Vancouver’s Leaping Thespians have been producing theatre for and about the LGBTQ community since the 1990s. The company will once again present an original work, How The West Was One, at The Cultch In March. In the second of our two part series we talk with the co-writer and director Karen White.
Tell me about How the West Was One – what can audiences expect?
Audiences can expect our usual good-natured pokes at ourselves, the lesbian community and our society at large. We have taken many of the classic characters and scenes from westerns – Miss Kitty, the Town Drunk, the Outlaw, the card game at the saloon, the shootout on the main street – and imagined how that might look in a town of lesbians in 1850 in the BC interior. And then we thought what fun it would be to have a few songs, and a bit of dancing, and some titillating romance…
Where did the idea for the show come from?
We did a western sketch in our original show Once Upon a Lesbian in the fall of 2009. We loved the characters so it was natural to play with expanding that scene when we went back to writing last May. The first sketch becomes a sub-plot in this play.
An obvious take on “How the West Was Won” – can you explain the replacement of the word “won” with “one”?
In this show each individual character and her wants and needs cannot be fulfilled unless they all act as one, pulling in the same direction.
This is your, I believe, fourth original piece, and a comedy. Why a comedy?
It is our fourth original and fourth comedy. We have done a few dramas, but we enjoy rehearsing more when there is a lot of laughing. And we assume audiences are enjoying themselves when they are laughing. We want first to entertain.
The last three of four shows by Leaping Thespians are original pieces – why write your own shows?
At first we wrote out of frustration that we couldn’t find the kind of scripts we wanted to do – funny, sexy in a playful way, make a good point. I know there must be great lesbian scripts out there on the internet but my search skills have failed me so far. Anyway it is much more fun to write dialogue than surf on the internet. Our writing has been collaborative so far, and the banter, critiquing, horsing around, and goofy writing exercises make for such a great evening, and at the end of it there is always something on paper worth keeping. What’s not to like about writing our own shows?
Do you find any difficulties as co-playwrights? What is your writing process like?
I haven’t had difficulties. The fundamental respect and positive regard Leigh and I have for each other means we always give the benefit of the doubt and take all disagreement as an opportunity to find a best idea that contains an element of both our perspectives. I guess I’d have to admit it wouldn’t be this easy if Leigh was not tolerant far beyond her years.
What do you hope audiences will walk away with after seeing How The West Was One?
I want them to walk away chuckling and humming a few bars of our ‘brain-worm’ of a theme song, ‘Hip Hip Hooray for Bridesville’.
What’s next for Leaping Thespians?
At the end of April this show is entered in the Theatre BC Greater Vancouver Zone Festival which is an adjudicated weeklong festival in Queen’s Park in New Westminster. If we should win that zone festival (we won best production in 2007 with Women4Women and in 2008 with 8 X 10 Glossy) we go on to the provincial final competition in Kamloops at the beginning of July. As for what the next show is, as usual, we don’t know yet. We haven’t found it or written it.
How The West Was One
23 – 26 March & 30 March – 2 April 2011
The Leaping Thespians present their original comedy How The West Was One, a hilarious soap opera is about the BC gold rush of the 1850’s with an all-female twist. The play is set in the saloon of the fictional town of Bridesville, founded and run by Miss Kitty. With an iron fist she manages her daughter Ramona, the town drunk, the card shark and the Outlaw, but is she a match for the femme fatale who sashays into town for the big blackjack game? There is singing and dancing in the saloon, a blackjack game, a hold-up, a shootout, and of course, romance in typical Leaping Thespians playful girl-on-girl style. Tickets $17-20 at www.leapingthespians.ca or http://tickets.thecultch.com or 604-251-1363.