Equal parts truth and imagination, Lynna Goldhar Smith presents her one-woman show Sally Lives Here as part of the 2011 Vancouver International Fringe Festival.
“The story is based on real life, real people and real circumstances,” said Smith. “It is very East Vancouver. It is fictionalized yet autobiographical. I think audiences from Vancouver will feel like they know who these folks are. The characters are all based on amalgamations of people and circumstances that are real.”
One such character in Smith’s play, part of her trilogy of Vancouver shorts, is the cigar-chomping Aunt Phoebe. Taken directly from her own life, Smith views her as a role model who lived her life on her own terms and someone fearless in her convictions.
“As a teenager during the Second World War, Phoebe found herself like a lot of woman of the time, working for the war effort doing men’s work,” explained Smith. “When the war ended she didn’t fit in to the life that seemed to be available to her as a young woman—grappling with the discovery that she was a butch lesbian. There was no place for her it seemed. She went up the coast and worked in the logging camps, and in canneries, and on the Union steam ship line before returning to Vancouver where she lived with her partner despite wagging tongues. But mostly it is about a loving relationship that nurtured and supported the central character Sally and supported her own differentness. Hopefully it honors how lesbians in those days were able to be true to themselves despite the restrictions placed upon them and how they were out but not out in their own manner.”
Describing her as tough and fabulous in every way, Smith believes Phoebe would approve of her portrayal and is hopeful that she is honouring her memory by including her as part of the story.
Believing that stories form us, Smith believes that it was important for her to write about the city she grew up in, where she has lived her entire life, and the interconnected relationship we all have from living in the same city at the same moment.
“Stories form us. Even in our differences we are part of the same story in a way. We are part of the same moment in history and we need to know our own stories.”
Described as a dark comedy, Smith says that while Sally Lives Here grapples with painful issues and difficult or uncertain circumstances it is also wickedly funny. “It is also sad and somewhat of a cautionary tale perhaps, but ultimately hopeful despite the dark tone. The hope is always there.”
While not her first appearance at the Fringe this Smith’s first time performing her own script and is enjoying both sides of the theatrical process.
“The actor in me discovers things about the play that the writer in me didn’t know were there,” she said. “I think it is more natural to me to be behind the scenes but I do love to perform. I also wanted to act in the play because it is brand new and what better way to find out how it works and understand the mechanics of it than to act it myself. I am also in capable hands with my fabulous creative team Sarah Rodgers, Michael Schaldemose and Bill Moysey.”
Seeing a common connection between the mission of her Wet Ink Collective and the Vancouver Fringe, Smith says it is the unbridled creativity and experimentation of the Fringe that makes it all so exciting.
“Our group Wet Ink Collective is all about new plays in development and that is exactly what this production in the Fringe is all about. The Fringe with it’s anything goes policy is the perfect venue to test out a new work in front of an enthusiastic and supportive audience.”
The fact that Sally Lives Here is so very East Vancouver and gets to play at The Cultch is a bonus.
Sally Lives Here
Part of the 2011 Vancouver International Fringe Festival
In a dilapidated old house somewhere in East Vancouver, Sally Kemp, a faded country music singer/waitress who works in a diner, and Aunt Phoebe, an elderly lesbian who talks to her ghost lover in the chandelier, face an uncertain future. Their house is slated for demolition. Do Sally and Phoebe share the same fate?