August 25, 2013 · 2:30pm

Death Valley is coming to Lancaster…

“Death Valley: A Love Story,” a new full-length play by Lancaster-based author and playwright Sandy Asher, will be given its first public, rehearsed reading on Thursday, August 22 at 7:30 p.m. here at Tellus360! A second reading is scheduled for Sunday, August 25 at 2:30 p.m.

Inspired by the photographs, collages and journals of Lancastrian artists and therapists Carol Emerson and the late David Nutter, “Death Valley: A Love Story” will be directed by Laura Howell, artistic director of The People’s Shakespeare Project and will feature well-known area actors Anne Meeder, Sharon Mellinger, and Lisa Budwig.

“Because this is a memory play,” Asher explains, “I wanted all of the characters and action to be filtered through the one person remembering what happened. So all three actors play Carol at various moments, but they also play everyone else involved in the story, male and female. They transform instantly with the help of only a few props and their own inventiveness. It’s quite a challenge, but Laura has chosen her actors well.”

Development of the script began several years ago at the Painted Desert Gallery when Asher saw David Nutter’s photographs of Death Valley displayed along with snippets of prose and poetry from his journal and Carol’s. “I was deeply moved by both the visual art and the language,” Asher recalls, “and suggested to Carol that the combination might make a wonderful book or play. She generously allowed me to read the full journals, and the script began to take shape.”

The story taken from journal to stage begins in the winter of 2003, when, during their first joyful year of being in love, Carol and David spent a week in Death Valley. There David took dozens of photos but also began experiencing symptoms that were diagnosed on their return home as Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. Months of chemotherapy followed, leading in a stem cell transplant that went awry, ending David’s life. Both kept journals throughout this ordeal, and Carol continued hers after David’s death. The play opens and closes with slide shows of David’s photography and Carol’s collages created by David’s son AJ Nutter.

Though a personal, local story, “Death Valley” explores universal experiences of love, loss, grief, and recovery. “Carol hopes sharing her process will prove helpful to others,” Asher says, “and I’m confident it will. Trusted friends and colleagues who have read or heard the script have encouraged us to continue working on it. These readings are the next step. The audiences’ responses will affect the play’s future development.”

Admission to the readings is $10. Proceeds will benefit the Samaritan Counseling Center’s Silent Samaritan program, which provides funds for counseling services to women in need.

Purchase your tickets here!