In the wake of a global pandemic shutdown, an earthquake that rocks Salt Lake City, and sudden isolation from others, Teah (Estephani Cerros), a single LDS woman, goes to see a therapist and finds herself in the spot on a dating show. replicaby Utah playwright Iris Salazar, will premiere next week at the Plan-B Theater, following Teah’s story as she, prompted by her therapist/game show host (Yolanda Stange) , takes a step back to inspect not only life and dating, but also herself and her loneliness.
Salazar drew inspiration for this piece from both her own experience as a single woman in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the experiences of others around her. “It’s 50% things I’ve actually seen or experienced and 50% made up,” she says.
Salazar wanted to write a play about LDS singles, and before the pandemic, she had written another story about a group of LDS single women she described as more “cute.” But that wasn’t what she was aiming for with this piece — she wanted to write more honestly and not sugarcoat the often painful experiences of single people in a religion that places a heavy emphasis on marriage. After putting that previous piece aside for a while, Salazar was inspired to replica from social media posts she’s seen from other women openly describing the loneliness, depression and isolation they’ve been experiencing during the pandemic. Salazar says this seems to have a particular impact on LDS singles, as they typically don’t move in with their partner unmarried.
She says it was a challenge to write about therapy and live on her own – she herself lives with her mother and brother. To create the character of Teah, she relied on her own interpretations of social media posts about other people’s experiences. “I couldn’t relate to this loneliness that I saw people posting about on Facebook, so I really had to explore that,” Salazar says.
That doesn’t mean Salazar avoided writing about his own emotions — there are still aspects of Teah that Salazar relates to. She says this personal connection makes this piece unique from previous pieces she has written. Salazar says she’s usually resistant to sharing her personal life on stage, but replica forced her to be much more vulnerable and open about her own emotions.
“I’m more hesitant to share personal things,” Salazar says. “But with this game, this 50% that I put in there, I was like, ‘Oof, that’s a lot and people who know me are going to know what I am.'”
Working full time, Salazar didn’t have much time to see his piece come to life during rehearsals. However, she’s seen enough to be excited about the play’s premiere next week. She particularly noted the natural flow of the actors, remarking that the actors appeared as if they had been together forever.
For viewers, Salazar noted that “the pandemic has really damaged the bonds” between people and their friends and family, leading to some of the loneliness that replica will explore, and she hopes this piece will inspire people to find ways to reconnect.
“I hope they will take a step back and try to find those connections or get help if they need it,” she says.
replica will be presented at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center from April 7-17 and will stream virtually from April 13-17. For more information, visit Plan-B Theater website. Read more Utah theater stories from salt lake magazine.