Getting older is not what people think. If you are familiar with AARP, for instance, the myth that retired folks sit around knitting by the window, or just passing the days having breakfast at McDonald’s is something that organizations like AARP have vigorously fought to dispel. But exactly how active are older folks? What are they really doing? What is it like to live in an adult community? In a retirement community or home? I bet few of us think about our parents or grandparents having sex, or partying through the night, smoking pot, and getting sexually transmitted diseases. In SUNSET VILLAGE, a new play by Michael Presley Bobbitt, debuting at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival in early August, the playwright opens the door to a world few of us realize exists. By far, one of the most anticipated productions of the festival, this particular play is sure to make a mark! Michael Presley Bobbitt spoke to LocalTheatreNY and shared some insights into SUNSET VILLAGE.
LocalTheatreNY.com: Older folks, in a senior community, acting like wild teenagers, rock and roll, sex, drugs? How was this concept born? Tell us about the genesis of the story.
Michael Presley Bobbitt: Here in Florida, everyone knows about the largest retirement community in the state, after which Sunset Village is patterned. People talk in innuendo and hushed tones about the wild times happening there. My wonderful inlaws were visiting to see another production of mine and this community came up in conversation. One of them casually said, "You should write a play about this, Michael". It was a eureka moment. Light bulbs sparked to light above all our heads. We talked about it all morning, and my wife continued to bring up the idea over the coming days. I dug into researching the place and people who live there, and indeed found countless stories of a senior-citizen Neverland where sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll live on. More importantly, though, I found people dealing with a kind of acute existential angst that we all contemplate from time to time, but in the twilight of life seems to permeate every aspect of their lives. There were deep human issues to explore in the wild times and in the quiet ones.
LocalTheatreNY.com: Tell is about the characters! Who are they? What are they going through? How would you describe their conflict?
Michael Presley Bobbitt: Edna, the main character, is a recent widow from a 43 marriage to the only boy she ever kissed. Her only son is dead and she finds herself alone in the world in the Atlanta suburbs. She moves to Sunset Village because she couldn't think of anything else to do with her life. She meets Norma, Louise, and Mikayla and is quickly initiated into a defacto old-lady gang. Edna crosses paths with Sunset Village's most notorious playboy, Mr. Midnight. What begins as a dalliance turns more serious and exposes a culture clash between the demure Edna and the poster boy for Sunset Village's excesses. Edna is forced to reexamine her world view or risk spending her remaining days alone. Set against the backdrop of swinging sex parties, ecstasy-fueled line dancing and a relentless parade of time-filling activities from sword fighting to beekeeping, everyone is trying to outrun the sunset.
LocalTheatreNY.com: You mentioned how well this will play in your hometown in Florida. What is - in your opinion - the appeal of this theme?
Michael Presley Bobbitt: SUNSET VILLAGE's appeal comes from the fun and taboo nature of thinking about our grandparents being the same kind of degenerates that we have all been at some point in our lives. Who doesn't think it's funny to see old people at a rave or having sex in their golf cart in the parking lot of the supermarket? This silliness is disarming to the audience, and makes it possible to introduce heavier issues that we all face in our lives. The best art can hope for is to create a way for disparate people to commune about some shared part of the human condition. We are all going to age, decline and die. SUNSET VILLAGE is a story about different ways to deal with the certainty of our demise.
LocalTheatreNY.com: Please talk about the evolution of the play in terms of how it has changed, and continues to change. Are you still making tweaks? If so, please tell us what kind of changes.
Michael Presley Bobbitt: I have been relentlessly working and reworking the script for SUNSET VILLAGE over the past 6 months. We have a largely finished script in advance of our August 5th opening, though minor tweaks and turns of phrases are being polished even now.
LocalTheatreNY.com: Being that it the “Broadway Bound” Festival, where do you hope to see this story go after the festival. Where do you see the greatest potential?
Michael Pressly Bobbitt: The folks at the Broadway Bound Theater Festival have been an invaluable resource in learning the difference between the local/regional theater I have been producing here in Florida, and the bigger stages of New York. I've always been a person who dreams of wider horizons, and I am working every day to be able to tell my stories to the widest audience possible. I have commensurate expectations for SUNSET VILLAGE. After its regional premier in Florida, I have plans to tour the show at large scale retirement community theaters around the southeast, and I'm hoping it gets the attention of producers in New York. I envision a television version of the play, a sharper-edged Golden Girls for the 21st century. If you're reading this and want to talk about a production of this play or any of my others, check out my playwright page at www.michaelpresleybobbitt.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SUNSET VILLAGE can be seen at The Broadway Bound Theatre Festival beginning early August. The dates are Sunday, August 5 at 5:00pm, Monday, August 6th at 5:00pm, and Tuesday, August 7th at 8:30pm. The festival will take place at the Theater at The 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street (at 14th Street and 1st Avenue), New York, NY 10003 (Front desk is 646-395-4310). Tickets can be purchased by linking here: https://bit.ly/2zL8pT2
General Admission: $25 online / $30 at the door. Running Time: 90 minutes. No Intermission
*Please note this production contains adult themes and use of weapons. Recommended for ages 12 & older.*