Welcome to Bluefish Cove. The Fountain Theatre will transform the parking lot surrounding the set on its outdoor stage to create an oceanfront experience for its 40th-anniversary production of the groundbreaking comedy/drama, Last Summer at Bluefish Cove by Jane Chambers. Directed by Hannah Wolf, performances take place June 17 through August 27, with low-priced previews beginning June 14.
Set in 1974, a group of queer women spend their summers together in a remote oceanfront town on Long Island. Their lesbian enclave is disrupted when Eva, a naïve straight woman recently separated from her husband, stumbles unaware into their circle and falls for the charming, tough-talking Lil. This heartfelt play, a landmark in lesbian history, is bursting with friendship, laughter, love and hope, bringing well-rounded, three-dimensional characters that transcend stereotypes and preconceptions to the stage.
“The play ran for two years, from 1981-1983, at the Fountain Theatre 40 years ago starring Jean Smart, before Deborah Lawlor and I acquired the building and established our company,” says Fountain artistic director Stephen Sachs. “It was a benchmark achievement in L.A. theater, a turning point for L.A.’s queer community, and a milestone in the history of our building. Many women saw and remember it. Now its time for generations of young gay women born after the play was produced here to experience it for themselves.”
The all female–identifying and non–binary cast and creative team includes actors Sarah Scott Davis, Allison Husko, Tamika Katon–Donegal, Lindsay LaVanchy, Noelle Messier, Stephanie Pardi, Ann Sonneville, Stasha Surdyke and Ellen D. Williams, as well as scenic designer Desma Murphy; lighting designer R. S. Buck, sound designer Andrea Allmond, costume designer Halei Parker, prop master Rebecca Carr and intimacy director Savanah Knechel. The production stage manager is Chloe Willey, and Gina DeLuca is assistant stage manager.
One of the first playwrights to depict love between women as happy, healthy, and well-adjusted, Jane Chambers (1937-1983) changed the course of American drama with works informed by second-wave feminism and the burgeoning gay rights movement, including A Late Snow (1974), Last Summer at Bluefish Cove (1980) and My Blue Heaven (1981). A prolific writer, Chambers also authored novels, poetry, and essays in addition to penning scripts for film and television. She trained as an actress at Rollins College and the Pasadena Playhouse because female students were not admitted to writing classes, and enjoyed success as an off-Broadway performer.
“(Bluefish Cove) was a benchmark achievement in L.A. theater, a turning point for L.A.’s queer community, and a milestone in the history of our building. … Now its time for generations of young gay women born after the play was produced here to experience it for themselves.”
In 1964, Chambers moved to Maine where she worked for MWTW-TV as a content producer and on-air personality. During President Johnson’s War on Poverty, Chambers took a position as arts coordinator with Jobs Corp, creating theater with inner-city youths. While earning a bachelor’s degree at Goddard College, Chambers returned to New York, co-founded Women’s Interart Theatre with Margot Lewitin, and met her life partner, talent agent Beth Allen. Chambers was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died in 1983. Her pioneering spirit is honored by an annual prize given in her name: The Jane Chambers Award for Playwriting is administered by The Women and Theatre Program. Chambers’ impact on American drama is also celebrated by a reading series at TOSOS (The Other Side of Silence) Theatre.