|Stage manager Megan Ianero and playwright Jayne Hannah|
When the play opens, we meet Magda, a young woman who presents herself as a therapist, and George, a man recently released from prison after serving 27 years for a violent sexual assault. The two have been corresponding during his incarceration, and George is here to learn how to re-enter the world. But Magda has other ideas. As the story unfolds, we learn that Magda is the very damaged daughter of the woman George attacked.
|Steven Sean Garland and Casey Wortmann|
I had the pleasure of getting to know Jayne during her time in Sarasota. Where, I asked, did this story come from? Jayne told me she has lived with the character of Magda for nearly 20 years. She always knew the young woman was damaged and had a penchant for stealing. "Stalking" provided Jayne the opportunity to explore Magda's backstory.
Staged readings--which are rehearsed--give playwrights with the opportunity to receive feedback on their work from both theater professionals and audience members. Jayne is truly in the throes of this process. The presentation of "Stalking" at Urbanite is book-ended by readings of the play at two theaters in Jayne's hometown of Providence, Rhode Island. It's been a complicated process, in part because the ending of the play has been hotly debated. Again, no spoilers. But the issue boils down to how much finality that last scene holds.
|Jayne et al at post-reading talkback|
Jayne's intention behind the play is consistent regardless of which ending she ultimately chooses. Her message is to be cognizant of how we treat others. A five minute interaction can have a significant impact on another person's life. Sure, the interaction in "Stalking" is an extreme example. But think about the consequences to a child of being told she's stupid or not good enough. Or the feeling a sharp comment from a friend or co-worker can leave. Or, more happily, the affirmation a lively encounter with a stranger can have.
Thanks to Jayne for sharing "Stalking" with Urbanite's audience and for being open to continuing to explore the story she's created. Kudos go out to Urbanite as well for hosting the first of many exciting modern works festivals. Since its inception, Urbanite has presented plays with social relevance that challenge its audiences. The festival elevated this experience by enabling audiences to talk directly with playwrights about their work. Next year's festival can't come soon enough.