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Sarah House Inspires an Emotional Production

Stories about lives of residents at a home for the dying comprise the heart of this play — and a day

The world premiere of One Day: Sarah House, an original play by Doris Baizley, will take place at the Center Stage Theater on March 27, with additional performances on March 28 and 29 and from April 2 to 4.

Baizley, who has worked throughout the nation and has created somewhat of a specialty dramatizing real life events, was inspired to create the play after visiting Sarah House, a nonprofit social model hospice (the only one of its kind in the United States), which provides end-of-life care for the low-income and homeless.

Baizley and Sarah House executive director Randy Sunday are old friends. At his suggestion, Baizley spent several hours talking with Debbie McQuade, the facility’s house manager, and realized after their conversation that “she had told me stories of four or five people, and if I put those people together in my head I had a cast that I could sort of see on stage. It was really fun to kind of set those stories and find a theatrical setting to make those people into characters and make their stories into a play.”

As indicated by the title, One Day: Sarah House, the play takes place during 24 hours at a home for low-income residents who are in the process of dying.

“Theater has always been a powerful and entertaining medium for shining a spotlight on what is essential to being human,” Sunday said. “Presenting a play about Sarah House seemed an obvious choice for sharing more about our work. Because the house as a home for the dying is a naturally dramatic setting, time often seems to stand still and as it is suspended, other dimensions of our existence expand and grow more vivid.

Playwright Doris Baizley, whose new work, <i>One Day: Sarah House</i>, will be performed at Center Stage Theater later this month, was inspired by her visit to the facility.” width=“310” height=“411” /><div class=Playwright Doris Baizley, whose new work, One Day: Sarah House, will be performed at Center Stage Theater later this month, was inspired by her visit to the facility. (Cathy Rowell photo)

“The boundaries between living and dying, waking and sleeping — even myths, dreams and reality — become blurred, curiously revealing what is temporary and what endures. By watching and experiencing one 24-hour period at Sarah House, we hope the portrayal of the residents, caregivers and loved ones will uncover universal feelings about life and death and bring us all a little closer to understanding our human condition,” Sunday explained.

Peter Lackner, former stage director and chairman of the UCSB Theater Department, is the director. His brother, percussionist Tom Lackner, will provide the music. And his wife, Barbara, has assembled the costumes. The cast features local actors Henry Brown, Matthew Tavianini, Devin Scott and Laurel Lyle, as well as Los Angeles actor Jennifer Aquino. Each actor portrays a resident, a member of the staff and a mythical character.

Baizley relished her time writing the play and, in the process, learning more about Sarah House.

“For me it’s been a real treat to work on this,” Baizley said. “It’s been something that everybody who has gotten involved in it has gotten involved because they love the subject, they love Sarah House and they love being able to spend time talking about it and thinking about it and communicating about it.”

Performances of One Day: Sarah House will take place from March 27 to 29, and from April 2 to 4 at the Center Stage Theater, 751 Paseo Nuevo, with the special gala performance March 28. Ticket prices are $25 for general admission, $15 for seniors and $10 for students. Click here to purchase tickets or call the call the box office at 805.963.0408.

Noozhawk contributor Leslie Dinaberg can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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