Leigh-Ana Sharkey was sitting in her dorm, knee deep in the script for Elemeno Pea when she realized this was “it.”
At the first introduction of the character Devon, Sharkey thought to herself, “This is so me.”
“It’s how I would react to this situation Devon is thrown in of being in this affluent summer home and thinking: ‘I don’t even know if I should be able to sit on this couch. It’s probably more expensive than my future,’” Sharkey says.
The character’s sarcasm, humor and energy had Sharkey thinking, “I want to be her so bad.”
What: Elemeno Pea
When: 7:30 p.m., Feb. 13-17; 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 17
Where: Dorothy Hackett Ward Theatre, UTC Fine Arts Center
Admission: $12 general admission; $10 students; the show contains adult language and content.
Tickets: Purchase tickets online.
Information: Visit UTC Theatre online.
Elemeno Pea comes to UTC, with a twist
In UTC Theatre Co.’s upcoming production, Elemeno Pea, Devon meets her sister, Simone, for a girls’ weekend at a home in Martha’s Vineyard owned by Simone’s boss, Michaela. The sisters’ carefully planned weekend gets derailed when Michaela disrupts their visit.
Playwright Molly Smith Metzler, who also writes for popular TV shows such as Netflix’s Orange is the New Black and Showtime’s Shameless, originally produced Elemeno Pea in 2011. When Director Gaye Jeffers first read the play, she was drawn to the strong female characters and the challenging themes addressed. But she was still apprehensive about how to approach the show and produce it at UTC. Something was missing.
Then she came across a review for a production of Elemeno Pea in Boston last year. The review mentioned how the show had undergone a major rewrite and this was the first time that new version had been produced. Jeffers’ curiosity was piqued.
After a quick search on Facebook, she found the playwright and messaged her.
Metzler responded within a day. Accompanying her new script was permission for UTC Theatre to produce the unpublished version, making them the second company to bring the new Elemeno Pea to stage.
Jeffers explains that the new version deepened the characters and added backstory, giving the audience a better understanding for why these characters make the decisions they do.
Linsey Watkins plays Michaela, described as a trophy wife in most descriptions of the show. But there’s more to her than meets the eye.
“Michaela graduated from Yale Law. She was the first female litigator. And I have the responsibility of bringing humanity to her,” Watkins explains.
Behind the scenes, Watkins puts a lot of work into preparing and understanding the character’s complex story. One trick involves writing letters “almost like diary entries” from Michaela. Watkins explains how she writes the letters as if they’re being sent to another character, someone unseen in the show but referenced, someone Michaela must say goodbye to. That parting, or the realization of parting, is tormenting. Backstage, Watkins re-reads these letters to get in the Michaela mindset, feel her wounds.
Complexity is key
The complexity of people, class and family is something Elemeno Pea emphasizes.
“Just when you think you know who somebody is, the playwright reveals something else about them and it throws your preconceived notion out the door,” Jeffers says.
Sharkey admits that even her character Devon, whom she describes as “very much an audience character,” is quick to judge and guilty of it throughout the course of the play.
“We all judge,” Sharkey says, but she hopes Elemeno Pea leaves people questioning how they accept (or don’t accept) others at face value, that the audience leaves wondering:
“Am I losing out on relationships because I judge other people before I get to know them?”
The cast and crew
The company of Elemeno Pea includes Hannah Davis (Stage Manager), Madeline Franklin-Dean (Dramaturg and Assistant Director), Carmin Pebley (Simone), Leigh-Ana Sharkey (Devon), Zack Shreeve (Ethan), Linsey Watkins (Michaela), and Jesse Wilyat (Jos-B).
The creative team includes Gaye Jeffers (director), Adam Miecielica (set design), Kimberly Davis (costume design), and John R. Burgess (lighting design and technical director).
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