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CRAFTING SOULS

by Lenise Willis

Often times we catch ourselves daydreaming through the humdrum of our monotonous job, and sometimes we find some heavy contemplation in that fantasyland. In A Bright New Boise, one conflicted soul questions everything he believes”¦in the odd comfort of a Hobby Lobby break room.

The dark comedy by playwright Samuel Hunter features an evangelical Christian who, after a tragedy at his church, is left searching for meaning in what he finds more and more to be a meaningless world. Part of his search is an attempt to reunite with his son, who he gave up for adoption when he was born. The journey brings him to a Hobby Lobby in Boise Idaho, where he meets a cast of quirky, wonderful characters.

Amy da Luz, co-founder and director of Paper Lantern Theatre’s upcoming production, said it was simply the wonderful story that drew her to the play. “Hopefully you leave the theatre talking about it””and people will disagree (with one another),” da Luz said. “It makes you think. Connections are made through laughter and through tears.”

Although Paper Lantern doesn’t have a particular theme for its seventh year of performances, the theater has always maintained the same mission: to produce works that push audiences and artists to grow.

A Bright New Boise, winner of the 2011 Obie Award, and its playwright, winner of the MacArthur Genius Award, do just that. “The play is that good,” da Luz said. “His style is unique. He takes the audience on a ride and brings them to some very unexpected places.”

Beth Ritson, co-founder and Boise actress, says the experience has been a fulfilling one.

“Both Amy and I have bent towards picking and producing plays which delicately portray the fragility of the human condition through humor and heart,” Ritson said. “The characters are delightfully depicted in Mr. Hunter’s script, but it has been a challenge to bring these five extremely different individuals who are all seeking salvation together.

“Like an intricate piece of music, each character has its own contribution, and Amy has done a great job orchestrating us all so that each story is heard.”

Although da Luz and Ritson have worked tirelessly on the company together for the last seven years, this is the first time the two have worked this intimately creatively, with da Luz as director and Ritson as actor, performing as the Hobby Lobby manager Pauline.

“(Pauline) runs a tight ship, but she seems to only hire slightly off-centered eccentrics,” Ritson said. “She has a few anger issues, but her anger comes in these unexpected bursts. She also swears a lot, and that has been fun to work with.”

Of course, due to the strong language the show is recommended for mature audiences only. !

Get to know the talent

If you’re an avid follower of the YES! drama section, you’ve heard from da Luz and Ritson before, but who exactly are these two wonderfully brilliant and creative women? Here are a few fun facts:

Paper Lantern Theatre Company owes its birth to a group of six powerfully inspiring””and local””women, who took a leap and founded the theater, with their first show technically being a play put on in a living room.

On a personal level, da Luz helped found PLTC simply to have a place to play and create.

Ritson credits part of her involvement in PLTC to da Luz’s power of persuasion. It’s one of the things she admires about her.

Although da Luz reads on her Kindle and doesn’t sew, her two favorite places are fabric stores and bookstores. That’s where she finds peace and happiness””and can waste hours.

What da Luz loves most about directing is having her vision become a reality, and all of the collaboration with other artists that makes it happen.

Ritson hopes to be oil painting and crafting with da Luz in her final years.

WANNA go?

Paper Lantern Theatre Company presents A Bright New Boise at the Hanesbrands Theatre, 209 N. Spruce St., Winston-Salem, Wednesday through Sunday. Tickets are $28. For tickets and more information visit paperlanterntheatre.org or call 747-1414.

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