‘Bubbleheads’ Depicts Hard Realities of Divorce and Remarriage

“Bubbleheads,” a one-act play written by Darcy Heller Sternberg, is a surreal, dreamlike look at the world of divorce and remarriage. The play imagines experiencing these events from the perspective of a child. The dialogue and interactions parallel the confusion and frustration a child feels as she watches her family fall apart. Theater for the New City’s Dream Up Festival will present the play’s world premiere September 8 to 12, 2015 at Producers’ Club Theaters, 358 West 44th Street, directed by Heather Chamberlain.

In the beginning we meet the Child, who has been forced to witness her parents’ remarriages. The characters don’t have names and are rather identified by their role in the family as they appear to the child. For instance, each wife the father remarries is numbered and he is currently with Number 4. The Child is alienated from her family and her parents hardly make time for her, treating her in a stern and formal way. Though perceiving the situation through a child’s eyes in some ways manipulates its actuality, it grants us a deep clarity and honesty in understanding what it is like to experience the shifting dynamic of this family.

For example, her new ‘siblings’ are a bunch of beanie babies that represent various ages, races and backgrounds, speaking to the way the new family that is imposed on the Child feels foreign and unreachable, much like inanimate objects. The Child struggles to figure out where she fits in and must navigate a world where her parents ignore her, her new stepbrother offers her drugs, and reality and her nightmares meld into one horrific dreamlike state. Her isolation throughout the play shows how adding to her family’s size only makes her that much more alone.

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David Dawes, ToniKwadzogah, Nicholas De Sibio, Taylor Lane Ross and Emily Spadaford. Photo by Kevin McNair.

“Bubbleheads” is told using childhood imagery, such as songs, games and puppets. For instance, Daddy’s new wife, Number 4, is a hand puppet and we find out that she was literally purchased in a store and even has a tag inside her mouth. The commoditization of people emphasizes marriage as a transaction and the way the Child perceives each new spouse as a thing to obtain rather than a bond based on love.

Ironically, the Child is the most mature member of this family and often takes on more of a parental role than either parent does, speaking to the way the split in her family forces her to grow up quickly.

A haunting line in the play is, “What do I have to do for you to see me?” This Child is invisible, struggling to be loved and heard by her family while caught between having to grow up fast and clinging to the childhood she never got to enjoy. (bubbleheadstheplay.weebly.com)

Author Darcy Heller Sternberg is a playwright and actress. In addition to “Bubbleheads,” her written works include “Welcome Home Rosemary” and “Hearts Afire,” which will premiere at The New York International Fringe Festival this August 2015. She has acted in shows ranging from Off Off Broadway in New York City to Fringe Theatre in London. She received training at the Guildford School of Acting in England. She has had essays published in the New York Times, Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine, Litchfield County Times and Caregiver.com. She received her BA from Northwestern University and her MA from Indiana University.

Director Heather Chamberlain has directed/produced for the Los Angeles and New York stage, performed as a physical actor/clown/classical dancer on the Las Vegas Strip, done underground/guerrilla theatre in Detroit and studied with the masters of dance and theatre all over the U.S. She is the founder of New York City Artists, an online community devoted to promoting NYC artists of all disciplines at no charge to the artist.

The cast includes David Dawes, Toni Kwadzogah, Frederick Philp Jr., Becca Shulbank-Smith, Nicholas De Sibio and Emily Spadaford.

The sixth Dream Up Festival (www.dreamupfestival.org) will be presented by Theater for the New City (TNC) from August 30 to September 20, 2015, offering a lineup of wide-ranging and original theatrical visions embracing drama, musicals, improv, aerial and more. This year, owing to growing popularity, the festival has expanded beyond its primary venue. Previously, all productions were presented at Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. This year, 19 productions will be presented at TNC and seven will be presented at an outside venue, The Producers Club Theaters at 358 West 44th Street.

The festival is dedicated to new works. TNC feels this festival is especially needed now in a time of declining donations to the arts, when grants are not being awarded due to market conditions and arts funding is being cut across the country and abroad. The festival aims to push ideas to the forefront through imaginative presentations so as to challenge audience expectations and make us question our understanding of the way art illuminates the world around us.

The show is presented by Theater for the New City (Crystal Field, Artistic Director) as part of the Dream Up Festival 2015 from September 8 to September 12. Performances are September 8 at 9:00 PM, September 9 at 6:30 PM, September 10 at 9:00 PM, September 11 at 6:30 PM and September 12 at 2:00 PM at the Producers’ Club Theaters, 358 West 44th Street. Tickets are $15. Box office is (212) 254-1109. You can find more information and purchase tickets at www.dreamupfestival.org.