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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Gets First Look At ‘Life’s Vacation’ Premiering Play Finds Humor In A Serious Subject

‘How I Spent My Life’s Vacation’

Time and location: tonight and continues through Feb. 18 at the Spokane Civic Theatre’s Firth Chew Studio Theatre, N1020 Howard. Curtain time is 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. on Sunday Feb. 12.

Tickets: $8, call 325-2507

‘How I Spent My Life’s Vacation” will arrive full-fledged into the world at precisely 8 tonight at the Studio Theatre.

Like the birth of a baby, it’ll be an event accompanied by joy and anxiety, but with an even longer gestation period.

“Two of the monologues in this play were written 15 years ago,” said playwright Rita Nachtmann of New York, who is in Spokane to revise the script, and witness the premiere. “But the play as it is now has been in existence for about two to three years.”

It has had a number of staged readings and has been “sitting on a lot of desks.” But, she said, tonight will be her first chance to “see it on its feet.”

The play is premiering here because of a connection she made long ago with Bryan Harnetiaux, the Civic’s playwright-in-residence. She met Harnetiaux in Spokane in 1982, when she was an actress doing a touring solo show. They kept in touch, and she sent him a copy of “How I Spent My Life’s Vacation.”

Harnetiaux read it, liked it, and suggested to the Civic that it would be perfect for a production in the Studio Theatre, which is the Civic’s small “black-box” stage. And that’s how Nachtmann found herself flying out to Spokane for rehearsals earlier this month.

The play is about a woman who is awaiting a pathology test result, which will reveal her chances of surviving her cancer. She is suddenly faced with the possibility of an early death.

“She goes back to all the teachers in her life to put together a spiritual package for herself, so she can step into the afterlife with a spiritual calm,” said Nachtmann.

As unlikely as it sounds, the play is a comedy.

“When there are periods of such great sorrow and sadness in my life, if you give in to that, you don’t have a life,” said Nachtmann. “You have to have some humor about it.”

The comedy resides in the characters, which include her ancient Latin teacher, Miss Stickler, and her eccentric Aunt Ida.

The play has some autobiographical aspects for Nachtmann. She lost both her sister and father to cancer. She says the play is not about cancer, which is only mentioned briefly, but is about rekindled faith and love.

Nachtmann, an Illinois native, got into writing by an unusual route: through mime. She performed in a mime troupe throughout the country in the 1970s, even performing at the White House for President Gerald Ford.

While writing and developing mime performances, she fell in love with writing. She still works as an actress for voice-overs in commercials (you may have heard her on a Minute Maid commercial), but her focus is writing. She has written several other plays, and she teaches writing in New York.

She lives in New York with her husband, two dogs, three cats and 10 fish tanks.

The Studio Theatre production is directed by Kimberly J. Roberts. The cast features Tami Grady, Paul Benson, Robbin Paeper, Peter A. Urio, Brad Fondiler, Signe Nall, Ron Ragone, Virginia Peterson, and Christopher S. Mulvaney.

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