Kevin On Kabaret :: Reclaiming the Past; Plus What’s Up for the Holidays
Kevin Scott Hall
One of the most intriguing projects I’ve seen in a club in quite some time is the monthly serialization of “Juliana,” a novel by Vanda that will be officially released in February 2016 (Booktrope). Since December 2014, the story has been unfolding monthly at The Duplex with a cast of professional actors.
Vanda, best known as a playwright (winner of the Edward Albee Fellowship and a finalist for the National Lambda Award for her play “Vile Affections”), told me, “I wanted to do something bigger, I wanted to expand. I knew the idea I had would not fit into a play and I also love to use language for narration and description.”
“Juliana” tells the story of the secret lives of gays and lesbians during World War II. In particular, Al (short for Alice) is about to get married but has recently discovered a strong desire for the beautiful and uninhibited lesbian Juliana. As the war rages on in all of their lives, the war within her also threatens to tear apart her soul and her family allegiances.
A scene from Juliana
“My parents were raised in the ’40s,” Vanda explained. “There were horrible things said about gays and lesbians back then. It was a crossroads: a conservative time, but they were becoming more visible.”
Vanda’s hope is to continue with a series of novels chronicling these characters’ lives through successive decades of LGBT history. The stage version of the first novel is scheduled to end in March. “We’re trying to decide if we want to move on to the ’50s, or repeat the ’40s to coincide with the book’s release and also for everybody who missed it.”
Vanda originally went to her playwriting groups to ask for feedback on the early stages of the novel. When she realized how much dialogue was in the manuscript, she wondered if she could cast it like a play and serialize it. Her playwriting groups supported her wholeheartedly and even helped her recruit some top actors for the roles.
“I think the actors are excited that they are appearing in something every month,” she said. “We do two rehearsals per month, so they have to work really hard. I’m now meeting people who have been to every show and I now have actors begging me to be in the show!”
Although it is technically a staged reading (scripts are within reach of the actors), the depth of performances, and the colorful dialogue (even minor characters leave an indelible impression) make it seem fully realized to the audience. Also, a summary of the previous episode is left on the tables, so if an audience member has yet to see an episode or has missed an episode, she can quickly catch up.
Vanda’s playwriting work has served her well in structuring the monthly segments. “I like to leave the audience with a hint of something to come,” she said.
The next edition of “Juliana” hits The Duplex on December 15th. Be a part of this exciting, unfolding project . . . .
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