It’s about women, it’s about politics, it’s about family and most important, it’s about entertainment as writer Colette Freedman and director Elise Robertson team up once more with their new production of Blind Spots.
Debuting at the Sherry Theatre in North Hollywood, SST Productions and Crash Box present the world premiere of the story of two estranged sisters, Kate and Gretchen, in the aftermath of their gay brother’s suicide. When their battle is waged on a public front, family secrets and resentments explode from beneath as each sister somewhat blindly fights for what is “right.”
Freedman says, “Neither understands the other’s perspective and both see what they want to see. Resentments still linger after 20 years and it’s hard to move beyond that for these characters.”
The vast majority of Freedman’s plays concentrate on women and women’s issues. She loves to explore women’s stories and delve into how women interact with one another and deal with issues important to them.
“Who is speaking for the women? I am interested in that,” says Freedman, who has had the luxury of writing about what interests her but feels it is important for more women to write and direct, especially in Los Angeles.
“Fifty percent of art should be directed by women, end of story,” says Freedman.
In Blind Spots, Freedman continues to use a feminist lens but also takes the opportunity to present a red-hot social issue relevant to but not immediately associated with women.
“I have seen shows where I have gone, “˜Huh, it’s so cool that a playwright wrote about something so important politically,’” says Freedman. “Going deeper, you rarely see pieces take this struggle for gay rights from a woman’s perspective; usually it is about gay men.”
In Freedman’s piece, Gretchen, a gay journalist, battles her homophobic sister, Kate, as she petitions against what she deems as unjust gay rights on the local college campus.
With her usual feminist infused vibe, Freedman presents both extremes of this highly debated issue but never quite provides the audience with an answer to the question. Like diplomats, Freedman and director Robertson reveal that every argument has some merit, but in order to make any headway on a civil rights issue there has to be a middle meeting ground.
“This play is not polemical,” says Freedman. “It tries to show both sides and say everyone has blind spots, not just right-wing Mormon churchgoers; we all do.”
Robertson says, “I am liberal in my views but I am all for what is best for the people dealing with these issues; if a gay person does not want to be open with their sexuality, they have that right.”
Freedman complains of plays that preach at her and provide an “answer” outright. Instead she prefers for the playwright to give the audience both arguments and let them decide after the show. “Then the real play begins,” says Freedman.
While both Freedman and Robertson hope this play will buzz in the audience’s minds as they leave the theater, these women know the experience in the seats must first capture their attention.
“I think it is death to go to a boring drama that is three hours long, even if it is about a great topic,” says Freedman. “These kinds of shows turn people off because the number one point of theater is entertainment.”
Robertson, who has worked with Freedman for years, says Freedman lives up to her commitment to entertainment by making her pieces funny in a broader sense. Freedman utilizes physical humor, excellent punch lines and, most important, a plethora of words and rhythms.
“Colette’s average sentence is about 20 words with five to six syllables per word; everything has a specific rhythm in the writing,” says Robertson. “It’s great because I can really get it and direct it in a way that uses the complexity for the greatest amount of expression.”
Freedman says one of the most important elements in creating a universal play is the set design. Although others may not agree, she swears by one-set plays because she believes there is power in a clear beginning, middle and end — all within one place.
“With one set, an audience can feel more like a voyeur,” says Freedman. “They are watching this family. Everyone comes from a family and can somehow relate because families have more history, more conflict built in, more meat in them.”
The powerful experience of being in a family that Freedman uses in her writing is paralleled by Robertson’s approach in her direction.
“Every actress in this show we have known for at least two years and some up to 10,” says Robertson. “We all know each other extremely well, so working together is true collaboration. We all have immense trust in and appreciation for one another.”
“It’s really like a family,” says Freedman.
The cast is all women with the exception of one young actor. Freedman and Robertson play the lead combative sisters and say their high levels of responsibility within the show rely on a dynamic developed over their tenure as friends and professionals.
Robertson and Freedman’s last collaboration was with Sister Cities, another female-centered play which not only toured nationally but went on to become a hit of the 2008 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
“We have developed this shorthand communication and are not afraid to argue with one another which is really rare,” says Robertson. “Working so closely you really have to get over yourself and take the best idea from wherever it comes.”
Freedman says this level of comfort and honesty requires a deep trust, confidence and respect that are grown over time. “Working on Blind Spots is so wonderful because each day is a true collaboration between Elise, the cast and me; things are always changing constantly in the script, in the blocking, but we are really committed to the work and each other,” she says. “It’s wonderful.”
Blind Spots, presented by SST Productions, Kurt Swanson and Crash Box, opens March 26; plays Fri.-Sat., 8 pm; Sun., 3 pm; through April 30. Tickets: $30. The Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; 323.601.1082, ext. 6 or blindspotsplay.com.