Theatre Aquarius has made a gripping choice for its next production, one embodying mature and realistic notions of modern families and identity. Never Not Once is an award winning drama by American playwright Carey Crim. The National New Play Network describes the 2017 play as “theatrically satisfying and socially urgent.” Ron Ulrich, Aquarius’ own Artistic Director, directs this ensemble piece which opens October 23rd.
Eleanor Davis (Stephanie Hope Lawlor) is an Ivy League biology student who brings her boyfriend Rob (Wilex Ly) home to visit her parents, a lesbian couple named Nadine (Nehassaiu deGannes) and Allison (Raquel Duffy). Once home, Eleanor drops a bombshell with her intention to locate her biological father. Her birth mother Allison is reticent; she maintains he was simply a participant in a ‘forgettable’ one night stand, her only sexual encounter with a man. But when Nadine provides a vital clue, his first name, ‘Doug’ (Kevin Bundy), Eleanor is able to refine her search.
Eleanor’s natural desire to discover her origins leads to some unexpected and unsettling revelations, and sends the characters reeling in the aftermath. Complex threads of belonging, relationships, sexuality, violence, responsibility and redemption intertwine in an emotionally charged story.
Hamilton’s Stephanie Hope Lawlor plays Eleanor, whose fundamental desire ‘to know’ lights the wick of the plot. “The play takes each character on a tense emotional arc, so crafting that has been a challenging but ultimately fulfilling part of the process,” she relates.
Lawlor began studying her craft with Lou Zamprogna’s Performing Arts programme in Hamilton, and later graduated from McMaster University. From there, she moved on to Randolph College for the Performing Arts, eventually becoming a nominee for its Triple Threat Award.
She has performed in a variety of stage roles, including ‘Young Leda’ in Provenance (Berkeley Street Theatre), and ‘Liesl’ in The Sound of Music (Theatre Aquarius). Local theatre lovers may well recall her recent turns in the title role of Rook’s Theatre’s productions of Mary’s Wedding.
The very busy Lawlor is the Artistic Director behind Rook’s Theatre. She is also an acting coach, and a teaching artist who heads up the Theatre Department at the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts. Along with Vicktoria Adam, Stephanie runs The Actor’s Forge, a working group for local theatre professionals which has support from Theatre Aquarius.
And, not only has Stephanie had the experience of a previous Theatre Aquarius main stage production, 2013’s The Sound of Music, she has been involved with two of its Studio shows, One Night Only (2018) and Treasure Island (2019).
Director Ron Ulrich reached out to Lawlor directly to come in and read for the role. “We had a great conversation about the play, the subject matter, the playwright,” Lawlor recounts. “I loved the play as soon as I read it, so I knew this was a project I wanted to work on.”
“I love that it’s a story about women and about the connection between family and how powerful it can be,” she explains. “My character, Eleanor, is on a journey to find where she comes from, and the answer isn’t so cut–and–dried. That has been a really exciting journey to explore.”
Never Not Once picked up the Jane Chambers 2017 Award for feminist playwriting. BroadwayWorld has lauded it as ‘beautiful,’ ‘searing’ and ‘timely.’ As for Lawlor, she says, “The best feeling is walking away from a show feeling like you grew as an artist, and I certainly feel that on this show.”
“It doesn’t shy away from some tough subject matter,” she says. “It asks hard questions. I think it’s a show that will speak to young people — university aged folks, definitely.”
Stephanie Hope Lawlor believes that Never Not Once will ultimately be moving to “anybody who has ever felt the power of family, whether that be the family you’re born into or the one you create.” V
NEVER NOT ONCE
Oct. 23 – Nov. 9, 2019
190 King William St., Hamilton
(905) 522 - 7529