Camille Washington may have somewhat inadvertently slipped into her side gig as a playwright, but she’s certainly making the most of it these days.
The Ogden woman — who by day works as the marketing and box office manager for Onstage Ogden and by night runs Good Company Theatre with her sister, Alicia — has a new play opening this week in Salt Lake City.
“Oda Might,” a three-woman show described as “a psychological thriller blurring the lines between truth and reality,” has its world premiere Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in downtown SLC. The play is the opening production in Plan-B Theatre Company’s 2019-20 series of world premieres by local female playwrights.
Washington describes “Oda Might” as a thriller. Although the story itself appears to be a straightforward meeting between two people (a doctor and her patient), there are some supernatural elements that come into play — as well as a unique plot twist.
“The play is about a patient who has been wrongly convicted of a crime; she’s serving her sentence in a psychiatric hospital,” Washington explained. “She’s been having conversations with the doctor, and as they get closer to unveiling some truths it all kind of shifts — the whole thing shifts.”
Beyond that, Washington doesn’t really want to give away too many of the secrets in “Oda Might,” including the meaning behind the play’s intriguing title.
The work stars Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin as Patient, Yolanda Stange as Doctor, and Flo Bravo as Orderly. It’s directed by Cheryl Cluff, with costumes by Kevin Alberts, set design by Keven Myhre, and lighting by William Peterson.
Washington says having a play produced by Plan-B is “very exciting and incredibly important.” She’s written a number of plays for Good Company Theatre, but this is the first time one of her plays has been produced outside the theater she and her sister founded seven years ago.
This is also the final “Davey” premiere, the term the company uses for its partnership with The David Ross Fetzer Foundation for Emerging Artists, which solicits and develops new plays from young writers. “Oda Might” was chosen for production out of a dozen submissions from local playwrights.
“In this case, I submitted the script as a grant application,” Washington said. “The foundation gives grants to emerging playwrights 35 and younger, to have them workshopped and produced. I’m aging out — I turned 36 this year — but they accepted it. It was a competitive process and I’m really excited about it.”
In emailed remarks, play director Cheryl Cluff said she hopes the show is a catalyst for discussions on themes of “being stuck” and “truth.”
“Some people are stuck,” she wrote. “They seem to be in a loop, playing the same thing over and over. Why?”
Through the play, Cluff hopes audience members ask themselves any number of questions.
“How have I personally judged people for being stuck when I don’t know the full circumstances of their situation?” Cluff asks. “How do these two characters help each other move forward instead of being stuck? How does our society at large keep people stuck or help them move forward?”
Cluff also wonders if truth applies to all equally — including people of color, and “especially, people of color who have a criminal record?”
Washington, who with her sister runs the only black-owned theater in the state, said what excites her most about this production of “Oda Might” is that people will see something that adds “other voices in the mix.”
All three of the performers in the play are women — and women of color, too, Washington hastens to add.
“That is also just a part of what I think I do, which is to give access and voice to unheard stories that people don’t get a chance to get on stage in this way,” Washington said. “It’s important to me. There’s a dearth of really meaty plays, in particular, that focus entirely on characters — in this case, a doctor and patient — who are black.”
But while “Oda Might” is a story about two black women, Washington says it’s not the typical “upliftment” story about social change, “where the weight of the oppression of black people in America is resolved and explored.”
“This doesn’t do that,” she said. “This is making them human, and their obstacles human.”
The play does, however, address such timely issues as the mental health and wrongful incarceration of people of color — things that often go unexplored in the black community, according to Washington.
Washington said this Plan-B experience with “Oda Might” has helped her grow as a budding playwright; she says that was her motivating factor in applying for the Davey —to be able to collaborate with other artists through the theater company’s laboratory experiences.
“Alicia’s the theater person,” Washington said. “I joined GCT kind of as an administrator. My formal education is in art history and cultural studies. Mostly, the motivating factor for me is that I could be a part of The Lab at Plan-B. I’m not a trained playwright — I came to theater through Good Company Theatre — so this is all nice to be a part of this larger experience.”
Despite her current success, Washington says she never intended to focus her writing abilities on scripts for plays.
“Creative writing has always been a part of what I do, and I like that now I’m able to integrate it more into my work in the theater,” she said. “I’ve always done creative writing in addition to other writing, but this is nice to feel like it’s coming together into something other than just a passion.”
Of course, as co-founder of Good Company, Washington isn’t exactly a newcomer to the theater.
“We’ve been open seven years,” she said. “In that time, I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of plays, and produced 30 shows. I feel that, in itself, is an education.”
“Oda Might” continues through Nov. 17 at the Wagner Center in downtown Salt Lake City.