Claire Chafee’s Why We Have a Body follows the lives of four women through snapshot monologues and short intimate scenes. Though the play originally opened in San Francisco in 1993, it is achingly in sync with the current political climate. Directed by Rhonda J Soikowski for Strawberry Theatre Workshop, Body opens Sep. 14 at 12th Ave Arts for a five-week run.
Chafee presents four women who have each built lives for themselves outside of patriarchal expectations – lives without children, lives without husbands, and one life beyond the rule of law. They demonstrate the illusion of LGBTQ-identifying individuals gaining equality, and the constrictions placed on women who were brought up in a world defined by men.
“The play works in archetypes,” says Soikowski. “Lesbian, Criminal, Lover, Mother; or Detective, Philosopher, Scientist, Adventurer; or Loner, Psychotic, Cheater, Abandoner. There are many ways each of these characters can be seen. The play encourages the audience to try to pigeonhole characters into one identity or another, while they each try to find their own essence of self, despite our attempts to do it for them.”
Soikowski was one of Artistic Director Greg Carter’s earliest collaborators at Strawberry Theatre Workshop. She sat on the founding Board of Trustees, directed the second production in the organization’s history (Fellow Passengers, 2004), and performed in the third (Accidental Death of an Anarchist, 2005). Her ensemble for Body includes another Strawshop favorite, Amy Fleetwood, who played the lead role in the company’s An Enemy of the People in 2007, and returned for Breaking the Code, This Land: Woody Guthrie, and Our Town.
Body‘s other three actors are new to Strawshop. Mahria Zook (who was featured in the one-woman Grounded at Seattle Public Theatre) plays the paleontologist Renee. She shares the stage with Alyssa Keene (Mother Courage at Seattle Shakespeare) and Katya Landau (SQUATCH! The Musical at Centerstage), who play the sisters Lili and Mary. The design team includes Margaret Toomey (costumes), Levi Plumb (lights), Brian Murphy (sound), and Robin Macartney (scenery). The production is stage-managed by Evan Price and Lexi Chipman.
Body had its world premiere at the Magic Theatre and went on to be produced Off- Broadway at the Judith Anderson Theatre by Women’s Project. It won four San Francisco Dramalogue Awards, the Bay Area Critic’s Circle Award for original script, and Newsday’s George Oppenheimer Award, presented annually for the most impressive debut of an American playwright. Body has been produced in around the country in Los Angeles, Boston, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Chicago, as well as in Vancouver, B.C. and Perth, Australia.
Body features the first of two all-female casts who will occupy the Strawshop stage to begin its 2017/18 season. The company will produce Peter Morgan’s Frost/Nixon in January with eight women playing roles originally written for men. Amy Thone and Alexandra Tavares will play the famous title characters. The third show of the season – though not an all-female cast – is from a Pulitzer Prize winning female playwright, Paula Vogel. Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive opens in June.
Ticket prices range from $36 General and a discounted $24 on Mondays. Phone sales: 1-800-838-3006 and online sales at strawshop.bpt.me.