In the Moment: Peter’s Alley Theatre moves to The Writer’s Center in Bethesda and opens with ‘The Gulf’

Peter’s Alley Theatre has moved its base of performances to The Writer’s Center in Bethesda. Founded in 2012 by Aly B. Ettman, Peter’s Alley is a non-profit professional theatre company dedicated to creating uniquely intimate works of dramatic realism crafted in an environment of kind, respectful collaboration, as Producing Artistic Director Ettman notes in the company mission.

Aly B. Ettman, Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Peter’s Alley Theatre. Photo courtesy of Peter’s Alley Theatre.

In a recent chat, Ettman spoke about “the big step” move to The Writer’s Center as well as the company’s first production in its new venue. With the move, Peter’s Alley aims “to engage with our community in Bethesda and expand our audiences particularly with the younger DC based theater artists who rely on public transportation.” The new venue is walkable from the Metro and has nearby restaurants.

Ettman went on to chat about bringing new playwrights and plays to the area. The Gulf is a first example. “It is a small cast, character focused play with such strong writing.” For Ettman, “The Gulf has a unique voice with relatable, vulnerable characters.” With her casting, Ettman wants “the audience to fall in love with the people. For The Gulf is not just a story but a character study about a relationship.”

For those unfamiliar with The Gulf, it was written by local award-winning playwright Audrey Cefaly. Winner of the 2018 Lammy for LGBTQ Drama, the Peter’s Alley website gives a synopsis of this play about two women, Kendra and Betty: “They want what we all want. To find peace. Two lost and lonely people, six years into a volatile, troubled love affair, and then one night, it breaks. On a quiet summer evening, somewhere down in the Alabama Delta, the two are trolling the flats looking for red fish. They banter, they bicker, as any long time couple. As the skies darken, the ordinary fishing trip becomes an intense journey through the twists and turns brought on by the runaway mine train that is their dying relationship.”

The Peter’s Alley production of The Gulf features Jasmine Brooks and Anna Fagan. In recent interviews, Brooks and Fagan spoke about The Gulf and the two characters they portray.

David Siegel: Please tell me about your characters in The Gulf.

Anna Fagan of ‘The Gulf.’ Photo courtesy of Peter’s Alley Theatre.

Anna Fagan (plays Betty): The two women in the play, Betty and Kendra, feel so familiar with their beautiful flaws. There is so much humanity in this script – it’s funny, heartbreaking, and completely relatable.

Betty has an internal motor that never stops! She’s energetic, optimistic, and a dream-chaser. She’s full of imagination and heart, but has a tendency to get carried away by too many what-ifs and forgetting to appreciate the here and now. She dreams of helping others, and she means well, but she fails to see the ways in which she must first understand herself.

Jasmine Brooks (plays Kendra): After I read the script, I knew I had to be a part of the show. It’s absolutely brilliant.

Jasmine Brooks. Photo courtesy of Peter’s Alley.

Kendra is clever. She always has a witty retort and she’s a very deep thinker. She’s protective, which stems from her strong and caring nature. Kendra is simple, she doesn’t need much to make her happy: a fishing boat and a cold beer. Finally, Kendra can be a touch hostile. There’s an underlying anger/resentment in her that she tries desperately to bury deep.

 

If you could invite audiences to the Peter’s Alley production of The Gulf what would you say to them?

Jasmine Brooks: This production is an in-depth character study, beautifully composed. It’s essentially an experience every single one of us has endured in our lives, just with a different setting and names. Oh, and it’s such a funny play, too!

Anything else you would like to provide readers?

Jasmine Brooks: I wanted to work with Peter’s Alley for two reasons: The company is owned and run by a woman, which is super dope. And Aly is a true artist. She has also been on the stage herself, which makes her really relatable.

Anna Fagan: I’m inspired by Aly’s creative vision for the company. She selects intimate, beautifully written scripts with rich characters.  I’ve worked with Peter’s Alley in the past and I’m inspired by Aly’s creative vision for the company. She tends to select intimate, beautifully written scripts with rich characters. After reading The Gulf, I was immediately drawn to the piece. The two women in the play, Betty and Kendra, feel so familiar with their beautiful flaws. There is so much humanity in this script – it’s funny, heartbreaking, and completely relatable.

The Gulf runs Friday, September 13, 2019 to Sunday, October 6, 2019 at The Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD.  For tickets, call 1-800-838-3006 or go online.

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David Siegel
David Siegel is a freelance theater reviewer and features writer whose work appears on DC Metro Theater Arts, ShowBiz Radio, in the Connection Newspapers and the Fairfax Times. He is a judge in the Helen Hayes Awards program. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and volunteers with the Arts Council of Fairfax County. David has been associated with theater in the Washington, DC area for nearly 30 years. He served as Board President, American Showcase Theater Company (now Metro Stage) and later with the American Century Theater as both a member of the Executive Board and as Marketing Director. You can follow David's musings on Twitter @pettynibbler.