Playwright and Sedona resident Irmgard Lake doesn’t shy away from controversial topics. She prefers to address them head on and said, “they need to be talked about.”
In her new play “Morley,” Lake explores the cultural decay left behind by the 1960s and ‘70s and how the outspoken pacifism of this era was riddled in hypocrisy as well as instances of herd mentality.
“On one hand, the new freedoms brought on by the counterculture were good, but on the other hand, we need know to think for ourselves,” Lake said.
Lake and the cast have been workshopping and rehearsing the play since May. The play will have its first full production by Red Earth Theatre on the weekend of Nov. 10 at the Sedona Hub.
Based on true events, “Morley” is about a charismatic college professor in the late 1970s who seduces one of his students, the protagonist of the play, Mimi. Over time, Mimi begins to see a sexual predator and megalomaniac beneath Morley’s larger-than-life brilliance following the disappearance of a young woman who used to have a relationship with him.
Although set nearly 40 years ago, the theme of the play is timeless and hits a particularly topical note now, especially amidst the Harvey Weinstein allegations and other contemporary situations where people in positions of power use their status to take advantage of others.
Kate Hawkes, producing artistic director of Red Earth Theatre, said the play is also particularly relevant to Sedona as New Age leaders and gurus come and go.
“It’s easy to be fooled by someone who is charismatic and who says a lot of truth,” she said. "People tend to become blind and don’t always see abuse in sexual predators.
Hawkes said working with Lake on the play has been a rewarding experience because Lake “has no ego.” “[Lake] is German so there was a bit of a language barrier but she took feedback well,” Hawkes said. “She wants it to be a good play. It’s been a collaborative process.”
Lake agreed that the process was an overall positive experience for her, as well. “The cast all agreed with the theme of the play from the beginning,” she said. For Dylan Reece, who plays Morley, the acting process has been intellectually challenging not only because of the subject matter, but also because of the nature of the character he is portraying.
“As an actor, I can’t make judgements,” Reece said. “I find him repugnant though. I feel sorry for people so detached, it’s not even human.”
Cathie Ransom plays Melanie, a longtime friend and lover of Morley, and said she found the script so compelling when she first picked it up, she couldn’t put it down.
“I like Irmgard’s characters .... [Morley] is still relevant today,” she said. “The theme is timeless.”
While members of the cast of “Morley” agree that it’s an important play to see, the subject matter may not be appropriate for all ages.
“I don’t want people to take their kids to this. I have a 12-year-old ... I won’t take her to this,” Ransom said. “I’ve discussed it with her and although I think she’s very mature for her age, it’s still not appropriate for her.”
But, Ransom said, “Morley” is a play she would like her daughter to see before she goes to college.
“I want her to be aware of predators like that,” she said.
“Morley” will open at the Sedona Hub at 525B Posse Ground Road on Friday, Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. The play will also show Saturday, Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 12 at 12 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door. Buy tickets atshowtix4u.com. For more information, visit www.redearththeatre.org.