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“Dry Land” Brings Girlhood to the Stage

Illustration by Kate Greenblatt

Set in a locker room in Florida, two high school girls, Ester and Amy on a swim team become best of friends. Berkeley Playhouse Shotgun Players are debuting its newest play Dry Land on May 17.

Throughout the play, Amy is dealing with an unwanted pregnancy and Ester and Amy attempt a do-it-yourself abortion. Meanwhile,  Ester goes through the college application process wanting to pursue a swimming career in college. Both Ester and Amy have different problems, but struggle and rely on each other in the production.

The setting extensively explores what it’s like to be a young person and the freedom that the girls feel in the water. “There’s something revealing about weightlessness in water. Through the whole play we’re in this place [the locker room] that is adjacent to the good, sterilized, weightless space where we’re dealing with all of the muck of who we actually are,” said director Ariel Craft. Craft is deeply immersed in theater and is the incoming artistic director of the San Francisco’s Cutting Ball Theater. The play is about the pressures of high school and making new friends in tough situations. Craft describes the play as an exploration of “the experience of being a young woman trying to build a sense of identity that’s your own — not just what others expect of you — and a sense of worth that’s strong enough to weather your own failures.”

Ruby Rae Spiegel, the  playwright behind Dry Land, has written for television and short films before.  Dry Land was produced at many theaters such as Kings Cross Theatre and Permanent Record Theatre.

Additionally, the play is a New York Times critic pick and has received many stellar reviews. The New York Times’ Ben Brantley wrote, “Ms. Spiegel demonstrates an uncanny gift for presenting the unavoidable messiness of being young with a theatrical sense of order that never reduces what’s being described to obvious comic shorthand or melodrama.”

Dry Land also features Berkeley High School’s own Haley Kirtland, a junior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS). Kirtland is featured in a video Ester sends to college to demonstrate her swimming skills. Kirtland had a great time working with the director.

“I became involved when Shotgun Players reached out to Coach Veronica. She asked me if I’d be interested in being the swimmer featured in a recruiting video for Ester. Next thing I knew I met the director and she handed me a suit, cap, and goggles to match the actress,” said Kirtland.

Pay what you can showings run May 17 through 24, and students under eighteen are able to view all showings of Dry Land for only seven dollars.