- Photo courtesy 2nd Street Theater
- Viola (Jennifer Collins, seated) and Rita (Mary Kilpatrick) rehearse for "The Lost Virginity Tour."
Playwright Cricket Daniel loves to tell the story of how she conceived her newest play, "The Lost Virginity Tour," in which four women in a baking club set out on a road trip to revisit the sites of their first intimate encounters.
"I was peddling my Christmas play last year," Daniel told the Source Weekly, "handing out postcards at the Tower Theatre. I ran into two girlfriends of mine, Val and Wendy, and we got to talking. 'What are you doing for the holidays... I'm going home for Christmas in San Luis Obispo... Oh, I lost my virginity in SLO—So did I, on the beach!' I said, how fun would it be if we could all go and revisit all of these places and share our stories. So I'm passing out fliers, and the whole time, the characters started coming to me, the storyline started coming to me."
Marla Manning was so immediately taken with Daniel's play that she said yes to directing it, despite a concurrent project being just weeks away from opening night. "I got the script Thursday afternoon and just hours later I told Cricket, 'I must do this play.' All the characters tugged at me. She's incredibly funny. I literally couldn't put it down."
The four friends, named Viola, Kitty, Rita and Elaine, live at the Happy Trails retirement community in Surprise, Ariz. They meet every week at Elaine's house as the Happy Trails Baking Club. "They all moved there to live this 55-and-over resort lifestyle," says Manning. "Pickleball, a swimming pool, an event calendar every month."
"They're all different," says Daniel. "Elaine (played by Sherie Neff) is more prim and proper, more the motherly type. Kitty (Gloria Anderson) is a southern belle from North Carolina. Rita (Mary Kilpatrick) has been married almost 40 years and Viola (Jennifer Collins) was married four times.
"They've become each other's families. Viola is alone, and so is Kitty. Rita has a husband, but if it's baseball and football season he doesn't know where the hell she is—and Elaine's a widow. They love being together. They look forward to it, they make a big deal out of it."
Viola is the firecracker among the four. "Viola comes up with the brilliant idea to hop in her convertible and drive across the country. If there was going to be a ringleader, in this case it's Viola, the Italian Catholic from Hoboken, New Jersey. She makes them all tour t-shirts. She's really excited. She thinks they're like the Rolling Stones."
The women's journey down memory lane takes a circuitous route, beginning in North Carolina for Kitty, where she recalls a heart-wrenching tale of young love, moving on from there to Ball State University in Indiana, where Rita also relates a true love experience. Then it's Viola's turn, as the four visit her grandmother's home in New Jersey and she tells a more somber tale before they continue on to Elaine's family cabin in Colorado, where a buried time capsule brings about a profound revelation.
The friends' newly recalled experiences ultimately drive them to extend their trip, determined to make at least one more journey of discovery before finally heading back home to Happy Trails. The outcome of that leg of the women's journey is left to the audience's imagination.
We asked both playwright and director what they hope audiences will take away from the play.
"One of the reasons I love Cricket's plays is that they all have a lot of humor in them," says Manning. "What I loved about this one was beyond the humor, the poignancy. I want them to be moved. I want them to walk out and talk about it. I want people to feel like, ooh, I get that. That really does affect me because I can relate to it."
"I hope that as a storyteller, I will move the audience to tears," Daniel confesses. "I do enjoy when somebody will seek me out afterwards and say, 'You made me think about such-and-such for the first time.' When they have a personal connection, and they share that with me, I thoroughly enjoy that."
Fri., Feb. 23-Sat., March 10
2nd Street Theater
220 NE Lafayette Ave., Bend