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‘Full Bloom’ tackles obsession with physical appearance

September 25, 2018

The cast of “Full Bloom” includes (front) Carolyn Jerz, DeShaun Herzog and (rear) Katya and Dan Shaffer.

In the intimate setting of the Olde Main Theater in Latrobe, “Full Bloom” will take play-goers into a living room where the characters will wrestle with society’s obsession with physical appearance and the fallout it causes.

A joint production of the Cabaret Theatre of Latrobe and the 13Players theater group, the play will be staged Aug. 30 through Sept. 2 in the theater, also knows as New Song Studio, at 350 Main St.

Director Leigh Anne Jerz says she was drawn to playwright Suzanne Bradbeer’s script because “it spoke to a lot of issues I saw teens going through, both my own and other people’s. It has strong roles for both teens and adults.

“The drama is focused on how society judges by appearances: youth and beauty, and the unhealthy pressure it puts on young and old, men and women, black and white -- especially women,” she says.

In the living room will be the characters of Phoebe, a teen who seems withdrawn after a trip to Italy; her mother Jane, whose husband has left her for a younger woman; Phoebe’s friend Jesse, an African-American teen adjusting to a new city and school; neighbor Crystal, an actress contemplating plastic surgery to compete with younger actresses; and Crystal’s husband, Jim, a New York City firefighter whose work presents many existential challenges.

A literate script

“All the characters are facing major life challenges,” Jerz says. “It’s interesting to find that, even in a family with abilities, talents and advantages, you can struggle with these issues and other traumatic life events. What interested me is, how do we as adults mentor the next generation if we haven’t come to terms with our own self-esteem issues?

“Phoebe is showing signs of depression,” she says. “Will the other characters notice and intervene before it becomes a crisis?”

What separates “Full Bloom” from many other plays that tackle similar subject matter, Jerz says, is its tone.

“It’s done in a nice way,” she says. “All the characters really care about each other, and nobody is being horrible to each other.”

The script also makes references to modern art, “The Catcher in the Rye,” William Shakespeare, Alfred Nobel and sports heroes Jesse Owens and Roberto Clemente (Jim is a Pittsburgh native and Pirates fan).

“It’s a literate, intelligent script,” Jerz says.

Cast members include Jerz’s daughter Carolyn Jerz as Phoebe, DeShaun Herzog as Jesse, real-life husband and wife Dan and Katya Shaffer as Jim and Jane (interestingly not cast as the spouses), and Kat Post as Crystal.

Question-and-answer sessions will be held after the Sept. 1-2 matinees.

The production is funded in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, awarded through the Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance.

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