Artist: Bao By Xiong
When you hear the word lesbian, depending on which end of the rainbow you land, there are often different adjectives that just may come to mind. This was especially true during the time that the creative writer Jane Chambers started gaining more spotlight on her work. Despite this, she allowed her work and her sexual orientation to collide in what became one of the first popular mainstream plays centering on the relationships between eight lesbian women. Each woman in the play is unique and successful in her own right and has her own understanding of who she is. Between the women who played these characters and the magnificent stage that was built, Century College brought this play to life. I had the privilege to talk with the scenic director/technical director and four of the talented actresses on their second night of performances. They told me about their inspirations that helped shaped this piece into the artistic form that made it great to begin with.
Amazed with the set design, it wasn’t long before I was approaching the man behind the beautiful creation, Will Slayden, to find out more about it. He explained that the idea for it came from another talented artist named Maggi Hambling. After viewing one of her pieces, he wanted to duplicate the same vision for this set. Be it by magic or some weird twist of fate of the universe, he found a connection to gain permission to do exactly that. His cousin, who is also a sculptor and artistic advocate against “Stop & Frisk”, was able to pitch for him this request after meeting Hambling while showcasing simultaneously at an exhibit. After the approval, he reproduced, with great success, a quality scene to take us on the journey along with the characters who brought the story to the 3D.
“In today’s society and looking back at the time period these women lived in, and how Blue Fish Cove became their private little island where they could truly be themselves, it was really cool to develop these characters…” shared actress Casey Holmes. Holmes plays Rita, Kitty’s cool and witty receptionist whose keen eye doesn’t miss a beat. This keen eye seems to also be true for Holmes, as to her biggest takeaway from this play is, “No matter what decade we live in, we have similar experiences as women and as people. We are all looking for connections with people without having to worry about what the outside world thinks.”
Another actress who shared some insight into what the play embodies itself is Tinka LaLonde, who plays the sensitive yet strong and almost pensive Sue. She said, “The play brings out thoughts and feelings in honesty that contribute to connection, and that, to me, is what theater is about, both as a cast and sharing that with the audience.” Another great point that she talked about was how, because of the topic, there was a richness to the play to create an experience that gave room for growth. Topped by the doting on of their castmates, the bond that had been formed between all of them became more and more transparent. In fact, actress Georgia Reding explained this best when she informed me about how well they got along: “Everyone was super nice, super professional, super warm, super chill, and just fun to work with.” Feeling almost like a fish out of water, as she only heard bits and pieces about the play, I can imagine how much more welcoming it was to have such a warm atmosphere within the group. Like her character Eva, it was stepping into the unknown and coming out having learned more things about herself, which is something that came in handy as she conjoined her own journey in finding identity through independence with that of her character’s journey of self-discovery through uncharted territory. Very opposite to her more seasoned to life’s blunders, highly rambunctious, but still full of life newfound love Lil.
Utilizing her extensive background in the art of theater, Laura Mason brings animation to this spirited character that is purely undeniable. Taking from what she learned, one technique that she was able to play off was the Clowning Technique called “El’ Capitaine”. By using this bravado element, she was able to build on the pieces of Lil’s persona. It “helped her show off”, as Mason put it, Lil’s high energy and goofy spirit that is like her own. By treating Lil like a person and imprinting that technique on her, she really brought the spirit of the play to life. “The play is very meaningful for me,” Mason explained, “especially for Lil’s teaching of Eva of the nature of being publicly gay versus closeted. She has a lot of anger towards Kitty for being so famous and not taking ownership of her platform to promote visibility… She’s had a lot of trauma from being a very visible gay woman.” This powerful statement reveals part of why this play is so important. So many people are hiding who they are in fear of rejection. So many live their truth in the public eye in constant battle of all types of criticisms, and judgements from many different corners, including within themselves. Regardless of what we choose, this play reminds us that by being truest to ourselves, we gain in life meaningful connections that can outweigh the worst of the worst. In those connections we find beauty that is timeless and helps us be our greatest selves within the precious time we’re allotted here on Earth. Kudos to those who helped make this not just another production, but something worth remembering.