Dramatists Guild Footlights Series Returns February 8 With PINEAPPLE AND OTHER OPTIONS
A reading of Jeanmarie Simpson's Pineapple and Other Options will be presented on February 8th at 11 a.m. At Metropolitan Arts Institute 1700 N. 7th Ave.
The play brings forward the character of Elizabeth English Pennington (1783-1757). When the show opens, the main character, Helen, is on leave from work while recovering from breast cancer. She sits alone in her kitchen contemplating suicide in the face of a mountain of medical bills and increasing feelings of alienation. We meet AJ, who sits alone on the telephone as a suicide hotline volunteer, desperately trying to keep Helen on the phone. As Helen and AJ struggle in liminal space, Pennington steps out of the ethers and challenges Helen to - at least temporarily - suspend her plans. What follows is a dynamic weaving of primitive American history and the complexities of 21st-century socio-political life. Pineapple and Other Options dances between devastating drama and dark comedy. The development of this project is supported, in part, by the Living History Centre Fund, Sacramento California.
DG Footlights is a program, created and moderated by the Dramatists Guild, that connects dramatists with free space in which to hold a public reading of a new work that is currently in development. This initiative operates on a space-grant model: a representative from the Guild arranges for a venue to donate space during allocated dates and times, and ensures that the space is available for dramatists to use to present a self-produced reading to the public, with an optional feedback session following the reading. Attendance is always free and open to all.
With Pineapple and Other Options, Simpson has taken her typical linear/non-linear approach.
"A friend of mine is a descendant of Elizabeth English Pennington's," Simpson said. "My friend told me about "Grandma Betsy," who is a big deal in Indiana but is otherwise virtually unknown. I did some quick research and learned that another descendant of Betsy's performs solo living history as Betsy. So I knew that wasn't something I'd want to pursue. I was intrigued by the idea that Betsy had been raised as a Cherokee and was profoundly influenced by their way of life and, as a child, by the way they learned. As an artist-educator for 40 years, I was and continue to be frustrated by the form the American public school system took, from Day One. It's difficult to explain the way creative ideas come together, but my personal history of depression and suicide attempts combined with breast cancer and surgery led to the development of the character, Helen. My own experience having called a suicide hotline was the impetus for the creation of AJ, the volunteer who takes Helen's call. Because Betsy has thousands of living descendants and there exists very little factual documentation of her life, rather than treating her as a strictly historical character, she exists in the dream world that has a universe of its own."
John Perovich is DG Southwest liaison and Artistic Director of Now & Then Creative Company. He enthusiastically hosts the upcoming reading.
"The language is my favorite element of the play," Perovich said. "Additionally," he continued, "Jeanmarie is experimenting with a split stage approach-meaning that there are separate locations with characters that are being simultaneously played in front of audiences. This theatrical convention is captivating, moving, and creates moments of intense meaning-it is difficult to describe and must be experienced. Pineapple and Other Options packs a punch while also illuminating a mostly unknown historical figure."
Admission is free, however, registration is encouraged: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/southwest-arizona-dg-footlightstm-tickets-85654754677