Pageantry and Identity,” written by fourth-year theatre students and roommates Elise Piliponis and Devon Whitney. In addition to a residency at Chelsea Theatre Works and some grant funding, the two were awarded the Northeastern University PEAK Experience Summit Award, which is given to students striving to accomplish a grand project, for the show.

 Written by Piliponis and directed by Whitney, the solo performance examines the performance of identity through a the journey of an asexual protagonist, a kind of character whose viewpoint Piliponis says she hadn’t seen represented on stage before.

Whitney and Piliponis have previously acted in and supported the work of peers in the department of Theatre, but the opportunity to work on something over which they have total creative control has been their most rewarding to date.  “It’s nice to do something outside my comfort zone but with the people already in my comfort zone,” Piliponis says.  

Now in final rehearsals, “Strawberry Princess” has taken more than a year to bring to life. And when they aren’t rehearsing three nights a week at Chelsea Theatre Works, they continue the conversation back at home. “When we are not in the space, we are in our living room having meetings about costumes, the set, and what props we need to order,” says Piliponis. 

Whitney says this proximity and friendship have made the difficulties of the process easier to handle. “It’s exciting to share this experience with my roommate and one of my best friends.” 

“Strawberry Princess: On Pageantry and Identity” is at  Chelsea Theatre Works from April 14 through April 16. Learn more on the production’s Instagram @strawberryprincess.2022 and buy tickets below.