'Parallel Lives'

Thursday, March 28, 2002

Local actresses explore feminist ideals in entertaining stage show.

"Parallel Lives" might just upset the image that many men - and some women - hold about the feminist mystique.

Storm Lake actresses Dr. Bethany Larson and Susanne Gubanc, both educators at Buena Vista University, are performing the play as a gift to the community April 3 and 4 in Edson Hall (the music building) on campus, starting at 7:30 p.m.

"Parallel Lives" is a unique conglomeration of vignettes in which each woman will play five different roles, using body language, dialect and other subtle cues to move through the minds of 5-year-old girls at a Catholic school mass, to teenage "valley girls," to a couple wasting away their lonely hours in the bar scene, to a pair of aged Jewish ladies, and finally, to angels.

"I saw 'Parallel Lives' as an HBO special 10 years ago, and found it to be a very funny and poignant show," Gubanc said. "It finds humorous ways of looking at women's perspectives of life."

Both Gubanc and Larson arrived at BVU eight years ago. Larson has emerged as Cultural ACES director and an educator in theater and drama; Gubanc as assistant professor of mass communications and director of the Women's Studies program.

"We found right away that we both had an interest in acting - that we had both taken classes and been involved in it and had some professional experience. We thought that someday we wanted to do something together," Gubanc remembers. "Finally, we looked at each other and said, 'We have to do it.'"

As they started looking for a script, Gubanc remembered "Parallel Lives."

It fit their needs and a shoestring budget, with no need for a big supporting cast, huge sets or elaborate costuming. A quick change of a pair of glasses or a hat may be all the two thespians need to evolve from one character to the next.

The theme of the play is in the name, the actresses find.

"It's about being all different, but having all of the same things going on in our lives as women. There are things we have in common whether you are a 5-year-old girl or a 60 or 70 year old woman," Gubanc said.

"It's been really fun. I love working with Beth, because she is an excellent actress," she added. Larson has appeared in the likes of "Cora Unashamed" for a Masterpiece Theater broadcast.

The partnership may not end there. If the show is well received, the duo may consider taking it on the road to other campus communities. Gubanc also hopes to forge some kind of stage production on an annual basis with the Women's Studies Department at BVU, a program that she helped to start six years ago, now with some 25-30 students declaring it as a minor.

The production of "Parallel Lives" will include a discussion period with the audience, which will be continued if the show goes on the road. "I think it's a good enough show to do that, and it also would stretch us as artists," Gubanc said.

"I hope people will come away thoroughly entertained. I know Beth and I are coming away with a new view of who we are," she said.

"I would also like people to have a new idea of how women are thinking. They should know that feminists are not that image of a person who is mad at the world all the time, but women who take tremendous joy in their world and its opportunities."

It isn't a "women's event" by any means.

"Just as in our Women's Studies program, the more men who come, the happier I would be. If most men are going to choose to live with women, I would think they would want to learn more about them," Gubanc said. "As women, we start learning about men and their history and the way they think from the time we are in kindergarten. Maybe it's time for men to learn more about how women are thinking, what they really care about, and why do they feel the way they feel."

Tickets for the show are going fast. In fact, the two actresses are considering the possibility of having to extend the run. "We love that it's being made available to the public, so we can show that we are part of the community," Gubanc said. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at the door only. Seating is limited; doors open at 7 p.m.

Innovation Video will air a segment on the production, April 2 and April 4, 6 and 9:30 p.m. Any proceeds from the show will be donated to the BVU Women's Studies Department.