This Thursday through Saturday, Basement Arts will perform “Duckwash,” a play in two acts written and directed by LSA junior, Laura Deneau.
“Duckwash” spans two worlds: Reality and the imaginary world of the main character, Jan. Jan is a 60-year-old woman who abandoned her husband and 11 children 20 years prior. She moved out to California to pursue her artistic vision of life and only communicated with her family through a series of cryptic letters. At the time of the play, Jan can no longer communicate with people. She prefers nature, which she feels strongly in touch with.
Her daughter, Gale, is a 40-year-old single mother, attempting to find happiness in her engagement to Yost, the local weatherman. When Gale learns that Jan is ill, she uses the knowledge as an excuse to abandon her confusing life and leaves Michigan for California to take care of her mother. Kyle, Gale”s 20-year-old son, is dissatisfied with his reality and feels abandoned by his mother because of her engagement. In order to escape from his reality, Kyle, too, goes in search of Jan, who has served as a heroic figure in both the lives of her daughter and grandson.
When Gale and Kyle see Jan face to face, however, they are made to realize that all the bright visions Jan bestowed on her family through her letters really came from a woman who is weak and struggling with her own disillusionment.
In the play, Jan”s disillusionment comes in three forms: Her imaginary friends Apple, Bead and Becca. Apple and Bead represent the effort to create art and meaning out of Jan”s observance of beauty. Becca represents Jan as a young woman, filled with ideals. Becca hovers over the play as a symbol of truth, embodying the happiness that Jan and her family are searching for. “As a family drama, it”s about the stratification that goes on in our society, and the way we separate ourselves into categories of age, with the old living one reality, the young living another and the productive middle-aged stuck somewhere in the suburbs,” said Deneau.
The set of “Duckwash” is very pertinent to its plot. The two worlds, reality and that of Jan”s imagination, exist simultaneously on stage, with a white sheet to separate the two. All action taking place in the imaginary world is preformed in silhouette behind the sheet, with characters moving out from behind the sheet to take part in Jan”s reality.
The interaction the characters have between Jan”s real and imaginary worlds, attempt to demonstrate the struggle between the reality present in family and the beautiful dream existing in artistic expression. “The play comes from a feeling of mine that my generation tends to run away from their families and root-communities to find a place in the world of art, beauty and meaning where they can find themselves and be appreciated by an important audience,” Deneau said.
It is clear that this work is very personal to Deneau. As well as writing and directing “Duckwash,” she also came up with the set plot and is putting together the pertinent costumes for her characters, especially those of Jan”s three imaginary friends. Deneau explained that all the characters, although different, embody different aspects of herself. In this way, she feels a close connection to all of her characters.