Sunday on the Rocks

62d23418 8a25 42d1 9d32 f6da1a506c06Next weekend is the final show of the Drake school year. Sunday on the Rocks by Theresa Rebeck features four women, each with their own problems (and differing approaches to life), learning from each other and learning about themselves. Directed by Adam Yankowy, the show has been a window onto the world of challenges and struggles any woman could face in the future... and how to face them with friends and understanding.

Rocky Road

Sunday confrontationYankowy describes the show. “On a beautiful Sunday morning in mid-October, three housemates decide to have scotch for breakfast in this play by the author of Spike HeelsThe Family of Mann, and Loose Knit. Elly is pregnant and considering an abortion, Jen is being harassed by a co-worker who is obsessed with her, and Gayle just feels a bit lost. Their problems are compounded by a fourth roommate, Jessica, a religious young woman who has little compassion for their confused attempts to make sense of life in the nineties. As they drink, joke, and argue it becomes clear how difficult it is to make a moral decision in an increasingly complex world.”

“The show is set in 1993 and what has been fascinating as a group is to realize that not much has changed in the last 25 years.  The ideas of morality, judgement, assault, abortion and other women's rights are all discussed and debated within this light comic drama.  Not only are we touring an abortion clinic but we are also having a talk back with some former Planned Parenthood directors, politicians and story tellers sharing their experience.”

Lacking the direct experience of a woman in America, Yankowy leaned on the cast and external resources to make sure Sunday on the Rocks would be true to the female viewpoint. “I’ve really had to trust the cast and my stage management team to give me insight and help tell the story,” said Yankowy.


Rocky Challenges

Cassidy Shea SundayOne of that cast is Cassidy Barnes who plays Gayle, a 34-year-old social worker who has had a rough ride in life so far. “She has made some decisions in her life that should be seen as ‘poor’ in the eyes of all, in her opinion.” says Barnes. ‘While not proud of the decisions she made, they ultimately have brought her to where she is and how she continues to keep moving forward in her career and hopes of having a family.”

“I play the oldest of the characters, while I am the youngest of the cast. She has had many life experiences that I have not, and is the grounding force of the group. All that being said, I would say that I still relate to her peacekeeping mentality. I have counseled many friends through breakups, difficulty with school, problems with parents, and so on. I can also say that I have never had to deal with so many life-changing issues in one day, but hey, that's theatre.”

Grace Sopko is a senior at Drake, and Sunday on the Rocks will be her last show as part of the theatre department before going off to perform professionally. As the roommate Jessica, she has to stretch her acting muscles more than a bit to do this role, a challenge she’s ready for. “My character sees her roommates and this poor behavior” says Sopko. “In the first act, the other three women talk about how Jessica always says ‘we’re all sinners’ but what she means is that everyone else is a sinner and she’s perfect. Jessica is obviously far from perfect and in my opinion, Rebeck displays the flawed/poor behavior and hypocrisy of the church in general through Jessica’s way of being.”

All Sunday“Jessica has been an incredible acting challenge for me. Her core morality is, in my opinion, very flawed and wholeheartedly different than my own. I disagree with almost everything that comes out of her mouth during the show and so I had to do some serious digging and soul searching to find my ‘in’ into portraying Jessica. I’ve been forced to really make myself consider differing moralities and life styles and I can’t say I’ve been persuaded but I found the humanity and empathy for my character that was necessary to do her justice.”


Rocks to Lean On

Humanity and empathy are necessary qualities for all of us, and yet those can also the weaknesses that allow many of us to make decisions that aren’t always the best. Rebeck specializes in writing characters that, in her own words, are about “betrayal and treason and poor behavior. A lot of poor behavior.” 

Sopko has welcomed her opportunities to challenge both herself and audiences alike during her time at Drake. “I think that shows like Sunday are so important because of how unabashed the script is when it comes to dealing with women’s issues. Though the play talks about incredibly serious topics, it’s referred to by Rebeck herself as ‘a comedy in two acts’.”

“Although my character doesn’t have the same humor as the other three, the overall feel of the show isn’t the dark and heavy theme that we usually find in theatre that discusses such issues as abortion and abuse. Rebeck finds a realistic and layered (but mindful) approach to discussing these issues through her incredibly three-dimensional characters. I think creating theatre that does this is a way to open conversation about issues that we otherwise may be quiet about.”

Sunday trioBarnes hopes those conversations will be a vital part of the audience experience with Sunday on the Rocks. “I want to make a note about the political nature of this piece. I am a double major here at Drake in Political Science so I love working on shows that have a political commentary. I think that this show, in particular, does a great job of addressing political topics in a way that anyone, regardless of party, can reflect on. While certain characters obviously lean in opposite directions and audience members may empathize with different ones depending on party alignment, ultimately the thoughts and conversations the show sparks are positive regardless.”

Barnes and the rest of her cast has had discussions about the topics addressed in Sunday on the Rocks with various health-care professionals, as part of their research into the characters and the show. “The biggest take away I have gotten from the talkbacks we've done is how to start conversations about controversial topics, specifically abortion, in a way that is non-partisan and medically accurate. I think that often people discuss hot button topics with too much emotion to express points accurately. It is also crazy to me how the issues that these women face in the play are still so relevant and accurate to today.”

If you love challenging, idea-filled theatre, Sunday on the Rocks plays for one weekend only, opening on Thursday May 2 and running through May 5. Performances are at the Harmon Fine Arts Center on the Drake campus, and tickets are available in person at the Harmon box office, by calling 271-3841, or through the Drake Fine Arts box office website.

Adam Yankowy Drake University Cassidy Barnes Grace Sopko