Supplementary Information for Lily Kepler and the Graveyard Shift
The Playwright's Note
I don’t think of California as a place with many popularly-known myths, and I wrote this to create one.
My goal was to craft this myth in and of a specific, immutable setting, in a cultural and geographic landscape unlike anywhere else. Here is some Northern Californiana as I know it: the ocean, craggy and chilly cliffs, fires, produce, locavoria, systemic and racialized displacement, cold beaches at night, train tracks, cows, fruit right off the tree, wide fields of dead-dry grass, enormous redwoods, a misplaced sense of historical novelty, and fault lines.
I also wanted this myth to extend across time. The west is popularly figured as new in the context of American history, from Manifest Destiny to the tech boom, but California is just as old as anywhere else. I set the play in two time periods, the 1890s and the 1990s, because I wanted the later characters to reckon with a sense of identity that feels as if it lacks a history, even a pretty recent one. For the most part, I think the 1890s characters know exactly who they are: their most pressing questions are not where they came from, but where they go now. The 1990s characters, on the other hand, don’t know their history. I mean this literally: they do not know a history that they can express a sense of cultural ownership over. They have a sense of California as a place where little happens and even less is interesting, and none of it pertains to them. I wanted to give them recent history that contradicted this loss of identity.
Finally, I wanted this myth to deal with universal questions shaped distinctly by the play’s specific context. I conceived each of these characters for a different reason: because I was in California and wanted to leave, because I’m interested in what we owe our friends, because I’m interested in what we do with power—over things, and over loved ones—that we didn’t ask for. In Rosa’s bargain with the land, or when Lily gets given the ability to cause earthquakes, the land itself lends these questions life-or-death stakes. “Move fast break things” can have serious consequences.
A friend of mine who is not from California, looking off the cliffs above the ocean not too far from Half Moon Bay, said to me once that “this feels like the end of the world.” They meant the literal end—as in the edge of the world, the emotional and physical edge of the earth—but also the apocalypse. If the world was going to end, that end would take place right here.
To me, on the other hand, these cliffs are where the world starts.
— Sara Bell
The Director's Note
To the viewers of Lily Kepler and the Graveyard Shift:
Thank you so much for coming to this wonderful show! Upon reading the script for Lily Kepler, I was struck by how much my peers and I could relate to Lily’s struggle with moving on from childhood into early adulthood. As a college freshman, it has been hard to separate the past from the future, especially in a year as tumultuous as 2020. For so many people, especially students, the year ended unceremoniously, without the usual signifiers, and we all, like Lily, had to figure out how to move forward while not physically going anywhere.
As I further interacted with the script, I was impacted by the all-encompassing nature of the interpersonal relationships that our amazing playwright, Sara Bell, created. I was interested in exploring the predicaments the characters navigate, as they reckon with the blurred lines of culpability in interpersonal conflicts, the long-lasting consequences of words and actions, and the crushing impact of first love. As a number of the characters deal with difficult issues, such as domestic abuse, xenophobia, and sexism, we, as a company, had many important conversations about how to approach these topics. It is challenging enough to convey these intense interpersonal themes and issues onstage in normal circumstances, but to do so during a pandemic, with each company member being limited to the four corners of our computer screens, proved even more difficult. Two questions remained: how do we tell this story right, and how do we create theatre in a time when theater-going is currently against the law and hazardous to our health?
Throughout the pandemic, artists have had to find innovative ways to maintain the vitality of theatre, debating which platforms to use for shows, how to keep the live aspect of theater intact, if virtual theatre is actually theatre, and perhaps most importantly, how to sell tickets and keep people interested. So, like the entirety of the theater industry, the cast, crew, and I got to work. While our process was not always a smooth one, working together, we were able to find solutions and overcome many technical and emotional obstacles to bring you this story tonight, using a combination of Zoom, film, and lots and lots of creativity!
Although this show is not what I thought my first college production would be, it was still an amazing experience. I’ve met and built relationships with so many talented, smart, and resourceful people who can obviously do anything because, as a company, we produced a seemingly impossible show in extremely unprecedented circumstances, a feat that even some professional theatre companies may not be able to claim. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone in the company for all of your hard work; you are all exceptional artists and the show would be nothing without you.
As we all move into an uncertain future, I hope that you will take courage from Lily, Alana, Connor, Dorothea, Lourdes, Fay, Bernie, Rosa, and Louisa, as they boldly deal with love, emotional responsibility, and the complexities of relationships.
Thank you so much and enjoy the show! Sincerely, Caroline Itzkoff
Half Moon Bay, California
Half Moon Bay is a small coastal city in Northern California, located 25 miles south of San Francisco. The city resides on land stolen from the Ohlone Peoples by Spanish colonizers and missionaries in the late 1700s. With their arrival and the establishment of the Mission San Francisco de Asís in 1776, the land became primarily used for agriculture. In the 1840s, land grants were given to Mexican settlers and colonial development began in earnest. The California Gold Rush (1849-1855) brought a new name for this city-- Spanishtown — as well as an influx of immigrants including Canadians, Chinese, English, Germans, Irish, Mexicans, Italians, Scots, Portuguese, and Pacific Islanders. In 1874, the town was officially Half-Moon Bay.
Half Moon Bay in the 1890s -- the world in which Bernie, Rosa, Fay and Christopher would have lived -- was relatively ethnically diverse, filled with the children of California Gold Rush immigrants. It was fairly isolated -- the Ocean Shore Railroad didn’t connect it with San Francisco until 1907 -- and its main sources of income were fishing and agriculture. By the 1990s — the era of Lily, Alana, Connor, Lourdes, and Dorothea— Half Moon Bay was a tourist town. The swells of Mavericks Beach and trails of Montara Mountain drew big-wave surfers, nature enthusiasts, and other tourists.
San Francisco in the 1890s
The 1880s brought a new wave of anti-Chinese sentiment to the nation and San Francisco. This sentiment stemmed from fears of the Bubonic Plague intertwined with the racist associations between dirtiness and Chinese immigrants. Angel Island was opened as a quarantine zone for Chinese Immigrants in 1881, the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited any Chinese immigration, was passed in 1882. Additionally, explicit racial zoning practices were also implemented in San Francisco.
By the 1890s, San Francisco was a thriving center of industry and commerce, rising in public consciousness due to famous authors like Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde. However, the city was riddled with machine politics and in desperate need of reform. One major attempt to improve San Francisco was the establishment and expansion of public works, which included a new sewers system, library, and hospital. The Sutro Baths, a public saltwater swimming pool complex, was one of the largest public work projects of the decade. The benefits of these projects were often reserved for white residents. For example, the Sutro Baths, denied entrance to non-white residents until 1897, when John Harris successfully sued them.
This was the San Francisco in which Lousia would have lived. It was a city changing due to 20 years of rapid expansion, sharing its views on immigration with a national audience, and legalizing anti-Chinese sentiments and discriminatory practices. It was a city in flux.
Women's Suffrage in the 1890s
By the 1890s, the Women’s Suffrage Movement was in full swing. The California state legislature passed a bill in 1893 giving women the right to vote. This bill was ultimately vetoed by the governor. The extent of racism in the Californian suffrage movement is unclear, however given national trends, it is likely that this bill would have excluded Black women and other BIWOC (either explicitly or implicitly).