A play derived from a memoir of tumultuous times is making its debut at Beaver Point Hall next weekend.
Written by Wendy Judith Cutler — an author, teacher and facilitator who has lived on Salt Spring full-time since 2006 — press material describes An UnDutiful Daughter as portraying “conflicts and estrangements within an upper-middle-class Jewish family in Los Angeles as a daughter comes into political, feminist and lesbian feminist consciousness during the 1970s and ‘80s.”
The July 1-2 shows begin at 8 p.m. and the July 3 matinee is at 2 p.m.
Cutler’s one-act play came together in the past few years through a variety of processes.
The first was a weekend play development workshop at ArtSpring in 2018 where she created a scene in which she interrogates her deceased lawyer brother about their fraught relationship. Since then the play has transformed into five scenes with a prologue, and five staged reading events have been held in the past few years.
Director Sue Newman says the play has continued to be tweaked and she’s been impressed by how Cutler is amenable to that process.
“We’ve had somewhat of a luxury to take the time that we’ve taken to do the digging-deep stuff that can’t help but make the end product — the show itself — much more real and tangible and heartfelt.”
Primary source material has been the playwright’s journals and letters from the period in question, with fictional elements added.
While the subject is the author’s experience of coming out to her family as a lesbian in the 1970s and ‘80s, the themes of family conflict and struggles with self-acceptance and reconciliation are truly universal, said director Sue Newman.
Although An UnDutiful Daughter is basically telling the playwright’s story, she said, “It has enough elements in it that many people will identify with. It has a universal quality about it.”
“There are just so many different levels of interactions and relationships that are part of everyone’s story,” Newman explained. “So it’s got a lot of tenderness, it’s got a lot of anger and it’s got a lot of acceptance, ultimately.”
The other main theme of the play is the historical period itself, when social activism and a push for social justice had so much impact on personal and political levels. An audio-visual compilation of the times sets the stage in the play’s prologue.
Cutler reflects on how positive change has occurred in the area of gay rights, but that more work must still be done.
“Right now being gay or being queer doesn’t seem like much of anything, which is really progression — it’s progressive that these attitudes have really changed in a lot of ways . . . yet it all still exists. There’s still rejection, there’s still stereotyping . . . and still murders and people being kicked out of their homes.”
Cast members in An UnDutiful Daughter are Barbara Slater, Kevin Wilkie, Lisa Dahling, Rowan Algoet, Vera Algoet and Wendy Beatty. Therin Gower is the assistant director, Mackenzie Williamson is stage manager and Susannah Devitt is handling props.
Cutler is grateful to everyone who has joined the team and been supportive along the way.
“I don’t know what this experience would be like with a different director, or people that I didn’t really know in other ways. People are really bringing their all to it.”
Tickets are available in advance at Salt Spring Books or at the door.
An UnDutiful Daughter is produced in collaboration with the Salt Spring Arts Council, Newman Family Productions and Graffiti Theatre.