Tag Archives: The Quality of Life
Intrepid Theatre Company opened its first production of Season Six, “The Quality of Life,” on July 5 to a standing ovation and immediate rave reviews by audiences and critics alike. While the production – featuring the unforgettable Maggie Carney, DeAnna Driscoll, Jeffrey Jones and Tom Stephenson – was praised for its “tour-de-force ensemble” (Bill Eadie) who ‘hold nothing back” (Jeff Smith), director Christy Yael-Cox is equally pleased by what is happening on State Street outside the theatre after the show: immediate conversation.
“This play deals with hard-hitting and contemporary issues in such a beautiful and graceful way,” says Christy. “It’s our goal to present all sides and perspectives without engaging one more than the other. We learn from experiencing each others’ reactions to the play as much as we learn from experiencing the characters’ viewpoints.”
In order to encourage this conversation even further, Intrepid is organizing a series of formal post-show talkbacks with experts in the fields touched upon in the play, most prominently the issue of end of life care and options. The first one will take place Thursday, July 9.
The roster of panelists include Certified Geriatric Nurse Case Manager Dori Salois Salerno, R.N., a hospice team from The San Diego County Coalition for Improving End of Life Care, representatives from the San Diego County Medical Society Bioethics Commission, Hospice of North Coast, Father Doran from St. Michael’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church and a Buddhist teacher from the Dharma Bums Temple in downtown San Diego. See below for the complete talkback schedule.
“We are hoping that a diverse range of perspectives on this issue can help us see even further into the mindset of each of the characters in the play and engage their viewpoints on a level that is relevant to us in our everyday lives,” says Christy.
“From a relaxed, picnic-like beginning, The Quality of Life builds to an inexorable shedding of stereotypes…” Jeff Smith wrote this week in the San Diego Reader, and judging from the flock of patrons who lingered on the sidewalk to discuss the show after opening night, he was not the only one taken by the surprises this play has to offer. We hope you will join us for what we hope will be enlightening and educational post-show conversations.
“The Quality of Life” Post-Show Talkback Schedule
Thursday, July 9:
Dori Salois Salerno, R.N. – Certified Geriatric Nurse Case Manager with Innovative Health Care Consultants
Friday, July 10:
San Diego County Coalition for Improving End of Life Care featuring Dr. Margaret Elizondo (Sharp Hospice Physician), Barbara Bailey (Hospice Nurse Educator), Lydia Lombardi (Vitas Hospice social worker manager) and Chaplain Caroline Flanders
Saturday, July 11th:
San Diego County Medical Society Bioethics Commission featuring Paula Goodman-Crews, LCSW, Arnie Gass, M.D., Zoe Blaylock, M.Div. and Loren Lopata, M. Div.
Sunday, July 12:
Hospice of the North Coast, featuring Colleen O’Hara (Attorney / Professional Fiduciary), Rev. Doran Stambaugh, SSC (Clergy), Charles Hergesheimer, MD (Hospice Medical Director), Jim Reiser (Bereavement Coordinator), Sharon Lutz (RN, BSN, CHPN)
Thursday, July 16:
Rev. Doran Stambaugh, SSC, St. Michael’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church
Thursday, July 23:
San Diego County Coalition for Improving End of Life Care featuring Faye Girsh, president of the Hemlock Society of San Diego, Teressa Vaughn, MPT, MHA, Sharp Healthcare and Liz Sumner, RN, BSN, MA, Elizabeth Hospice
Friday, July 24:
Jeff Zlotnik, Co-Founder of The Dharma Bum Temple and Buddhist meditation teacher
“The Quality of Life” by Jane Anderson, through August 2 at the Carlsbad Village Theatre, 2822 State Street. Tickets available here. Talkbacks will begin a few minutes after the performance. All audience members welcome.
Playwright Jane Anderson has lived many lives with her award-winning work, “The Quality of Life,” Intrepid Theatre Company’s Season Six opener which runs July 3 – Aug 2 at the Carlsbad Village Theatre. In addition to directing the play at the American Conservatory Theatre and the Geffen, she also helped mount a production at Arena Stage in Washington, DC, where she continued to “tear the second act apart and put it back together,” as she told Dramaturg Janine Sobeck. Why so much drama with this drama?
Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that Anderson’s writing digs deep into issues that most playwrights wouldn’t touch, while striking the perfect balance between the humanity and humor of it all. This is not an easy task to undertake, especially while navigating the specific tightropes that connect the characters in this play.
“The Quality of Life” was written in 2007 and inspired by Anderson’s friends who were dealing with a potentially terminal illness in their relationship. Also influential in the telling of this story is the 1995 Mount Vision Fire in Northern California that burned over 12,000 acres. Intertwined in this narrative are these themes of loss and grief, but also of the necessity of survival.
The story follows Ohio couple Dinah and Bill who travel to Northern California to visit Dinah’s cousin, Jeannette, and her husband, Neil. Dinah and Bill are still grieving the tragic loss of their daughter and hope to provide comfort to Jeannette and Neil who have recently lost their home to fire. Additionally, Neil has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. No sooner do Dinah and Bill land on the doorstep of the yurt that Neil and Jeannette have constructed on the property of their burnt out home, that they all begin to realize how vastly different their perspectives are on a variety of issues, including religion, the afterlife and medical marijuana.
“In times of darkness, as humans, we tend to gravitate towards hope and towards humor,” says Christy Yael-Cox, Producing Artistic Director of Intrepid and director of this production. “Watching the characters manage those extremes are what makes this play so captivating, as well as completely relatable.”
Bringing these characters to life is a master class cast of actors: Tom Stephenson and Maggie Carney will portray Bill and Dinah and DeAnna Driscoll and Jeffrey Jones will portray Jeannette and Neil.
While the emotional landscape of the writing is captivating enough for audiences, also interesting is that the range of topical issues addressed in the story are still as relevant today as they were when the play was written eight years ago:
End of Life Options. In dealing with his terminal cancer, Neil shares that he plans to end his own life before the cancer becomes too painful. This is understandably uncomfortable for Bill and Dinah to grasp, and audiences might be familiar with the recent events around Brittany Maynard, a brain cancer victim and Californian who moved to Oregon in order to take the same action. Before her death, Brittany worked to bring legal change to our state, so that patients with aggressive cancers may choose to end their lives with dignity. SB 128, the End of Life Option Act, has recently been passed in the California Senate.
Medical Marijuana. With the recent legalization of marijuana in certain states, and the prevalence of medical marijuana facilities in California and San Diego, this topic can be highly charged, especially when addressing issues of cancer treatments. Bill and Neil have very different perspectives on this issue that are discussed during the course of the play.
Grief. There is no textbook to coping with loss. The post-traumatic stress of losing a child or a spouse and grappling with how to continue after such darkness can be both difficult to navigate as well as overcome. Bill and Dinah want to connect as much as they want to stay isolated. Jeannette fears the future without Neil. Is it possible for these characters to see each other through the darkest of moments and into the light?
Intrepid plans to invite speakers on both sides of many of these issues for talkbacks after select performances of “The Quality of Life.” More information will be available on the website.
“The Quality of Life” by Jane Anderson opens July 5 at the Carlsbad Village Theatre, 2822 State Street. Tickets available here.
Moonlighting at Intrepid Shakespeare: A Conversation with “The Quality of Life” Director, Kathy Brombacher
Kathy Brombacher is the first to admit that things are a little bit different now than they were a year ago. “My life is a little simpler now that I’m ‘retired,’” she laughs. “It is nice to do one project at a time.”
This time last year, Kathy was wrapping up her 31-year stint as artistic director of Moonlight Stage Productions, her post there historically integral to arts development in North County. Now, as she told the U-T last August, she is finding “a different way to be involved in theatre.” And this week, that involvement includes directing Monday night’s staged reading of Jane Anderson’s The Quality of Life.
In Jane Anderson’s play, which was originally commissioned by and had its premiere at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles in 2007, two couples meet on the burned out remains of a Jeannette and Neil’s house in Northern California. The couple has set up a yurt on the land, artistically displaying salvaged items from their lives on nearby trees. They are visited by Jeannette’s cousin, Dinah, and her husband Bill, Midwestern parents grieving over the tragic loss of their daughter.
“Jeannette and Neil are post-intellectuals,” explains Kathy. “They bought this beautiful home in the mountains because of their own spirituality, which is linked to Buddha and appreciating nature.” That they choose to honor the remains of their lives artistically is evidence of their ability to come to grips with their loss in a cheerful way. “They are defiant of the misery that might affect other people,” says Kathy.
By contrast, Dinah and Bill, who have arrived after hearing about the devastation of the fire, live conservatively in their religious and political values. The juxtaposition of these two ideologies creates both tension and humor.
“These are two sets of very different people, looking at life in very different ways,” Kathy explains. “There are lovely threads of humor throughout, but you also begin to see people use humor to escape things that haunt them at night…the things that are always with them.”
Charged with bringing these complex characters to life is a seasoned cast of San Diego notables: Jo Anne Glover and Jeffrey Jones will portray the fire-devastated Northern Californians, while Colleen Kollar Smith and John Tessmer will play the grieving Ohioan visitors.
“The cast is incredible,” enthuses Kathy. “There are a lot of levels of thinking in these characters for the them to discover. It’s a beautiful play to listen to and will be completely in the hands of the actors.” While Kathy is new to working with the majority of the cast, she notes that Colleen grew up doing theatre in North County San Diego. “She’s a gifted lady we claim as our own,” Kathy says, of Colleen’s early theatre days at Moonlight.
These kinds of connections are important, especially to someone who has been so involved in the development of San Diego’s theatre scene. Kathy looks forward to cultivating more of these relationships outside of Moonlight, among them, one with Intrepid Shakespeare.
“I really welcome this opportunity,” she says. “I so completely admire what Intrepid is doing onstage. I just love that Christy and Sean are bringing the classics to the schools and splitting open the idea of what the classics are and approaching Shakespeare in a new way. I have all kinds of respect for them and I hope they flourish and thrive.”
— Tiffany Tang
The Quality of Life by Jane Anderson – a staged reading, will be held at the Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, June 24. 6:30 pm complimentary wine and appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. Please rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase tickets in advance. $15.