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Theatre / Love In Hate Nation

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Revolution in the institution!

Love In Hate Nation is an original musical written by Joe Iconis of Be More Chill fame. It premiered at the Two River Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey in November 2019. Set in The '60s, it tells the story of sixteen-year-old Susannah Sonn, a Black aspiring musician who is sent to a girl's juvenile hall following a suicide attempt. Run by the tyrannical Miss Asp, National Reformatory for Girls, or "Nation" for short, is a decrepit and oppressive institution where Susannah encounters all kinds of misfits - including their leader, resident bad-girl Sheila Nail. Romances blossom, fights break out, and revolutions are born, all set to some catchy vintage tunes.


Love In Hate Nation contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Judith and Kitty's fathers, Susannah's white adoptive family, and to a quite horrifying extent Miss Asp both had and was this.
  • Adults Are Useless: None of the characters have a single authority figure they can trust or depend on.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Or bad girls, as it turns out - the sweet and shy Susannah is almost immediately infatuated with Sheila's leather jacket, heavy eyeliner, rebellious attitude, and many stories of her failed attempts to escape Nation. It's Sheila's feistiness and James Dean affectation that eventually inspires Susannah to become a crusader for her beliefs, too.
  • Alliterative Name: Susannah Sonn and Dorothy Donaldson.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: Subverted, this is an original story!
  • Almost Kiss: Susannah and Sheila at the end of "Oh Well".
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  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Sheila, practically a female James Dean in dress, aura, reputation and in attitude, fits this trope to a T. When first realizing she has feelings for her, Susannah moons over her hair being "black as a feather".
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Susannah is clearly depressed, and both she and Sheila are revealed to have attempted suicide before, but it is unclear what the latter - or other girls may face. Ya-Ya and Miss Asp are also clearly intended to be read as mentally ill, but it's unclear exactly what they're dealing with, respectively.
  • Ambiguously Gay: In addition to the canon lead romance, a lesbian couple, many of the girls in Nation have varying degrees of subtext between them.
  • Angry Mob Song: "Revolution Song", naturally, as the girls plot and ultimately succeed in rioting and burning down the prison to save Sheila and themselves.
  • Arc Words: Plenty, "Sha-la-la" being the most significant.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Kitty is consoling Susannah in the conversation leading into "Masochist".
    Susannah: I should've taken the blame. I was just afraid...of my dad finding out.
    Kitty: Finding out what?
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Ya-Ya's solo at the party, "Jezebel", is intentionally awful.
  • Beehive Hairdo: It is The '60s after all - many of the women have this.
  • Berserk Button: Pretty much every one of the girls has one, except the shy, gentle-natured Susannah.
  • Big Bad: Miss Asp, and on a wider level, mainstream conservative America.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Susannah's dramatic rescue of Sheila, which takes up the majority of Act 2.
  • Big Damn Kiss: At the end of "I Was A Teenage Delinquent", Susannah and Sheila finally kiss after an entire show of buildup, just as Francis pulls up on his motorcycle in the background.
  • Big Entrance: Sheila Nail, the main love interest of the show and the coolest and most popular of the girls, has a big one, followed by an entire solo number about her exploits and reputation.
  • Black Comedy: Much of the show's humour, being set in an oppressive juvenile hall.
  • Book-Ends: The show starts and ends with Susannah playing a song she wrote.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "Miss Asp's Song II" has her wistfully listing all the things she misses about the comparatively more conservative '40s and '50s, which include silent movies, traditional gender roles, wartime American patriotism, and Hitler.
  • Break-Up Song: Susannah and Sheila's solos during "Solitary" qualify, where both agonize over what happened the night of the party and how much Susannah's actions have wounded them both.
  • Broken Bird: The entire cast (excepting the men), even Miss Asp to an extent. Thankfully, the heroes recover.
  • BSoD Song: The Act 1 finale, "I Hope" is one for Susannah after she lies about Sheila out of fear and is locked up in Miss Asp's office for the night, sending her into a downward spiral about her suicidal impulses, her guilt,her unwillingness to marry Francis, and seeming lack of options as a Black lesbian in the 1960's. Sheila's verse of "Solitary" also counts as she succumbs to despair after having her heart broken by Susannah.
  • Cabin Fever: "Solitary". After the party goes south and Miss Asp starts her Villainous Breakdown, Act 2 opens with the girls getting restless and violent after being locked in their dormitory for eight days as punishment for drugging Buzz and stealing alcohol from Asp's office. Sheila, who's actually in solitary confinement, has the worst of this.
  • Call-Forward: When Susannah sees Sheila for the first time early in Act 1, time seems to stop and she sings a line or two about how immediately awestruck she is. It's the tune of their Final Love Duet right near the end of the show, "I Was a Teenage Delinquent".
  • Character Development: Everyone goes through it to an extent, but Susannah and Sheila have the most significant ones. Susannah starts off as a shy, frightened girl struggling with suicidal depression and trying to find where she fits into society, and ends the show as the leader of a resistance movement, proudly owning every part of herself as a mentally ill Black lesbian who wants to use her music to change the world. Sheila, who starts off as a tough, guarded rebel who doesn't want to depend on anyone and clings to her cool image to cope, completely melts when she falls in love with Susannah, and becomes a much warmer, more openly emotional person with restored faith that the world can change.
  • Chekhov's Hobby / Chekhov's Skill : Every single one of the inmates' quirks, interests, and abilities are put to use to pull off Operation Sha-La-La.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Miss Asp's scissors.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Doc Shock's entire character exists to deliver this at the behest of Miss Asp, under the guise of rehabilitation. There's also use of solitary confinement, mostly on Sheila, which legally qualifies as torture although it's not really treated as such in-story.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Susannah wears bright yellows and reds, showing her innocence and attempts toward an optimistic outlook, while Sheila wears a black leather jacket, cementing her cynical and rebellious status. The other girls' outfits reflect this trope as well; Kitty, who paints herself as a fabulous flirt wears red, girly Dorothy wears blue, and sci-fi fan and oddball Ya-Ya wears bright green. Antagonistic Judith wears dark colours to reflect her typical emotional state.
  • Condescending Compassion: Miss Asp, particularly towards Black inmates.
  • Cool Big Sis: Kitty, who is protective of all the other girls, and who reaches out to Susannah when she's being shunned. She tries to bring everyone out of their shells, pushes them to show off their talents, and counsels them to be proud of themselves. And loves to do their makeup, too.
  • Counterpoint Duet: "The Other One", which fittingly explores Susannah and Sheila's contrasting perspectives on being outcasts.
  • Costume Evolution: The character's 60's prison get-ups compared to their costumes in the epilogue give a lot of hints not just to the changing eras, but to the trajectories their lives have taken. Miss Asp's outfits get progressively fancier as well as she prepares for Life Magazine's impending visit.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Susannah knocking her and Sheila's Morse Code beat on the pipes leading to the solitary confinement cells in the hopes that she'll recognize it and knock back, giving the signal that she's alright and can still be rescued. Operation Sha-La-La as a whole may qualify, too, relying largely on the girls' skills, scrappiness, and togetherness.
  • Dangerously Short Skirt: Most of the girls in Nation roll or hem their already-short uniform skirts.
  • Dark Reprise: The tune of "This Is The Way" gets one in the bridge of "I Hope", and then there's also "Susannah's Song", which comes up whenever she needs to comfort herself in distressing or frightening situations.
  • Darkest Hour: When Sheila is caught during "Operation Sha-La-La" and Miss Asp receives a telegram on Life Magazine's cancellation, leading to the absolute apex of her Villainous Breakdown.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Sheila wears a lot of dark colors, but she's one of the kindest, bravest girls in Nation, always willing to protect those around her and stand up for others.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "Masochist" is a song in the limelight for Kitty, following her journey towards defiant self-love in the face of the transphobia she's experienced.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: While this mostly comes from the antagonists, Miss Asp and Francis, who respectively symbolize the conservatism the heroes must fight and the self-serving 'college revolutionary' types who are no better than those they claim to be fighting. Even some of the girls fall into this, too, it being The '60s; outdated terms are used for Black people, many of the characters make casually racist remarks, and amongst the inmates, there's a lot of homophobia and transphobia. The difference is, of course, that the girls later overcome these views. This trope ties in pretty strongly with the themes of the show as the characters struggle with and eventually combat internalized bigotry, taking on views that are more popular today as they are inspired to form and join various social movements.
  • Did Not Think This Through: Francis' increasingly harebrained schemes to spring Susannah from Nation so that they can get married. Susannah calls him out on this, and not just for comedic effect; she's right to point out that his plans are putting her in danger while he risks very little.
  • Distant Duet: Susannah and Sheila's part of "Solitary".
  • Distant Finale: The show ends with a Time Skip to 1984, where we see how Susannah and Sheila's lives have unfolded up until their reunion, 22 years later.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Dorothy and Kitty argue over who gets to be this to Buzz when setting up to throw the party.
    Dorothy: I'm the flirt, you're just the distraction!
    Kitty: Don't put me in a box, Dorothy!
  • Dramatis Personae: "Life in Hate Nation" may qualify as one as it serves introduce most of the cast, the exceptions being of course the two leading ladies, who get their own introductory songs.
  • Driven to Suicide: A major theme of the show. Susannah's birth mother and Harriet's pianist girlfriend. Additionally, Susannah is imprisoned for a botched attempt, which she bonds over Sheila with, as the latter reveals in detail during "The Three Failed Escape Attempts of Sheila Nail" that she's tried and failed as well.
  • Drunken Song: "Jezebel" might count, considering Ya-Ya's over-the-top performance, which involves whooping and throwing some of her clothes off. The girls did steal alcohol for the party, after all.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Sheila and Susannah finally get together after all their trials...twenty-two years after having to separate.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Revolution Song" and "I Was A Teenage Delinquent."
  • Enemy Mine: Judith hates Miss Asp, but she's been acting as her informant for years in the hopes of protecting herself from the abuses the other girls face and being transferred to a better facility. It doesn't last.
  • Fall Guy: Judith tries to blame Sheila for the stolen alcohol and the party when everyone is caught by Miss Asp.
  • Family of Choice: Despite their differences, once they finally band together to take down Nation, the girls, who have been orphaned, abused, abandoned, betrayed or otherwise forgotten by their families, all view each other as such, as they state in "Revolution Song".
    Susannah, joined by the other girls: S-T-O-P!/You won't touch my family!
  • Fangirl: Plenty. Susannah for Black-led Girl Groups, Sheila for rock bands and Pete Seeger, Ya-Ya for science fiction, and so on. Miss Asp worships ideals of white, conservative femininity like Doris Day. Even Francis is a fanboy for the Beats. In the epilogue, we see In-Universe ones for Susannah after her music career took off and she inspired future generations as a Civil Rights and gay rights icon.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Miss Asp tries, anyway. Dorothy, the most girly of the inmates of Nation (who also assists with her cooking), openly ridicules her culinary failures.
  • Flashback Echo: "This Is The Way" has Kitty instructing the girls to conjure something horrible someone has done or said to them, and then picturing that person being eaten alive by ocelots as they inhale and exhale their cigarette smoke, in order to look "deeply tortured" and rebellious while dong so. Although it's Played for Laughs in this instance, Susannah frequently has less comedic flashbacks of cutting or painful things Francis has said to her, particularly the times he's tried to pressure her into sex or marriage, and insulted and berated her with racist and homophobic remarks when she refused him.
  • Flat "What": Sheila's reaction to Susannah mentioning "Operation Sha-La-La."
    Sheila: That is a terrible name, by the way.
  • Final Love Duet: "I Was A Teen Delinquent", as Susannah and Sheila finally confess their feelings and share one last song and kiss in the smoking rubble of the now-destroyed Nation, just before Sheila flees to Mexico on a motorcycle.
  • Foreshadowing: "And if we meet again/how I hope the world is different then!" It is. And They Do.
  • Freaky Is Cool: Ya-Ya's interests are pretty straightforward as an example of this; this also is one of the focal points of all the girls' development, and more subtly, the romance between Susannah and Sheila.
    Susannah: (dreamily) She said that I was a weirdo in the good way!
    Which I think is Delinquent for: you're charismatic, smart and sweet!
  • Friendship Song: "This Is The Way" for the girls in Juvie.
  • Full-Name Basis: Judith Ramone.
  • Girl Group: Susannah's favourite style of music. Sheila prefers rock, and the music style of the show is a combination of both styles to reflect the way the girls influence one another as well as the time period.
  • The Ghost: Harriet.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Miss Asp owns a few beautiful ones.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Intentionally so. Well said, Miss Asp!
    Miss Asp: I am beginning to suspect that something queer is going on around here!
  • Have I Mentioned That I Am Heterosexual Today: Susannah, when talking about Francis and her experiences with boys. She repeats over and over what a 'marvellous opportunity' marrying Francis, who is wealthy and white, would be, most likely repeating what she was told by him. When Sheila hears this, she offhandedly talks about the many flings she's had with guys...right before singing a duet where she bonds with Susannah.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: The love Leitmotif for Susannah and Sheila, even described as their heartbeats in "Oh, Well". Justified in that it has an in-universe plot purpose - the rhythm starts off as a Morse code message Susannah teaches Sheila, that they later use to communicate when Sheila's in solitary, leading into the song.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Judith, previously The Mole for Miss Asp and the toughest of the girls, as well as Sheila's enemy, finally comes around and is the first to sing in "The Revolution Song".
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Susannah, until Sheila and Kitty bring her out of her shell.
  • "The Hero Sucks" Song: The ensemble part of "Solitary" has all the girls locked in the fifth floor dormitory blame Susannah for their misery and denounce her as a traitor.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Miss Asp, often with tragic and horrifying results.
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: Francis thinks this will happen for him.
  • Hypocrite: Miss Asp, big time.
  • "I Am" Song: Plenty. The tail end of Sheila's introduction in "The Three Failed Escape Attempts of Sheila Nail" is the most straightforward example. "The Other One" is one for both Sheila and Susannah, as the girls bond and discuss their respective views on being outcasts. Also, "Masochist", Kitty Minx's Act 2 showstopper about her pride in her trans identity. Finally, some parts of "Life In Hate Nation" that introduce each respective inmate are this, particularly Judith's verse.
  • Iconic Outfit: Sheila's black leather jacket, which gets referenced many times in song.
  • Incoming Ham:
    • Ki-tty Minx, her name is Kitty Minx!
  • The Ingenue: Dorothy plays up that she's this as part of her false Southern Belle persona; Susannah is genuinely one, shy and taken aback by the roughness of life in juvie hall.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Most people, even Sheila, are skeptical of Susannah's love of Girl Groups and nonsense syllables in music. Lo and behold, "Operation Sha-La-La", whose name was derided by many of the inmates, became the name of Susannah's hit band.
  • "I Want" Song: "Susannah's Song", as well as "I Hope", explore Susannah's depression and desperation as she struggles to find her place in the world as an adopted Black lesbian living in 1960s America with few to no role models. "Oh Well" might also be one as both Sheila and Susannah yearn to confess their feelings to each other despite the prejudice they face.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: All the girls in Juvie with the exception of perhaps Kitty have tough exteriors and often make mean-spirited jokes, but are lovely souls deep down, the two biggest examples being Sheila and Judith.
  • Karmic Death: Miss Asp, a fire-and-brimstone tyrant who rules Nation with an iron fist first has her dreams crushed, then has Nation, which she helped build, burn down with her still in it. She's seen in her last moments desperately pointing a camera at herself, desperately trying to get that perfect picture she wanted from Life Magazine.
  • La Résistance: Naturally, as it is The '60s. The denouement of the show relies on a "Revolution in the institution", where Susannah overcomes her fears and leads the girls not only stage a prison break, but fight for civil, LGBT+, and feminist rights. Francis thinks he's a part of this, meeting Susannah at a demonstration for environmental conservationism, but he's still against gay rights and is more interested in appearing good than actually doing any good. He clearly uses his interracial relationship for social clout and personal gratification, still treating Susannah as his inferior and insisting she should be a homemaker.
  • Last Kiss: Susannah and Sheila think their first kiss before Sheila flees to Mexico is this, complete with the getaway motorcycle pulling up in their periphery, as neither of them know if they'll ever see each other again.
  • Leitmotif: The "I fell in love in Juvie Hall" and "Sha-la-la" recurring melodies follow Susannah and Sheila around the show.
  • Light Is Not Good: Miss Asp wears hyperfeminine pastels and florals, but her clinging to traditional expectations of womanhood is her weapon of choice in her truly heinous acts.
  • Location Song: "Life In Hate Nation", sung by the inmates when Susannah first arrives in juvie hall and first encounters the prison's decrepit state and intimidating roster of inmates.
  • Love at First Sight / Love at First Note: When Susannah and Sheila meet, time itself seems to slow down, and both later refer to their first meeting/hearing each other sing being when they fell in love.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Par for the course with a Joe Iconis work. The show's musical style is catchy and upbeat, said to be a riot grrl re-imagining of 60s Girl Group and blues tunes, with some early rock thrown in. The lyrics, meanwhile, aren't joking around from the get-go, discussing racism, psychiatric abuse, homophobia, transphobia, attempted suicide/suicidal thoughts, solitary confinement, betrayal and more.
    • In-Universe with Susannah's early music; Sheila points out the dissonance between the subject matter of Civil Rights songs she performs for her and her love of cheery nonsense syllables ("What's with all the sha-boop sha-boop?"), inspired by artiststhe Ronettes. Susannah insists there's place for both - something they both realize when "sha la la" becomes the Arc Words for their burgeoning star-crossed romance.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Kitty chewing out Judith for outing Harriet to Miss Asp gets Judith so furious that she deadnames Kitty before attacking her.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Miss Asp psychologically manipulates the girls, alternating between breaking them down for their crimes, perceived or otherwise, and promising them rewards she seldom (if ever) delivers on if they comply with her wishes. She also specifically cultivates rivalries and resentment to pit the girls against each other, convincing them that they are one another's enemies, rather than her, to stymie the formation of camaraderie or solidarity. Francis may also qualify to a lesser extent, as while his lectures to Susannah on the privilege of being in a relationship with a rich white man do get to her, but his pathetic attempts at manipulating her into sex and later, marriage, ultimately fail.
  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "Life In Hate Nation" and "Revolution in the Institution" are the two biggest examples, although the latter half of "Masochist" counts as well.
  • Meaningful Echo: Susannah's reprises of "Oh Well".
  • Meaningful Name: Plenty, justifiably as this is in part an Affectionate Parody of a bad-girl-in-jail Exploitation Film.
    • The villain, Miss Asp, is cruel and powerful, a fitting name for a poisonous cobra that used to symbolize Egyptian royalty; Judith even calls her a "snake" when she betrays her trust.
    • Susannah Sonn (sounds like 'sun') wears a lot of yellow, and while her character struggles to find happiness, she is definitely full of light and kindness.
    • Kitty Minx prides herself on her beauty and fabulous and flirtatious demeanour.
    • Ya-Ya's real name, Gloria Meeks, describes her nature.
    • Sheila Nail, additionally, suggests the character's toughness (evoking the expression "tough as nails").
    • Even the orderly, Buzz, has a Running Gag where he's driven crazy by incessant buzzing of the front doorbell to the prison.
    • More subtly, Judith Ramone could be a reference to the Biblical Judith, who beheads an enemy general who lusted after her. Famously, Renaissance artist Artemisia Gentileschi depicted the scene with herself as Judith and her rapist as Holofernes. Judith Ramone's crime? She castrated her father after years of enduring his sexual abuse, removing another 'head'.
  • Missing Mom: Susannah's birth mother killed herself after losing her husband to war.
  • The Mole: Judith to Asp, although she regrets it, and does a Heel–Face Turn when she finds her promises of rewards to be empty.
  • Mood Whiplash: Plenty. Comedic or tender moments are frequently followed by violent or upsetting scenes and vice-versa. The primary example would be the Act I finale; the tender bonding moment between Susannah and Sheila, followed by a romantic duet and their Almost Kiss, is brutally interrupted by Miss Asp, who gets into a violent altercation with both girls, destroys Ya-Ya's beloved doll, intimidates Susannah into betraying Sheila, and locks the former in her office while sending the latter off to Solitary. The reveal of Judith's backstory is also this.
  • Motor Mouth: In addition to a stutter, Susannah lapses into this when she's nervous or frightened, particularly if she has something to hide. Ya-Ya's a more outgoing version of this.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: Happens a few times, but most significantly at the tail end of "The Other One", where Susannah and Sheila's bonding moment is interrupted by the other girls barging into the restrooms to discuss their plans.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: During "Life In Hate Nation", every girl gets a big ensemble introduction of her name and characteristics, except for Ya-Ya, who pleadingly tries to get them to join in, establishing her place amongst the girls. They only join in when she starts crying that nobody likes her. This becomes a bit of a Running Gag with her, although the girls become more protective as the show progresses.
    Ya-Ya: My name is...
    (silence from the other girls)
    Ya-Ya: My name is...
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Susannah has one at the end of Act 1 and in early Act 2 after betraying Sheila out of fear of Miss Asp's abuse. She even gets two songs about it — "I Hope" and her solo in "Solitary".
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Miss Asp and Doc Shock.
  • No-Sell: When Miss Asp tries to appeal to the girls during their revolt on the basis that she's gone through "as cruel and hateful things as what's been done to you" and citing her lack of choices. Susannah isn't impressed, standing her ground and letting Asp know that she has a choice now - to either stand with them or against them.
  • Not So Different: Miss Asp tries to invoke this when the girls revolt, citing her own abuse and troubled past, and the fact that she never had any choices. The girls aren't having it.
  • Offing the Offspring: Whether it's intentional or not, Miss Asp was responsible for the death of her illegitimate daughter, Harriet.
  • Oh, Crap!: Susannah when she gets caught almost kissing Sheila in Asp's office; later, the girls all share one when Buzz drags Sheila back inside mid-escape plot.
  • Only Friend: Dorothy seems to be this to Ya-Ya. At the very least, she seems to feel sorry for her. Sheila starts as this to newbie Susannah, but it quickly leads to something more.
  • Only Sane Man: Sheila appears to be this at first, being down-to-earth, direct, relatively laid-back and the only inmate who doesn't freak Susannah out. An interesting case, considering she describes herself as being "a basket case" and "fucked in the head" and indeed appears to suffer from some form of mental illness, having attempted suicide in the past.
  • Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending: Not exactly played straight, but we only find out what happens to Susannah and Sheila.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Kitty is usually very friendly and dramatic for the fun of it; during "Solitary", however, [[Jerkass Judith]]'s callousness about the murder of Harriet, which she caused, and the fact that Sheila will soon meet a similar fate provokes her to fight dirty, with her words and then her fists.
  • Opposites Attract: The emotional, shy, fearful, stammering innocent Susannah, desperate to fit into society, and the aloof, tough, openly rebellious troublemaker who rejects social standards, Sheila, fall in love. They even share a song, "The Other One", about all the ways in which they differ despite both being outcasts.
  • Orphanage of Fear: Sheila briefly mentions being raised in one.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Miss Asp. Not a terribly sympathetic example, however, as it's her own fault.
  • Parental Abandonment: Sheila's a "ward of the state", and mentions being raised by nuns. Susannah's an orphan too, having lost her biological mother and father. to war and suicide respectively. Both she and Kitty were thrown into Juvvie at the behest of their (in Susannah's case, adoptive) fathers.
  • Posthumous Character: Harriet, who is later revealed to have been Miss Asp's illegitimate daughter she hid in Nation, and later had electrocuted to death after catching her with another girl.
  • Precision F-Strike: A few. Sheila gets a fairly triumphant one one during "The Three Failed Escape Attempts of Sheila Nail":
    Sheila: I may be fucked in my head,
    But hey, at least I ain't dead!
    • Ya-Ya gets one during the confrontation with Asp.
    Ya-Ya: This is for Harriet, you son of a bitch.
  • Proper Lady: Miss Asp believes herself to be this and claims to want to shape the "garbage girls" in her care into this. A large part of Susannah's arc deals with her struggle with wanting to fit into this ideal (mostly associated with the safety and privilege 1960's American society would deny her because of her race) versus wanting to become who she truly is, a musician and a fighter for equality. Dorothy also champions herself as a "proper Southern homemaker through and through", but girly as she is, she's a lot more rebellious than the archetype would suggest.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Judith's father and Buzz.
  • Retraux: The show premiered in the late 2010s, but is set in and musically styled after The '60s.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Plenty, with poor Susannah on the receiving end of most of them. Francis dishes them out cruelly to Susannah whenever she doesn't go along with what he wants, Sheila gives her a biting one after she betrays her, and "Solitary" is one from all the inmates, including herself. Miss Asp frequently gives the "garbage girls" these to beat them down, most significantly to Judith and Sheila. On the more heroic end of things, Kitty gives one to Judith for betraying Harriet, and Susannah gives an epic one to Miss Asp during the climax.
  • The Reveal: Harriet's story, and the fact that she was Miss Asp's illegitimate daughter.
  • Rhyming with Itself: During "Solitary", for comedic purposes.
    Ya-Ya: It's like we're in prison!
    Rat: ...'cos we are in prison.
  • Right Behind Me: Miss Asp at the end of "Oh, Well", to disastrous results. It's Played for Laughs earlier during "This is the Way" when she comes up behind [[Cloudcuckoolander Ya-Ya]] continuing to jump around, shout and dance long after the song finishes.
  • Romantic False Lead: It's pretty obvious from the get-go that Francis is a lot more enthused about his romance with Susannah than she is, and that's even before she meets Sheila.
  • Running Gag: Plenty, but the main one is Francis repeatedly finding ways to break into Nation for whatever romantic escapades he's come up with next. Susannah even lampshades this:
    Susannah: do you keep getting in here?!
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "Miss Asp's Song" and its reprise illustrate the character's motives and gradual Villainous Breakdown as she loses control of the prisoners.
  • Say My Name: Every single one of the girls introduced in "Life In Hate Nation", particularly Judith Ramone. Sheila Nail gets quite a few in "The Three Failed Escape Attempts of Sheila Nail", while "Susannah's Song" and"Francis' Song" both do this to Susannah.
  • Schoolgirl Lesbians: Susannah and Sheila, sixteen and seventeen respectively, although they're teens in a juvie facility rather than a school - they do have the matching plaid uniforms, though.
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: Francis, a college campus liberal, plans on fleeing to a commune in Mexico full of "like-minded youths experimenting with fascinating new drugs".
  • Setting Introduction Song: "Life In Hate Nation".
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Susannah is in heavy denial over her blossoming romance with Sheila, brushing off the other girls' teasing about it, until Kitty, a trans girl, advises Susannah to follow her example and be proud of who she is.
  • Shoot the Dog: Susannah lying and telling Asp that Sheila tried to kiss her, getting her thrown in Solitary and almost subjected to electroconvulsive therapy in the process in order to protect herself. The look on Sheila's face after she does it really doesn't help.
  • Shout-Out: Several, particularly to musicians, writers, and artists of The '60s. Most significantly is the significant Morse Code rhythm shared between Sheila and Susannah, a direct reference to the beat of "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes, of whom Susannah's a huge fan. Miss Asp, meanwhile, tries to push the girls to model themselves off of June Cleaver.
  • Significant Double Casting: "The Guy" is a single credit for all three male roles in the show - Francis, Doc Shock, and Buzz. This works with the feminist themes of overcoming different forms of patriarchal abuse and oppression that seem to be multiple sides of the same die.
  • Smug Snake: Miss Asp, as her name would suggest.
  • The Something Song: An Iconis staple; "Susannah's Song", "Miss Asp's Song" (and its reprise), "Francis' Song", and of course, "Revolution Song".
  • Southern Belle: Dorothy tries to be this.
    Rat: She's from New Jersey.
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: Judith Ramone, the toughest girl other than Sheila, acts the most like a bully as a result of a lifetime of experiencing racism and sexual abuse.
  • Spiritual Successor: Can be seen as one to Hair and Hedwig and the Angry Inch due to the similar subject matter, eras, and style of music.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Susannah and Sheila, an interracial lesbian couple in The '60s who meet in an oppressive prison, have everything and everyone except their friends rooting against them.
    Susannah: I guess the world isn't ready for two girls going steady...
    • Francis sees himself and Susannah as this because of their racial difference, and plans to reap the social clout from this viewpoint amongst other 'revolutionaries' at Columbia University.
  • Stepford Smiler: Any of the cheerier girls in Nation are just putting up a front or trying to make the best of their awful situation. Miss Asp is a villainous example.
  • Sticky Fingers: Brenda "Rat" Ratowski, a Brooklyn-born thief who smuggles contraband into the prison.
  • Stylistic Suck: Ya-Ya's original song she performs at the party, "Jezebel". Even the usually-encouraging Kitty is eager to get her offstage.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Susannah and Sheila both fall into this when either someone questions or they slip up about their sexualities.
  • Sympathy for the Hero: How genuine it is is up for debate, but at least at first, Miss Asp acts as if she has a very twisted, patronizing version of this for Susannah, claiming she can "still save her".
  • Take That!: During "Life In Hate Nation":
    The Inmates: 'Cause America just really fucking sucks for girls!
    • In the epilogue, Susannah makes it a point that she starts every performance with getting her audience to chant "Fuck you, President Reagan!"
  • Teens Are Monsters: Subverted quite thoroughly; while the girls of Nation are introduced as an intimidating bunch and Miss Asp, Buzz, and Francis all have this view of them, their crimes and turn towards violence is depicted very sympathetically as being a result of the oppression and abuse they have faced; the audience is meant to root for their violent uprising at the end, considering the Asshole Victim status of those they're fighting.
  • There Are No Therapists: Girls in Nation, many of whom suffer from genuine mental illness or trauma, are subjected to excessive and punitive ECT as means of 'rehabilitation', with the sadistic Doc Shock referred to as a 'therapist'.
  • Tongue-Tied: Susannah has a habit of freezing up or stuttering if she's nervous or afraid...or flustered.
  • Torture Technician: Doc Shock.
  • Totally Radical: "Ginchy!"
  • Trauma Conga Line: Arguably the entire cast get put through one.
  • Triumphant Reprise: "Oh Well" and "Masochist" both get a couple.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Pretty much all the girls in Nation - especially Sheila.
  • True Blue Femininity: The uniform of Nation, meant to push conformity and "elegance, behaviour and subservience" onto the girls, is a blue plaid skirt. Additionally, Dorothy, the most feminine of the girls, wears a frilly blue cherry-print top.
  • True Companions: How the inmates of Nation eventually come to see one another.
  • Uptight Loves Wild: The repressed, shy Susannah falls for the rebellious and brassy Sheila.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Miss Asp, big time.
  • Villain Song / Villainous Lament: "Miss Asp's Song" and its reprise discuss her conservative world views and the internal struggle that led to them, as well as her anguish and horror in the face of a changing world when she had no choices as a woman. To a lesser extent, "Doc Shock" and "Francis' Song."
  • Violence Is the Only Option: The girls find that there is no other way to put up their resistance when the escape plan for Sheila goes south, especially considering the institutional violence done to them.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Sheila will beat the ever-loving shit out of anyone who hurts or threatens Susannah. Susannah doesn't fight physically much herself, but she does return the favour by leading an arsonist rebellion to rescue Sheila.
  • War Is Glorious: Miss Asp during her Motive Rant song reveals she believes as much.
    Miss Asp: I miss silent movies/and I miss the war!
    I miss Hitler!
    ...and yes, I know he was psychotic/but villains make people act so patriotic!
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Miss Asp believes her cruel impositions are for the girls' own least until the Sanity Slippage sets in.
  • Wham Line: Judith gets one early in Act 2.
    Judith: And now, your little dream-girl is gonna fry. Just like Miss Asp's daughter. Sweet little Harriet.
    • Susannah gets one near the end of act one when she tells Asp that Sheila tried to kiss her, pinning the blame solely on Sheila in order to save herself.
    Susannah: She-she tried to kiss me and I was scared and I didn't know what to do...
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never learn what became of any of the other girls; just Susannah and Sheila.
  • Wild Teen Party: The girls throw one while Asp is away at a conference, knocking Buzz, the orderly, unconscious and stealing alcohol.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Buzz, the sleazy orderly, frequently threatens and occasionally engages in physical violence against the girls.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Miss Asp, who had ECT used to punish and eventually kill her own daughter at the age of sixteen for kissing another girl. She routinely abuses the other teenage girls held in Nation, and outright tries to kill Sheila during the climax with a pair of scissors.
  • Wrong Guy First: Francis to Susannah, albeit more of a complex case than you'd usually see in a musical. It is gradually revealed that in addition to having a serious case of Entitled to Have You, a large part of their relationship is predicated on Francis wanting to date a Black girl to feel and appear more progressive than the rest of his peers. On Susannah's end of things, she's frequently uncertain about her relationship with Francis, thanks to the rotten way he treats her and later, her gradual realization that she's a lesbian. She feels like she has to stay with him out of a mixture of guilt, fear of further ostracism, a desire for acceptance, and because they both know his privilege can provide her with opportunities she otherwise wouldn't get.
    Francis: I'm your only hope.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Although the ukulele strings are against the rules, Miss Asp offers to leave Susannah's beloved instrument intact if she begs her not to without stuttering, in front of all the inmates. She cuts them up anyway.
  • You Are Worth Hell: Susannah risks severe punishment when she sneaks into Solitary to tell Sheila the plan to bust her out, and even risks getting caught when she plays their love song for her in the hallway despite Sheila's warnings. She is willing to face whatever Asp might do to her if it means breaking Sheila out of solitary confinement and rescuing her from abusive administration of ECT. In turn, Sheila risks her life physically fighting Miss Asp and Buzz not once, but twice, to defend Susannah.

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