Welcome to our New Play Feature. Today we look at the three races of discovery of three girls named Summer in the play Breathless by Wendy-Marie Martin. Summer Adams is looking for love in all the wrong places. Summer Robertson is hanging on through her battle with cancer. And Summer Davis refuses to lose, even at the expense of her body and her friends. If we just breathe, where will we go? Will we crash or will we fly?
Why did we publish this play?
Breathless is not only a beautiful character piece, it’s a mature piece. The characters deal with death, the future and sex. It’s important that we have mature pieces in our catalogue that are specifically written for teen aged performers. That’s a tough balance and Wendy-Marie hits it out of the park. Not only does the play deal with challenging subject matter it is a focused theatrical experience. The ensemble creates a different breathing sound for each specific subject matter.
Lastly, great parts for girls! You don’t have to pick just one of your amazing students for the lead, here we have three featured female character roles. All challenging. All well-thought out. All interesting to play.
Let’s hear from the author!
1. Why did you write this play?
I wrote Breathless because I wanted to create a play that explored the world from the perspective of young women, and showed their strength in dealing with different situations. The idea actually happened while I was on my morning run. My phone died, and along with it my music, and all I could hear for the rest of my run was my breath. My brain started thinking of different situations where breath or breathing was important and the three Summers popped in. We spent the rest of my run together and by the time I got home, I was ready to outline the first draft.
2. Describe the theme in one or two sentences.
The theme is the challenge young women have navigating the transition from girlhood to womanhood. They’re all in a race, in a sense. Summer Davis, literally trying to win the Footlocker Championship, while Summer Roberts races against death and Summer Adams is trying to beat her developing libido.
3. What’s the most important visual for you in this play?
Actually I think the breath is the most important part of this play. It grounds each of the young women in their situation and creates an audio landscape that paints the world of each character.
If I were to choose a visual moment, I think the last image of Summer Davis potentially winning the Footlocker race is a strong image. Although I think finding a way to visually represent the women as three parts of a whole would be cool, too. At first I imagined three separate playing spaces where they were in silhouette when not in action, but then realized how limiting this is to a director. But I believe beginning the play with the images of the three Summers would be a strong visual communication.
4. If you could give one piece of advice for those producing the play, what would it be?
Explore the role of breath in the play. The pace is quick and it should flow, pausing only for the moment Summer Roberts dies, but there are places to use the breathing transitions in different ways to tell the story of the Summers’ journey. I kept the staging of the play very simple to allow creative space for a director, and I hope they will get creative in how they choose to tell the story physically.
5. Why is this play great for student performers?
Breathless features real characters in heightened situations, so it give young actors an opportunity to do realistic, layered character development while getting creative about the physical life of their world. I believe the themes in the play are relatable for young actors and with emotional challenges for each situation.