|Art by Liz Pulido|
Ten years ago, Farewell to Eden premiered at Utah Valley University. The student written show by Mahonri Stewart was a success, selling out its run, prompting enthusiastic reviews, and going on to win second place in the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival’s national playwriting award, as well as snagging a KCACTF National Selection Team Fellowship Award. The strong showing the play presented at the Festival prompted one of the judges, Gary Garrison, to say that the play was “the most intelligently written play I have read [for the festival] in a decade.” For its ten year anniversary, Zion Theatre Company is remounting a production of the play directed by Ronnie Stringfellow on April 15-27.
Farewell to Eden takes place in Victorian England, circa 1840, and tells the story of Georgiana Highett and her siblings Thomas and Catherine, who have recently lost their father and are tasked with carrying on his legacy. When two men enter into Georgiana’s life, including a childhood love from her past, life spirals into a web of complications and conflicts that have a dramatic build and a philosophical tension. Georgiana and her family are put in a place where they have to prove their mettle or fall, leading to a number of twists, turns, hilarious comedy, heart tugging romance, and intense drama.
Playwright Stewart has a special place in his heart for this particular play and wanted to do something special to commemorate it. That is one of the reasons his sister Sarah Stewart was enlisted to play the role of Georgiana Highett, “Sarah is the one of the people who got me involved in drama and she had strong influence in the informing the ideas that helped me shape this story. Seeing her in plays when I was younger was one of the life changing elements of my life. So seeing her take on a character that she helped influence is a particularly meaningful moment for me.”
Sarah Stewart who has seen the character played a number of times before, is equally thrilled to be stepping into the role. She has thoroughly enjoyed her brother’s play in the past, “Seeing this play performed several times over the years, I have always found its Jane-Austen-meets-Charles-Dickens style fascinating. Just when you feel you get these characters and their world, new ‘reveals’ twist you 180 degrees, surprising you into a brand new paradigm. And this happens again and again. It's been a joy to sink my teeth into this part as an actress—the blend of humor, conflict and symbolism makes it a deeply satisfying dramatic experience for actors and audience alike.”
Mahonri Stewart is also thrilled to have Ronnie Stringfellow in the director’s chair. Stewart said, “I was able to attend a rehearsal when I was in town the other day and I was thrilled to see the work that Ronnie was doing with the actors. She was incisive, insightful, with a great energy and humor which the actors fed on. She’s one of the better directors I’ve had the honor to have on one of my shows.”
Stringfellow has dug into the philosophical and personal themes that’s she’s been able to sink her teeth into with the show. She said, "Farewell to Eden forces us to ask ourselves what we would do if our world unraveled. If we were each expelled from our own personal Edens, would we exit in turmoil, or move forward in faith? Everyone is this production has accepted that question as our motivation, and hope that our work will help the audience explore that idea for themselves."
Farewell to Eden is playing at the Echo Theatre space at 145 North University Drive, Provo, UT. Performances start at 7:30 pm on every night but Sunday during the April 15-27 run. Tickets can be pre-purchased at www.ziontheatrecompany.com or bought at the door.