RIBBON OF LIFE to Open 6/14 at Acting Artists Theater

RIBBON OF LIFE to Open 6/14 at Acting Artists Theater

Playwright Steve Julian dives into the world of transgender acceptance with his new work Ribbon of Life, directed by Alexis Jacknow, SDC. The play depicts Savannah's efforts to get her parents to accept Ezmae, a transgender woman, as her life partner. It might be easy if it were not for confusion, ignorance and abhorrence of non-conservative values.

The play stars Elizabeth Dennehy (Gattaca, The Game; TV's Charmed), Christopher Murray (The Best Man, A Patriot for Me at CTG; Parks and Recreation, Zoey 101), Gwen Van Dam (Burlesque, Group Rep's The Trip to Bountiful at the Lonny Chapman Theatre), Abigail Marks (Top Girls at Antaeus, The Beaux' Stratagem, Eurydice and others at A Noise Within) and Premstar Santana (Rogue Machine Theatre's Around The Clock Play Festivals).

Set today in the San Fernando Valley, Ribbon of Life takes place mostly on Savannah's 25th birthday, a day in which she comes clean about her relationship with Ezmae - and the fact Ezmae is an "anatomically diverse entity." Her mother tries to understand, but is preoccupied by a shocking discovery she makes about herself. Her grandmother has long been Savannah's confidant, but now has her mind on a decision she is determined to make. Savannah's father has a tragic and very conservative past, which renders him seemingly incapable of accepting anything out of the norm.

Each is pushed to an emotional brink - can love be more than just a habit?

Ribbon of Life is presented as a full-length staged reading to accommodate the constraints of moving sets during the Fringe Festival.

Director Alexis Jacknow holds a B.F.A. from New York University and most recently helmed the critically heralded production of Neil LaBute's Fat Pig at the Hudson Theatre. Other recent directing credits include The Diary of Anne Frank (La Mirada Theatre), reasons to be happy (LATW, associate director to Neil LaBute, starring Jenna Fischer and Thomas Sadoski), In the Next Room (Lounge Theater), and As Bees in Honey Drown (Washington Street Theater).

Julian's 2013 play What Kind of God? examined the sex abuse crisis inside the Roman Catholic Church. Jose Ruiz of www.reviewplays.com called it PICK OF THE WEEK; Campus Circle described it as, "Artfully crafted ... thought provoking ... beautifully balances drama with the kind of institutional questions that should make you question." And Dale Reynolds of www.stagehappenings.com called it a "riveting evening."

Ribbon of Life runs Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., June 14-29 at Acting Artists Theater, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood 90046. Tickets at www.hollywoodfringe.org/project1787 and tax deductible financial contributions may be made through www.pasadenaartscouncil.org/emerge/ribbon-of-life-2/.

Inspiration for the play is drawn from a painting by Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner. Pope Francis was struck by it when he was in Germany pursuing his Ph. D. in the 1980s; it is now a Catholic novena. "Mary, Untier of Knots" c. 1700 depicts the Mother of Jesus untying a long white ribbon. Julian took artistic license with the image by keeping the knotted portion white while coloring the untied portion in rainbow colors in an homage to the LGBT community.

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