University Theatre produces new play, "The Last Daughter" with playwright Rachel Luann Strayer
The students in the cast and crew of the upcoming University Theatre production, “The Last Daughter”, have a unique opportunity this year, working with their director, Professor Elaine DiFalco Daugherty, and playwright Rachel Luann Strayer to bring the new script to life for its first fully realized production this February.
Last November, student actors and technicians spent a week with Strayer, where they had a chance to discuss the themes and characters of the play. “We were so fortunate to have Rachel in residency with us at CMU,” says DiFalco Daugherty. “We spent those first rehearsals reading, discussing, and working through the script as Rachel made changes each day for our actors to rehearse the following night.”
Strayer also found the collaboration to be rewarding. “Workshopping a play is a wonderful experience especially with students because they are often so enthusiastic about the work and they want to understand everything they can about the characters and the story,” she said. “I think collaboration is so important for a playwright, because you can only create from your own limited perspective […] I had written some smaller characters who give us a lot of information about the world of the play, and the actors who are playing these characters had such great, insightful questions about who they are and the perspective that they’re coming from as they deliver this information. It really fleshed out the characters in ways I hadn’t thought about before. So a lot of my re-writes were written with their opinions, thoughts and ideas in mind.”
“The Last Daughter” follows the story of Eve, the only fertile woman left in the world, as she navigates the collision of her wants with the world’s needs. After decades with no babies born, Eve is discovered to be fertile and is placed under the care of Doctor and his mysterious boss, VIP, as a protective measure to ensure her continued health until a suitable father can be found and she can begin serving her country by repopulating it. However, what they believe to be in her best interest has some damaging consequences and leads to an unlikely resolution.
“I started writing ‘The Last Daughter’ as a very personal response to some of the pressure I was feeling from both society and my family as a married woman who didn’t have children,” said Strayer. When her own sisters experienced pregnancy loss, however, she was able to empathize with a different viewpoint. “It was an interesting challenge to look at it from the perspective of someone who very much wanted to have a child and was struggling to have children,” she said, “It helped me to understand that desire and the fear and the sadness that accompanies this goal for them and made me more empathetic as I was struggling with my own frustrations of being expected to have children.”
Though Strayer began writing “The Last Daughter” in 2016, some of its themes around reproductive rights remain prescient today. “I appreciate that what’s happening in our society today brings this play to the forefront in terms of the conversation of bodily autonomy and choice. When I wrote it, it was very much a personal play about an individual, but I’m glad the play continues to ask important questions and be relevant today.”
“The Last Daughter” opens on Wednesday, February 7 in the Townsend Kiva located in Moore Hall. The production runs nightly at 7:30 p.m. through Saturday, February 10, and at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 11. A talk-back with the cast, crew, and playwright will follow the performances on February 7, 8 & 9. To purchase tickets for “The Last Daughter”, contact Ticket Central at 989-774-3045 or the Ticket Central website linked here.