Persephone Theatre is back for a whole new season, and the first show to grace the stage is a love story with a unique twist.
Bright Half Life runs from Sept. 13 to Oct. 1 and features a sapphic love story told in a nonlinear way. Written by Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Tanya Barfield, the two-person play explores the life and experiences of couple Erica (Margo MacDonald) and Vicky (Kris Alvarez) told through experiences throughout their lives together.
Kathryn Smith, the director of Bright Half Life, said presenting a story to an audience in a nonstandard, nonlinear way presented both challenges and opportunities for the artists.
“It’s really exciting – it’s asking our audience to really come along for the ride,” they said. “For me as a director, it’s a challenge to make sure everyone … understands the ‘game’ of what’s happening in the show. It’s a lot about pace, about how we set the rules of the game early on.”
Smith said the theatre’s artistic director Heather Cant reached out to them about directing Bright Half Life. They also noted that they relish the opportunity to help bring queer stories to the stage and show that they aren’t different from heteronormative ones.
“These characters fight and love just as hard. They get thrown into similar situations, they talk about their kids in ways that will feel familiar to folks,” they said. “As an artist, by representing these queer characters in a fashion that feels very close to home for everybody, that makes them very sympathetic and makes people able to see themselves onstage.”
Taking a stage show through time-jumping twists and turns in a convincing way requires the support of various artists. Smith was quick to applaud the efforts of set designer Hanne Loosen, lighting designer Jonathan Kim and sound designer Clinton Ackerman for their work creating those nonlinear transitions through time.
As Smith puts it, tackling each transition through time is one of the things they’re most excited and proud of.
“It almost feels like you’re seeing an art installation on stage,” they said. “The lights and sounds help with our time shifts tremendously.”
Smith calls Bright Half Life a “joyful celebration of humanity” as the audience journeys through the lives of Erica and Vicky. As the two performers venture through different parts of their characters’ lives together, Smith said they can see the actors pushing themselves.
Some scenes, according to Smith, include very similar lines to others — and other scenes require the performers to make emotional leaps and decisions coming from different perspectives as time shifts throughout the show. It’s a unique artistic challenge the director credited actors MacDonald and Alvarez with tackling well.
As the metaphorical curtain rises on Bright Half Life and Persephone’s newest season, Smith said they hope the audience can enjoy a show that challenges them to think about what they’re seeing onstage.
“When we’re told a story that is linear, we can sort of sit back. It’s a structure we’re familiar with. When it gets switched around, it’s asking us to lean in,” Smith said. “It makes people pay attention to clues, find details.”
Bright Half Life runs until Oct. 1 at Persephone Theatre. Tickets can be purchased online at persephonetheatre.org.