When Shakespeare declaimed that “all the world’s a stage,” he must have been (forward) thinking about the Palm Springs Valley. It seems everywhere you turn, there’s a troupe trudging across the boards and putting on a show in the desert.
One of my very favorite Rancho Mirage theatre ensembles is Script2Stage2Screen. The specialty of its roster of playwrights, actors, filmmakers, and technicians—all working under the expert leadership of artistic director Gina Bikales—is the development of original scripts into full-fledged stage productions or feature films. Founded in 2010 on the principles of Unitarian Universalism, the organization marries entertainment and social consciousness. Now in its fourth season, S2S2S—as the shorthand goes—has arguably become the Valley’s premier staged reading company.
In honor of Black History Month, the group offers “You Wouldn’t Expect,” by Marilynn Barner Anselmi. The play—which was a semi-finalist in last year’s Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference—revolves around eugenics, a late 19th century American social movement that aimed to correct the human population’s genetic features by resorting to selective breeding and sterilization. Set in North Carolina, where some 8,000 people were sterilized between 1933 and 1973 as part of a national crusade that neutered 60,000 women from coast to coast, the work’s themes will explore the racism and nativism of its time. “African-American women were disproportionately targeted,” has said the playwright, whose intense drama is based upon true events surrounding the North Carolina Eugenics program, and focuses on the relationship between two women. “Mary Tom Walker (the deputy coordinator at the local Eugenics Office) and Temperence Hedgepeth (her new assistant coordinator) are thrown together by the powers that be and forced to work with each other despite their obvious differences in the middle of a divided south.”
Starring a cast of five volunteer actors of various professional levels, all of whom share a love of and commitment to the theatre, “You Wouldn’t Expect” will be performed on Friday, February 21, and Saturday, February 22, at 7:30 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert, 72-425 Via Vail in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $10 and may be purchased at the door, in advance at 760-345-7938, or online.
One of the chief reasons I am so enamored of S2S2S productions is that, as opposed to customary readings where actors are seated at music stands, here they carry on while up and about, using props and elements of costumes so as to better flesh out each written work of art into a colorful, living, breathing communal theatrical experience. See you there. I’ll be the one front row center!