It’s hard to keep your music career going when you’re rudely interrupted by the Devil demanding the soul of your partner. But this struggle is precisely what The Devil and Sarah Blackwater is all about.
Written by Anthea Carns, with music and lyrics by Lauren Freman who also plays the title role of Sarah, The Devil and Sarah Blackwater is receiving its world premiere at 30-year-old local theatre collective Annex Theatre.
As part of the cast, actor Minna Lee plays the role of Kelly Grace McClendon. “When I first heard about the show, I knew that I just had to be involved with it somehow because the imagination was so rich and the collection of characters were so unique,” Lee said. “Also, I’m super queer and I am always here for a show that promotes thoughtful queer characters and relationships.”
Lee found numerous connections with her character Kelly. “I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll say that she and I have a lot of similarities,” Lee said. “We are both the same age, we’re both queer, we were both English majors, and both of us are afraid of the void.”
But it’s the relationships in this play that Lee finds most compelling. “I find Kelly’s love for Sarah to be the most interesting part to explore in her character because Kelly’s vulnerability really shows whenever they are together or even when she’s just talking about Sarah,” she said. “All of that tough lesbian armor just tumbles off and she becomes mushy. It’s cute.”
Connections with the rest of the show’s cast are also satisfying for Lee. “We’re a real family here and we look out for each other constantly,” she said. “Everyone is so fun to watch onstage and they’re each such generous performers to work with.”
Lee believes that Annex Theatre deliberately cultivates this kind of positive working environment. “This theatre is a special place that gives artists the chance to explore new stories and break down barriers,” she said. “They brought Cessa Betancourt onto the team as our Intimacy Director who assisted in guiding actors through particular scenes that involved more contact.”
The position of Intimacy Director brings new recognition to the challenges faced by performers who must enact romance and sexuality on stage with other actors whom they may have met only recently. “It was a wonderful experience to have everyone in the space understand boundaries and feel heard,” Lee said. “It’s actions like this that change theatre and makes it safer for performers.”
Lee finds the play’s context illuminating, as well. “We have an abundance of material in the world about Hell and the Devil, but Anthea Carn’s script brought such a refreshing view on those themes and the way she utilizes folklore to touch on issues with love and loss is genius,” Lee said.
“Through transferring us to Purgatory and exposing us to the Devil and other surprises, Anthea is able to help us understand our own real world better including the inner world of ourselves.”
This is Lee’s second project with Annex Theatre, and she believes that Annex’s choices of both the work they present and the manner in which they approach are what make the company compelling for artists. “I’ll always want to come back to Annex.”
The Devil and Sarah Blackwater runs February 1 to March 2 at Annex Theatre, 1100 East Pike Street, Seattle.