When Lesbian/feminist playwright Jane Chambers wrote a truthful, loving play about eight women spending summer together 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”. Then the play seemed to just fade away….
“I think it got back-burnered by the AIDS epidemic, which erupted in full force about that time,” regional stage director Sharon Veselic muses thoughtfully. Veselic mounts and directs a full production of “Last Summer at Bluefish Cove” this coming weekend, in three performances January 18 through 20, kicking off Denton Community Theatre’s 2013 Point Bank Black Box series in high style. Regional audiences will get to watch a seldom-produced classic that opened minds, hearts and stage possibilities in a major way over 30 years ago. Is it a gaggle of Birkenstock-wearing, hard-edged dykes bashing men and telling randy cunt jokes? Hardly. This play is one of the most honest, heartfelt, eloquent explorations of Lesbian/ female identity you will ever see, emerging from an era where gender closets remained deep, dark and locked tight shut. Even so, it has amazing resonance, a universal appeal, for today.
Most of Veselic’s 2013 cast aren’t old enough to remember the social scene of the 1970’s and were unfamiliar with the play before auditioning. It’s written so well they say they have had no trouble relating to the characters’ issues, and it doesn’t feel dated. They appear to have fallen in love with the work during rehearsal. The cast members express strong respect for Veselic’s directorial acumen. When she posted auditions for “Bluefish Cove”, they came to read out of curiosity, picking up on her enthusiasm. The admiration is mutual. Veselic comments, ” Working with this smart, inquisitive and insightful cast has been a very rewarding experience. Seven are Directors themselves. It’s been a fun ride, for all of us.”
The cast warms effusively to the play’s humor, its quirkiness, its poignancy, and its fearless honesty. They say they have all grown to believe that it will represent a landmark performance event in their lives as actors. Every role offers real opportunity for depth of portrayal as opposed to the limitations of roles for women in most plays produced regionally. They confess driving up to Denton rehearsals nightly from Burleson, Arlington and Bedford has been challenging, but they consider it an honor to have become part of this production’s core “family”. And, guess what, most of them are straight. A final thought from Sharon Veselic, proud director? “Jane Chambers has given us a wonderful script to work with. It’s now time to give it to the audience.”
There are plenty of opportunities in the region to watch excellent productions that focus primarily on male experience and perspectives. Here, this weekend, in Denton, audiences have the chance to examine life and love from a female point of view in a distinguished landmark work from the 20th century, an almost forgotten gem. A deep bow to the ladies of “Last Summer at Bluefish Cove”! Performances start at 7:30pm January 18 and 19, 2pm on January 20th.
Kristen Brasher as Rae
Jordan Desmarais as Rita
Rose Anne Holman as Sue
Kelsey Jones as Donna
Jennifer Peace as Eva
Kami Rogers as Annie
Kristin Spires as Kitty
Kris Walters as Lil
Point Bank Black Box, 318 East Hickory Street, Denton 76201 http://www.dentoncommunitytheatre.com/#!__black-box
Left to Right: Jordan Desmarais and Kristin Spires, Kami Rogers and Kristen Brasher, Rose Anne Holman and Kelsey Jones. Sittiing: Jen Peace and Kris Walters.
This article is the first in a series focused on Women in Theatre I plan to write in 2013, to honor their abundant creativity and shine a light on the definitive contributions women make to live performance art in the region.
Also appears in TheaterJones.com