By and By

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By and By poster art by R. Black

Welcome to the Shotgun Players Blog!
As a Shotgun supporter, you’ll receive this backstage look for each production. Next up: Lauren Gunderson’s By and By.

By and By previews May 22 – May 30, Wednesday through Sunday. Opens Friday, May 31st.

Remember, subscribers who book guest tickets by Opening Night, May 31st, receive 20% off! You can now book discounted guest tickets online at shotgunplayers.org.


How many local playwrights can you think of that have a whopping SEVEN plays debut in the space of two years?  If you haven’t seen a play by Lauren Gunderson yet you will have ample opportunity – she’s one of the most prolific (and talented!) young playwrights in the Bay Area.  In 2011 Crowded Fire Theatre Company presented Gunderson’s Exit, Pursued by Bear, a wild revenge comedy that took inspiration from the famous exit line from Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale.  The Bard also served as inspiration for her modern re-working of MacBeth entitled Toil and Trouble that debuted at Berkeley’s Impact Theatre last autumn.  Shotgun Players production of By and By is just one of three new plays that will debut in the Bay Area this year. She has created a sequel to Exit, Pursued by Bear entitled The Taming that will debut at Crowded Fire in October. Also debuting in October is I and You at Marin Theatre Company.  She will also have plays featured at TheatreWorks, SF Playhouse and with the Ground Floor program at Berkeley Rep. Her plays have also been produced in several cities across the country. How does she do it?  In an interview with Theatre Bay Area Magazine she commented: “if you’re going to be a writer you have to be writing all the time. So all that adds up to me getting up every morning rather early and hitting the coffee and the keyboard, and feeling very grateful and excited.”

Science perhaps is not a topic you expect to be a recurring topic for a playwright.  Yet for Ms. Gunderson, science is her passion: “I love science. The stories of discovery, the unfolding of human knowledge, the democracy of method, and the life of scientists. I find deep and thrilling drama in the course of scientific progress and put it onstage as much as possible. And it’s not just science, but how people who tackle the grandest questions and wrestle with them have a specific access to the universe.”  Last year her play Emilie: La Marquise du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight debuted at The Berkeley City Club.  The story focused upon Emilie du Châtelet, the 18th century French mathematician and physicist who translated the work of Isaac Newton.  With By and By Ms. Gunderson dives into one of the greatest scientific controversies making headlines: genetic cloning.

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Time Magazine cover

Do you remember Dolly the sheep?  In 1996, scientists created the first cloned animal.  Since then, scientists have created clones of several animals, with the exception of the primate family.  Curiously, just one week before we begin previews for By and By, a play that imagines both successful and flawed human cloning, an article was published in the Wall Street Journal that scientists have moved a step closer to making human cloning a reality.  In a recent experiment, human skin cells were used to create embryonic stem cells.  A scientist from Michigan State University commented: “they are one step closer to where the efficiency is high enough that someone is willing to try to clone a person, though that remains a distant—and disturbing—prospect.”

What are the implications for cloning?  Many scientists advocate that cloning stem cells will lead to advances in treating illnesses such as Parkinson’s Disease. But what happens if the technology evolves into the cloning of an actual human being?  Throughout our lives we experience the tremendous loss when a loved one dies.  What if you had a choice to bring back your child?  Your husband?  Your wife?  What would you do?

By and By begins with a heated conversation between a father and his teenage daughter.  Familiar territory, yes?  Soon we learn that the argument entails a disturbing revelation: Denise discovers that her father, a renowned scientist, developed a technique for human cloning.  She also learns that she is one of the successful “products” of this technique.  And the storm breaks; Denise has so many questions. Her father Steven contends: “Your conception was extreme. That’s it. Nothing else is out of order. It is my right and your right to be here, to live happily, to live at all. Honey, the world is a mean place sometimes, but sometimes you can beat it. And that’s what I did.”

Yet while By and By uses the topic of cloning, the play uncovers multiple layers with each character, particularly with Steven and Denise.  It is an adventure of the heart.  When asked about what types of plays she likes to create, Lauren Gunderson replied: “Big ideas, true stories, true meanings, complete fiction, beautiful theatre, muscly acting, cheap magic, expensive magic, characters risking for truth, funny funny stuff, characters that are supremely human, love stories, LOVE stories, active theatricality, activist theatre, issue plays about big issues, Holy Sh*t Theatre. You can’t fake making your audience feel. That excites me.”  We think you will be truly excited at the Ashby stage when you see By and By.

Thank you for supporting our 2013 Season!  We look forward to seeing you at the theater.

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