What is love? There are perhaps as many answers to this question, and related stories, as there are humans walking the planet. A select few of these stories are being skillfully portrayed in Project Love, a new original play at Santa Barbara City College, directed by Katie Laris and co-created by Alice Scharper, dean of educational programs.
After completing the highly successful Through the Fire in 2012, which dramatized the stories of Santa Barbara residents’ experiences with local wildfires, the Theatre Group at SBCC decided to turn the focus of its next documentary play to love and its many facets.
The script is a creative collaboration by the dozen actors, all SBCC students, with the help of Laris, Scharper and Richard Lonsbury, assistant playwright. After conducting interviews on the subject of love, they transcribed and edited them, piecing together the script using the interwoven stories. The result is a satisfying collage of personal revelation, intriguing storytelling and universal truths.
The actors enter with an effective opening sequence as a bright orange scarf, in contrast to their costuming in shades of white, tan and brown, is passed from one to another in clever ways. They begin with a natural-sounding and free-flowing conversation about love. What is it? Suggestions are made, and more questions are posed.
Then they step into character to embody these diverse, firsthand stories of love — a teen mother caught in the foster care system, separated from her mother and her baby; an on again/off again “friends with benefits” situation that eventually takes too great a toll on a young woman’s self-esteem; a father’s story of his loving but troubled son; a couple in their 80s who met online and married; a man incarcerated for many years, finally able to walk free and feel love for himself and life.
As each story wraps up, the actors take a moment, take a breath and visibly step out of character, saying a few words about the story they presented and its impact on them.
This is a thoughtfully created and well-acted production. It's moving, funny, heart-wrenching and thoroughly enjoyable. Take the opportunity to see it while you can — with someone you love.
Project Love plays through Nov. 23 in the Jurkowitz Theatre on SBCC's West Campus. Click here or call 805.965.5935 for tickets and information.
— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.