When one thinks of the gay rights movement it usually conjures up images of Stonewall, gay men and men in drag. Unfortunately, these images do not accurately reflect the struggles of the diverse segments of our community – especially within the lesbian community.
It is against this background of lesbian activism that Sarah Dreher gives us a story of love and family dysfunction in the Leaping Thespians current production of 8 x 10 Glossy.
Set in 1984, 8 x 10 Glossy tells the story of lesbian activist and photojournalist, Carter (Leigh Burrows) who returns home to the family farm for the one-year anniversary of her father’s death. Carter has also just recently been released after being beaten and thrown in jail for her role in a Chicago gay-rights demonstration.
Back at home, Carter tries desperately to change her sister Julie’s (Taylor Stutchbury) small-town attitudes towards her sexuality and activism while at the same time Julie must come to terms with her own attraction to single mother of two, Dana (Lisa Dery). And if that were not enough, Playwright Dreher also layers even more with Carter and her Mother (Eroca Zales) coming to terms with the abuse from their dead father and husband.
It is actually the storyline of Carter finally dealing with the abuses she endured at the hands of her father and how Ketty, her mother, has finally been liberated from her own abuses that rings truest in the show. Ketty’s scene where she tells her two daughters about her own abuses and of feeling afraid to help them are a definite highlight of the show; in another particularly powerful scene Julie pleads in vain for their mother to do something to help Carter but because of her own baggage cannot.
Costume Designer Leigh Burrows does her best to place us in 1984 and the music before and during intermission draws us into that time further. The simple set is highlighted by the “photo frame” upstage and the ever-present ladder which Carter uses to escape her reality and put distance between her and the rest of the family. Director Karen White uses the ladder with great effect as Carter eventually joins everyone on the same level by the end of the show.
White’s use of “snapshots” at the beginning of the show is very clever although it would have been fun to have seen those snaps replayed within the show itself (if they were it was not evident).
My one disappointment was that Playwright Dreher did not use more fully the never-seen neighbor Ruth (Nancy Painter) as the conscience and objective viewer of what is happening among the family next door. She hears everything but is seldom given the opportunity to comment on what is happening.
This is a show that definitely deserves to be seen as the cast and crew of Leaping Thespians serves up a wonderful story about the nature of family, whatever they might be, which has resonance now as much as it did back in 1984.