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Archive for Thursday, March 4, 1999

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March 4, 1999

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U.S. playwright Wendy Wasserstein uses her caustic wit to craft a political play that also makes a statement about the lives of women in the late 20th century.

The story line of Wendy Wasserstein's "An American Daughter" probably sounds familiar: A nominee for a high political office is ruined when it is discovered she committed a minor offense several years ago.

But in the hands of Wasserstein, who won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for "The Heidi Chronicles," the story becomes a funny statement about the complexities of being a woman in the late 20th century.

"It's about the nature of love, friendship and betrayal," said director Donna Kane, a Kansas University student working on a doctoral degree in theater. "It's about how in the best of times, we will betray each other with our thoughts, words and deeds."

"An American Daughter" is loosely based on the Zoe Baird scandal. Baird was President Clinton's nominee for attorney general in 1992, but was exposed and criticized by the media and Clinton's political foes for having hired illegal immigrants as domestic help.

"We're setting the play in 1993, the time it was happening and the more carefree days of (the Clinton) presidency," Kane said.

The play, she said, will reflect how the U.S. political system works and the power the media has to form opinions.

"We have watched the political action and the abominable way of jumping on the bandwagon. Our minds are changed and we don't realize we had an opinion to begin with," she said.

In the play, Lyssa Hughes is the privileged, well-educated daughter of a Republican senator, a professor's wife and the owner of a Georgetown home. She is also the president's nominee for surgeon general.

All seems to be going well until the media discovers she failed to respond to a call for jury duty years ago -- thanks to comments made by her husband and a friend. The frenzy begins: Every aspect of her life -- as well as those of her family and friends -- is investigated. Hughes finally withdraws from the nomination.

Kane said the play also explores how some women who first fought for equal rights had to give up the benchmarks of life -- children and marriage -- for their cause and how "the new feminism" tries to balance the fight for women's rights with marriage and family.

While the premise of the play is serious, Kane emphasized that "An American Daughter" is quite funny.

"(Wasserstein) has a sense of humor, a caustic sense of humor," she said.

"An American Daughter" is Kane's first production with Lawrence Community Theatre. She has directed shows at a dinner theater in Creede, Colo., and a university in Turkey, where she recently taught.

Cast members include Ellen Finch, Mike Swan, Alfred Lata, Renee Purtee, Genee Figuieras, Bob Hart, Tasha Keathley, Trevor Ruder, Ryan Hamlin and Dustin Chase.

-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is jbiles@ljworld.com.

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