an abortion play, warns Julia Traber, who is directing the regional premiere for Mildred’s Umbrella. “I read this script, and it was an instant yes,” she says of the play that put Spiegel on the short list for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in 2014. “It’s an interesting script because I think, on the surface, you might worry this is just an after school special. [The abortion] is the primary crisis, of course, but what’s so good about the writing is the show is very character driven.” Traber says the playwright shows the complexities of the characters without delving into stereotypes. “It’s a coming of age story, really. The way she’s written the dialogue, she still relates with these girls, and it really resonates [into] believable, life-like characters.” 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, October 20 through November 5, 3 p.m. October 30, 8 p.m. October 31 (pay what you can). Studio 101, 1824 Spring. For information, call 832-463-0409 or visit mildredsumbrella.com
. $15 to $25.
Mildred’s Umbrella Theatre Company continues its 2016-2017 season with the regional premiere of Dry Land by recent Yale graduate and Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalist Ruby Rae Spiegel. Set in a high school locker room, the play centers on the awkward friendship borne out of crisis between two teen girls on the precipice of adulthood.
Amy and Ester are an unlikely pair – Amy is brash and blunt while Ester is the more unassuming of the two – who are forced together in trying to solve the problem of Amy’s unplanned pregnancy. The result is an honest, unflinching and often hilarious portrayal of teenage distress that has won accolades from critics and audiences alike. Upon its 2014 premiere, the New York Times called the play “tender, caustic, funny and harrowing, often all at the same time.” And for her efforts, Spiegel was named a 2014 finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn prize, which annually honors outstanding new plays written by women.
Stepping in to direct the play is Julia Traber, a freelance director who has taught at UH and Rice, and is a resident artist with Classical Theatre. “People may have a misconception that Dry Land is simply a play about abortion, which is understandable given the topicality of the issue following the recent Supreme Court ruling and political debate concerning women’s reproductive rights in Texas,” Traber says. “But the play is much more about the challenge of navigating relationships while struggling to find one’s true identity. Simply put, it’s a story about the complexities of friendship and how messy adolescence can be for young women.”
Artistic Director Jennifer Decker echoes Traber’s take, “I chose this play because Ms. Spiegel has been able to realistically and deftly juggle the dark and the light of what it is really like to be a young woman, without melodrama or sentimentality, not simply because it effectively tackles a taboo subject.”
Dry Land runs October 20 through November 5 at Studio 101 at Spring Street Studios in the heart of the Washington Avenue Arts District. Tickets are on sale now at www.mildredsumbrella.com. For more information, call 832-463-0409 or e-mail email@example.com.
Ruby Rae Spiegel’s play is about an abortion, but don’t call