Posted: March 9, 2009
When Mount Holyoke English prof Corinne Demas tackles a new project, it's typically in prose form. Her latest venture, however, targets a different audience--one that is assembled in a theatre rather than a library or bookstore.
Demas has written a one-act, one-woman play, Blue Straw Hat, to benefit the Frances Perkins program's Deborah Light Memorial Emergency Loan Fund. It will be performed Wednesday, March 25, and Thursday, March 26, at 8 pm in the Blanchard Student Center Great Room. Maryanne Alos FP '02, senior administrative assistant for the MHC English department, is producing the play.
The play's protagonist, Beryl, is a divorced mother of two grown children who has been given an unusual gift by a friend: a package of of ten dates through an online match service. Although she is resistant to the idea, she agrees to go through with the dates, which take place on ten successive days in a neighborhood sidewalk café. In each scene Beryl--wearing a blue straw hat to identify herself--meets with an unseen date, and each brings his own personality traits and foibles to the table. Anyone who's ever been on a blind date will identify with her experiences.
"She's the only character, so we hear only her half of each conversation. We get to watch as she goes through the series of dates and begins to find herself," Demas said. Best known for her books for adults and children, the author noted she's enjoyed the collaborative nature of writing for theatre.
Blue Straw Hat is being directed by Steve Morgan, and the role of Beryl will be played by Sarah Wilson. Morgan and Wilson are well known to local theatre audiences through their work as both directors and actors. Morgan recently directed the Pioneer Valley Light Opera production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Princess Ida. Wilson has worked as a producer, director, and actor with the Hampshire Shakespeare Company, as well as with other western Massachusetts theater companies.
Admission to the play will be free, but Demas is asking patrons to make a donation to the Frances Perkins Program's Deborah Light Memorial Emergency Loan Fund. Light was director of the Frances Perkins Program from 1986 until 1988, when she died unexpectedly at the age of 39. The fund, established in her name to provide interest-free, short-term loans to Frances Perkins students, has been supported primarily through the program's annual fall tag sale.
"The fund has been used steadily. Our students can borrow up to $250 for three months," said Kay Althoff, associate director of the Frances Perkins Program, which is dedicated to students over the age of 24.
"Some of my best students have come through the Frances Perkins Program," Demas said. "They bring so much to the Mount Holyoke community."
The author of a novel, two collections of short stories, and numerous books for children, Demas teaches courses in literature and creative writing at Mount Holyoke.
For more information on the MHC production of Blue Straw Hat, call 413-538-2146.
The play will also be performed Monday, April 6, at 7 pm at the Amherst Cinema to benefit the Amherst Survival Center. Tickets for that event are $8.