Birth of Venus magical
Published: Thursday, February 3, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 17:05
In the inaugural installment of the Smith Theatre New Play Reading Series last Thursday, theatergoers had a chance to preview The Birth of Venus, which will be presented during this year's Commencement Weekend. Though auditions for the final cast are pending, faculty member Normi Noel directed a talented group of actors through the staged reading, among them Annie-Sage Whitehurst '11 as Betty, Meg Lydon '13 as Trish and Hampshire College alumnus Rory Madden as Ron.The play, the brainchild of Lisa Meyers '11, is sometimes sad, sometimes funny, but always magical and lighthearted as it follows a woman named Betty through gender reassignment surgery. As Betty's relationships with her past, herself and her body evolve, so too do her relationships with her two closest friends, Ron and Trish.
The symbolism inherent in a play that deals so heavily with transformation presented on the occasion of her Commencement is not lost on Meyers. "It's very symbolic," she said. "It very much marks the end of my Smith career."
Her career as a playwright began during her junior year at the Orange County High School of the Arts. Venus marks Meyers' third play produced at Smith: Respect for the Electric Field of Horses and Tricky Wicked Bitch ran in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
Meyers is a two-time winner of the Blank Theatre Young Playwright's Festival in Hollywood and a recipient of the Dr. Gaffney Playwrighting Award. A reading of Birth of Venus, featuring La Cage Aux Folles' Sean Patrick Doyle as Betty, was recently staged in New York through RoaN Productions.
Yet Meyers is hesitant to talk about her awards. She turns the discussion instead to her characters, of whom she speaks with compassion and emotional honesty.
Her characters often behave childishly and reach outside of reality for the solutions to their problems. In The Birth of Venus, for instance, one character builds another a rocket ship.
"I like to show adults doing ridiculous things, or expressing their childishness," Meyers said.
Though such depictions are often humorous, in Meyers' work the humor is more heartwarmingly poignant than scathingly satirical because the childlike behavior of the characters reflects their deeper impulses. "People often long to interact with each other that way," she says, "but are too inhibited."
Her plays are also a reminder goodness in people. Regarding The Birth of Venus in particular, she said, "It's one of the sweetest plays I've written."
In The Birth of Venus, as well as in some of Meyers' other works, characters tend to bond and express affection through cooking, as well as through playing and building things. Part of this, Meyers says, is reflective of the specific nature of the characters' growth. Betty's character, for instance, grows into a domestic role and becomes part of a family through cooking with Ron.
Yet part of it also stems from her own experiences. Meyers has spent the past three years living in the cooperative Hopkins House, where residents combine resources to buy vegetables in bulk, often from local farm shares, and prepare meals together. She speaks of this, as well as of her experience making collaborative art, as a positive way for people to interact casually and creatively with each other.
The Birth of Venus will be her last collaborative work here at Smith. After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school, and has applied to playwriting programs at Brown, Yale and the University of Iowa.
But in the meantime, Smith audiences will have a chance to take in her unique vision when the play is staged from May 12-14.
"I want people to think about things as if they're endowed with magical significance," Meyers said. "And I want them to build a real rocket. But I'm not holding my breath.