For her latest play, Tanya Barfield aimed for "a transcending love story" that would not only "embrace the dichotomies in life," but also break fresh ground in the world of queer theater.
"For many years, I wanted to write a romantic story," the Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright ("Blue Door") told The Huffington Post in an interview. "At the same time, I find the saccharine narratives that so often come when we think of love stories utterly boring. [I wanted to] speak honestly and truthfully about a relationship with all its highs and lows."
The result is "Bright Half Life," which has been deemed a "kaleidoscopic" examination of "love, skydiving and the infinite moments that make a life together." The off-Broadway play, which opens Feb. 25 at New York City Center Stage II, takes a non-linear look at the journey of an interracial lesbian couple, Erica (Rebecca Henderson) and Vicki (Rachael Holmes), as they navigate personal and societal pressures over 25 years.
In keeping with its contemporary tone, Erica and Vicki’s personal milestones align with the shifting climate on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues within the context of the play. For instance, they couple gets engaged just as the national debate over marriage equality hits an apex. Similarly, their relationship becomes strained as same-sex relationships become more socially accepted.
Take a look at the "Bright Half Life" cast and crew in rehearsal, then scroll down to keep reading:
The show also marks Barfield's fifth collaboration with director Leigh Silverman, who nabbed a Tony Award nomination for Broadway's "Violet," starring Sutton Foster, last season. The playwright and director, who are both openly gay, seem to have found a creative soul mate in one another, with each independently praising the other's "passion," "dedication" and "work ethic."
"Leigh knows how to get inside the soul of a story," Barfield said. "Just when I feel pushed to the limit, she makes me laugh and then I get back to work."
Added Silverman: "I feel better at the end of the day when we have tussled over something, maybe argued a little, maybe laughed a lot and collaborated and come up with something better than either of us would have [on our own]."
Barfield says the personal nature of "Bright Half Life" extends beyond its portrayal of a same-sex relationship, but she doesn't see the piece as being overtly political, at least in any traditional sense.
"As a biracial gay woman, the politics of simply being alive has been a part of my life since birth," she noted. "Existence within a larger social construct grace notes all of my work."
Saying that she was "proud to be among a small group" of playwrights who have produced stage dramas about lesbian relationships, she then added, "That said, 'Bright Half Life' isn't about being gay. It's about being alive and in love."
The Women's Project Theatre world premiere of "Bright Half Life" opens Feb. 25 at New York City Center Stage II. Head here for more details.