Family, the one we’re given and the one we create, is at the center of Baby GirL, a new play which makes its world premiere at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale Friday, July 13.
The play is the first from actor, director and now playwright Kim Ehly, a South Florida resident who has appeared in productions at many local theaters, often at the now-defunct Sol Theatre, which formerly occupied the intimate Empire Stage space.
Baby GirL centers on Ashley, described as a spirited daydreamer, who is alienated by her adoptive family when she comes out as a lesbian. Ashley then embarks on a journey to find love and a place to call home.
While Ehly is careful not to give away too much, she says coming out to her family was “a challenging situation.”
Baby GirL is based on her experiences, with one caveat.
“Nothing is truly autobiographical because it’s my perception of reality,” says Ehly, who is also directing her play, but decided against being part of the cast. “I lived most of it already,” she says. “I don’t want to be in it.”
Ehly has a healthy attitude about overcoming the lack of objectivity typical when one person is both the playwright and also the director.
“Sometimes I’ll say, ‘Oh good, the writer gave us a gift in this part,’ and then in another part I’ll say, ‘What was this f***ing writer thinking?’”
Ehly originally envisioned Baby GirL as a screenplay, and began working on it after September 11, 2001. She had a staged reading of the screenplay a few years ago at The Women’s Theatre Project in Fort Lauderdale, where many in the audience encouraged her to make it a play.
For Ehly, a 28-year theater veteran, that was right up her alley, and she began converting her screenplay into a play. A staged reading of BabyGirL was presented at New Theatre in Coral Gables.
“I was overwhelmed by the response to the reading,” Ehly says.
Ehly has been on a two-year hiatus from acting to get her master’s degree in psychotherapy from Florida Atlantic University, an aspiration she’s had since high school. She’s set to graduate in May 2013.
Ehly sees a marriage between her theater career and psychotherapy.
“I think they work well together,” she says. “I’d like to do psychodrama. I’d like to apply some of the things into my therapy practice that can be translated from theatre. Believe it or not, there are a lot of skills from acting that translate into being a therapist.”
In producing Baby GirL, Ehly formed her own theater company, Kutumba Theatre Project, with a mission to focus on works and the development of works that give a voice to the LGBT community, women's interests, and other underserved communities. That mission is in line with the meaning of the word Kutumba---to leap, to strut proudly, a unique bond amongst community members, family or kin. Her goal is to produce another show next season and then produce a few shows each year.
Ehly believes that although Baby GirL is semiautobiographical, the essence of it will resonate with audiences.
“We choose our own family,” says Ehly. “Relationships are what life boils down to. For me, theater is a metaphor for life. It’s all a process and you don’t get ahead of that process. And if you’re living your life in the moment, that’s the best thing you can do.”
Baby GirL runs July 13 through August 5, at Empire Stage, 1140 North Flagler Dr. Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. For more information call 954-678-1496. For tickets, visit: www.smarttix.com or www.empirestage.com.