You’ve got one last chance, tonight, September 16, to attend the grandmother of Lesbian/feminist plays, and it’s a real gem. Part of the Pride Festival at the Kalita Humphreys Theatre sponsored by Uptown Players, the award-winning Last Summer at Bluefish Cove will touch you with uncanny grace in its fully staged reading at the upstairs Frank’s Place Studio. Why wasn’t Bluefish filmed at the height of its popularity? ”Two major studios felt that the play presented lesbianism too positively and that the general audience is not ready for this…they want us to be unhappy and shoot ourselves.”
If you’re under age 40 and of a tolerant nature, to see gays and lesbians in on stage relationships is no big deal. It wasn’t the case in 1980. When Lesbian/feminist playwright Jane Chambers wrote a truthful, loving play about eight women who spend yearly summers at an East Coast beach resort, it became a surprise hit and shifted a paradigm. Last Summer at Bluefish Cove opened at the Actors Playhouse in New York City on December 22, 1980. It went on to win Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards, seven Hollywood DramaLogue Awards – Production, Direction, Writing, Ensemble, Lighting, Sets and Costumes – numerous GLAAD awards and a Certificate of Outstanding Theatre from the City of Los Angeles. Its lead Jean Smart starred in television’s Designing Women, after gaining notice from her performance in Bluefish Cove.
Uptown Players invited Cheryl Denson, a regional leading director, to helm this reading for the Festival. She assembled a cast of some of the finest female talent in the region, none familiar with the ground-breaking work: Diane Box, Jennifer Pasion, Mary-Margaret Pyeatt, Lucia A. Welch, Tiffany Riley, Beth Albright, Marisa Diatolevi and Amanda Denton. Denson doesn’t know of a fully mounted professional production here since Gemini Theatre’s staging in the early 80’s. Her cast members, mostly straight women, have told her they believe it’s worthy of fully staging now, even with its innocent, pre-AIDS 1980’s sensibility.
Chambers’ Lesbian drama Last Summer at Bluefish Cove, based on her experiences spending summers at Orient Cove beach cottages, honors a friend who died of cancer. It portrays normal women in loving relationships that accept their Lesbian identity fully aware of how the dominant culture ostracizes them. Every one is a dignified survivor. “JANE CHAMBERS is a playwright who speaks for the cause of women in general and lesbians in particular. Ask her which has been the greater obstacle in her life: her gender or her sexuality, and she answers: ”That’s easy – judgments are based on seeing; one of the things about being gay that doesn’t get in the way is that, most of the time, you can’t see it, but being a woman is something you have to deal with every minute.””
So where are you going tonight? It’s your last chance to visit the last summer at the cove and honor the noble spirit of a groundbreaking work of art.
September 16 8pm $10
Quotes from this Jane Chambers interview:
- Jane Chambers interview Alvin Klein, The New York Times, February 8, 1981