Salt Lake Acting Company’s New Play Sounding Series Presents a Free Reading of
by Elaine Jarvik
Salt Lake Acting Company (SLAC) is pleased to offer a free reading of TWO STORIES written by Elaine Jarvik and directed by Keven Myhre on Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 at 7 PM as part of the New Play Sounding Series (NPSS). This is a special opportunity to experience an exciting new play by local playwright, Elaine Jarvik. An outreach program at SLAC, NPSS provides an essential testing ground where playwrights can see their work in progress and receive insightful feedback from the audience in a post-play discussion. We thank the Jarvis and Constance Doctorow Family Foundation for their support of this vital program.
TWO STORIES is a look at two neighbors, two families, two cultures and the conflicts and misunderstandings that can occur on two different sides of a fence. Jodi Wolcott is a newspaper journalist trying to find her footing in a 24-hour news cycle, while her husband Kevin, after losing his job, is quickly using up their savings on his failing donut shop. When a Pakistani family—Amir and Hasna Masori, their three children, and Amir’s mother Bashira—moves in next door, Kevin and Jodi welcome them with open arms and a pot of chicken masala. Jodi is only too excited to befriend the matriarch of the family, Bashira, a widow who has recently arrived in the United States. Bashira opens up to Jodi, revealing her feelings about her image-conscious daughter-in-law and her eye-rolling grandchildren, and she reveals the reason she left Pakistan so suddenly. With Jodi’s newspaper job on the line, Bashira’s life becomes the fodder Jodi needs to write her next big story.
As Jodi is faced with a choice between friendship and self-preservation, tensions in the neighborhood build as well. Amir and his wife have plans to remodel their house into a large, two-story French chateau that will change the look of the neighborhood and will cut off the Wolcott’s light and view. “Why is my desire for space any less important than your desire for a view?” asks Amir. “Because we were here first,” answers Kevin. Jodi is then caught in the middle, afraid to alienate the Masoris but wanting to keep them from building their addition. Religious and ethnic tensions escalate. Rocks are thrown, a gun is fired, hate crime charges are filed and a fence of prejudice and misunderstanding is built.
The story that Jodi eventually writes about Bashira angers Amir, who is mortified that his family’s privacy has been breached. He accuses Jodi of using his mother’s story and friendship for her own gain. When Jodi’s newspaper colleague, a younger Hispanic reporter, comes to the Wolcotts’ house to write a story about the incident, Jodi is suddenly face-to-face with her prejudices and her own vulnerability at the hands of the media.
TWO STORIES began as a personal war of aesthetics for playwright Elaine Jarvik in 1990 when her neighbor built a faux-stone wall that Elaine felt destroyed the bucolic nature of their wooded lane. What stayed with her, years later, was how helpless she felt to challenge her neighbor’s aesthetics, and how immature she acted in response, retaliating by putting rocks in his mailbox. This unlikely genesis for her play created an outlet for her to explore her professional life as a journalist, her feelings about property and aesthetics, and the ways in which good people can behave badly as they try to protect what they think is theirs. During her career as a newspaper reporter, Elaine covered ordinary people and celebrities, immigrants and the descendants of Mormon pioneers. In writing their stories she often asked herself, “Am I telling the story right? Am I hurting anyone?” Sometimes she woke in the middle of the night worried that she had misspelled someone’s name, or, worse, had not represented these very real people—her “sources”—accurately. It is from these concerns about story and property that TWO STORIES was born.
TWO STORIES is a powerful work that tells an American story with universal appeal. Elaine has created a neighborhood that can exist in any city in the country, with unique characters that promote dialogue and reflection. SLAC has a reputation for producing and championing the work of new plays. At the heart of the theatre’s mission is a dedication to valuably contributing to the American theatre field, as it has for the past 43 years. SLAC works with living playwrights to support the development and continued life of new plays beyond SLAC’s stage. SLAC is equally committed to the important voice of Elaine Jarvik’s TWO STORIES and will work to ensure its continued life.
This free reading offers a unique opportunity to hear a new play by an excellent cast and take part in a post-play discussion in which the playwright welcomes comments, questions and feedback from the audience.
Elaine’s 10-minute play DEAD RIGHT was produced at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in 2008 and has recently been anthologized in the high school textbook, Bedford Introduction to Literature. Her full-length play (a man enters), co-written with her daughter, was produced by Salt Lake Acting Company in 2011, and her play THE COMING ICE AGE was produced by Pygmalion Theatre in 2010. Jarvik has spent most of her writing career trying to report the facts, first for the Deseret News and more recently as a freelance journalist, earning national awards for reporting.
Keven received the Mayor's Artists Award in the Performing Arts in 2009. He was awarded the 2008 City Weekly Award for directing THE CLEAN HOUSE and MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS at Salt Lake Acting Company. His other directing credits at SLAC include BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON, RED, ANGELS IN AMERICA: PARTS I & II, THE OVERWHELMING, RABBIT HOLE, I AM MY OWN WIFE, BAD DATES, KIMBERLY AKIMBO, GOING TO ST. IVES, WATER LILIES, THE MEMORY OF WATER, TWO-HEADED, THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE, GROSS INDECENCY: THE THREE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE, C'EST MOI in MERE MORTALS and THREE DAYS OF RAIN. Keven has designed all of SLAC's sets and many of the costumes for the last 18 years. He has also designed 16 sets for The Grand Theatre. He designed sets for ACCORDING TO COYOTE, WEST SIDE STORY, CROW AND WEASSEL, and SOUTH PACIFIC at Sundance Theatre. His designs have also been seen at Pioneer Memorial Theatre, Utah Musical Theatre, Egyptian Theatre, Kingsbury Hall and the Babcock Theatre. His work for the Utah Arts Festival includes site design for the 20th anniversary. He received a BFA from the University of Utah and a MFA in Theatre from the University of Michigan.
Joel Applegate, Kathryn Atwood, Brenda Sue Cowley, Shane Mozaffari and Nicki Nixon with Marin Kohler as the reader.