Guest Author - Donna Ledbetter
Hilarity, politics, science, and childbirth are rarely four things that go together all at once, but in Legacy of Light, now playing at Arena Stage in Arlington, VA, they all come together in one outstanding production. The play chronicles the experiences of four women—two mothers and two daughters—caught in a tumult of societal expectation, responsibility, and desire. Across the span of three centuries, audiences see just how unyielding motherhood can be at thwarting a woman’s best laid plans.
Emilie du Chatelet is a promising woman scientist of the 18th century wrapped in a love affair between Voltaire, father of enlightenment, and a younger but well intentioned lover who ends up fathering her child. Meanwhile, modern-day scientist Olivia has just discovered a new planet in the galaxy. She is overjoyed, but her discovery leads to inner conflict. Both women are destined to have a child, and it is the cost of such a sacrifice that drives the drama of the play.
Yet Legacy of Light is more than drama. It has intrigue, surprise, and comedy, too. It teaches us “to explore the realm of possibility and embrace love, laughter, and life to the fullest,” says Legacy of Light playwright Karen Zacharias.
First commissioned by the Arena Stage in Arlington nearly three years ago, Legacy of Light is just the latest in a long string of Zacharias’ noteworthy productions, including How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent and The Sins of Sor Juana, which won the Charles MacArthur Award for outstanding new play in 2000. She also consistently garners both international and local acclaim, having once won a DC mayor’s award for Outstanding Emerging Artist. Zacharias has a unique perspective on life and a profound ability to approach everyday living in the most uncommon of ways.
“I like to tackle emotions,” Zacharias says, “and what better way to do that than with human beings on stage.”
Zacharias certainly does tackle the emotions in Legacy of Light, and does so while leaving room for interpretation. As audiences watch the production, they are given more than one moral challenge to face. Thus, entwined with comedic relief is the weighty substance of motherhood that gives even the most fearless of women just a moment of pause.
Legacy of Light makes its world premiere this month at Arena Stage in Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia.
*Illustration by Jodi Hewgill.