Every year Walterdale Theatre presents new one-act plays in its annual play development and showcase program, From Cradle to Stage. Draft one-act scripts are collected in September, adjudicated by a committee and selected to participate in the program, which includes working with a dramaturg and assistant dramaturg and eventually seeing a staged production of their script in May.
This year, the two plays selected for From Cradle to Stage are Bottled Up by Sherilyn Brady Cook and The Sunset Syndrome by Alison Neuman.
Bottled Up by Sherilyn Brady Cook
After the House Lights/Jenna: What is Bottled Up about?
Sherilyn Brady Cook: It is about a girl named Kimberly who comes back home to take care of her sick mother. She and her mother have had a strained relationship over the years, so there are a lot of struggles when she comes back home to take care of her mother, but there are a lot of things about her mother’s past that she doesn’t know. After her mother dies at the beginning of the play, there is a magical moment that happens in this lake that’s near their family home and Kimberly gets swept back to 1955 where she meets her grandmother. From there, she learns the secrets of the past and she realises that she has a chance to give her mother a better life, but she has to make some decisions that include ending other lives in order to do that.
Jenna: A time travel/family drama! What was it about that mother/daughter/grandmother relationship that you wanted to explore through the show?
Sherilyn: I was in a playwrighting class and we were trying to write scenes that had high stakes and we were trying to make very deeply connected relationships. When I was doing the exercises for this playwrighting class, it seemed that the mother – daughter relationship is often very heated. It always has a lot of complexities to it, so I thought it was an interesting one to write high-stakes scenes around.
Jenna: Where was the playwrighting class?
Sherilyn: I’m at the University of Alberta, doing a B. Ed in drama, so I was doing a playwrighting class with Jane Heather.
Jenna: What does it mean to you for Bottled Up to be part of From Cradle to Stage?
Sherilyn: It’s been amazing. I was ecstatic when I found out this play would be one of the From Cradle to Stage plays. I’ve loved every single second of working through more drafts – I’ve done six drafts since I started with this process. Working with a dramaturg is so eye-opening, because when I write a draft, I can only get to a certain point and then I can’t see it anymore. Once I handed it off to Tracy Carroll and we would chat about it, she would bring up all of these questions I would never have thought about, or point out things I would never have been able to see. As soon as she would bring up questions or point out things, it opened a whole other world. And now to watch it go into production has been awesome. This is the first time I’ve had a play staged, so it’s really exciting and an honour to be part of the whole thing.
Jenna: What’s next for Bottled Up?
Sherilyn: I definitely want to see how this goes and take some notes on how I thought the production went and likely do another draft based on what I saw in the production.
The Sunset Syndrome by Alison Neuman
After the House Lights/Jenna: Can you give me a synopsis of what the show is about?
Alison Neuman: Emily watched her husband of 60 years fight a battle with dementia and its related complications. A few years after his passing, she too is diagnosed with dementia. As Emily struggles with difficult decisions about her future, she reflects on important moments from her past.
Jenna: You said on the Walterdale blog you were inspired to write The Sunset Syndrome when you heard about a BC woman with dementia choosing to end her life. What was it about that story and her decision that made you want to dig into the topic of dementia through a play?
Alison: After having family members diagnosed and go through the journey of dementia, I was interested in highlighting the personal story from a person living with dementia. While one person is diagnosed, everyone around them is also affected and changed. No matter the communication ability of the person with dementia, not forgetting they are they people with lives, dreams, stories, feeling and emotions that may be trapped inside a nonverbal body is important to remember.
Jenna: What does it mean to you to be part of From Cradle to Stage?
Alison: The Walterdale Theatre From Cradle to Stage New Works Festival is an institution to nurture emerging playwrights. Being selected to be a part of the festival is an honour. Being a part of the From Cradle to Stage Festival has permitted me to grow as a playwright and the entire festival has been completely accessible in permitting access to readings, rehearsals, tech runs and the process to make a production possible. The generosity of the theatre community will forever impact my writing and every production that I am a part of.
Jenna: What is the future of The Sunset Syndrome beyond From Cradle to Stage?
Alison: What I am hoping for the future of The Sunset Syndrome is to leave the production with some feedback, if I decide the play requires some tweaking. Additionally, I would love to have the play published and even considered for future productions.
For more information on the plays as well as one-on-one interviews with the cast and crew of both productions, check out the Walterdale Theatre blog.