30 Years Later, “Last Summer” Still Speaks
When Jane Chambers premiered “Last Summer at Bluefish Cove” in 1980, it was the first of its kind – a play that accurately portrayed lesbian women in America.
30 years later, the play still resonates with today’s social issues as the Richmond Triangle Players opened their production last week.
“All of a sudden this play means more today in terms of our discussion of gay marriage,” director Noreen Barnes says.
The story follows main character Lil as she and her friends cope with her impending death. In her last months, she looks for love and finds it during an annual summer getaway. During her last days, Lil’s biological family flies out to be with her. It’s this biological family keeps Lil’s chosen family away.
This moment towards the end of the play is one of the strongest parts according to Barnes.
“So many people came up to me after the show and said they thought it would just be another lesbian play but found that they could relate to it.” Barnes says. “I think it broke some stereotypes in that sense.”
Actress Jeanie Rule plays the outspoken and popular feminist author Kitty. Rule was in New York when the original production debuted.
“In New York and in the lesbian community, this play was a big deal. It was thrilling!” Rule says. “It was the first time that lesbians got to see themselves onstage as they really were in a way that was realistic and positive.”
Chambers wrote the play in response to her friend dying in real-life. Riding off of a wave of feminism, Rule says during the time, the play brought a sense of hope and progress to the community.
“There was this progressive feeling and people were out of the closet much more,” Rule says. “Straight people were beginning to realize that they did know gay people and gay people were around them.”
She says this is still true as the gay and lesbian community continue its move forward.
“We are everywhere. It’s difficult to think that it’s been 30 years and we’re still just on the cusp of it,” Rule says. “It’s an ongoing effort to bring advanced thinking to the communities that are still fearful. It’s about make it clear that our story is like their story.”
Barnes calls “Bluefish Cove” a gay play for everybody.
“Even though it’s about a group of lesbians, it is about human relationships,” she says.
“Last Summer at Bluefish Cove” plays 1300 Altamont Avenue through April 10. For tickets and more information, visit rtriangle.org.
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