Making space for disagreement and dialogue can be challenging in a deeply divided world, but the University of Wyoming Department of Theatre and Dance’s first play of the academic year aims to do just that.
Written by Jon Robin Baitz, “Other Desert Cities” is a modern play about a family divided by heated arguments regarding how best to deal with its own dark history, said Director Patrick Konesko, assistant professor of theatre history and dramatic literature.
“It revolves around a pretty famous fictional family famous for its role in Hollywood and for its political circles and views,” Konesko said. “The daughter has come back ... and has written this tell-all memoir that deals with a dark moment in their past.”
A finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the play follows the ensuing fallout from the collision of opposing political, personal and generational viewpoints — a type of clash most people avoid, Konesko said.
“For us, a large part of this show is about the importance of creating dialogue,” he said. “We’ve entered this place in society where we kind of refuse to listen to the people of opposing viewpoints, especially political viewpoints.”
Bailey Tatterson, who plays a leading role in the production, said the play is “incredibly American” in this way and the dynamic characters help drive home the story’s message.
“Scene-to-scene, you might love them, you might hate them, you might empathize with them, you might be incredibly frustrated with them — and that’s every character in the entire show,” she said. “So, there really isn’t this general bad guy or good guy.”
Taking on her first role in a UW production, Tatterson plays the part of Polly Wyeth, mother to Brooke Wyeth, the memoir-writing daughter.
“(Polly) is interesting to say the least,” Tatterson said. “She’s sort of in this position of trying to help her daughter, do what’s best for her daughter, but also they’re in a pretty strong disagreement throughout the course of the show.”
The Wyeths are a family torn apart by years of refusing to talk. Konesko said he hopes the production can encourage audience members to avoid similar pitfalls.
“I think right now, there’s a valuable lesson for all of us to take away, on all sides of the political spectrum: the importance of not just writing off the opposition, but trying to understand who they are and why they hold the views that they do,” he said.
“Other Desert Cities” is the Department of Theatre and Dance’s first production of the academic year. The department plans to put on four main-stage plays and two main-stage dance performances throughout the 2017-2018 year, with several student works and smaller events sprinkled in.
The play opened Tuesday, but there are still three chances to catch a showing.
“Other Desert Cities” starts at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday — and 2 p.m. Sunday — in the Buchanan Center for Performing Arts Thrust Theatre. Tickets are $14 for the public, $11 for seniors and $7 for students and can be purchased at the Wyoming Union Information Desk, the Performing Arts Box Office, by calling 766-6666 or at www.uwyo.edu/finearts. Call Kathy Kirkaldie at 766-2160 for more information.