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Issues of aging, death at heart of 'The Coming Ice Age'

Published: Saturday, Oct. 16 2010 3:00 p.m. MDT

Elaine Jarvik

Pygmalion Theatre Company

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It is often said that writers write what they know. "Or they write as a way of struggling through what they can't figure out," said playwright Elaine Jarvik, who, in this case, has written about aging.

"Changing, aging and death, these are interesting to me," she said. "And they are on a lot of people's minds and it's something we have to grapple with."

Jarvik's play "The Coming Ice Age" opens this week, produced by Pygmalion Theatre Company. "It's about the sort of refugee status that society — and sometimes our own bodies — forces people into as they age.

"We just get to a point in old age, and we're kind of refugees there."

The play is about an older couple with thoughts of their own mortality, facing the decision of moving out of the home they lived in for 40 years. "You know, your house is like an old friend, and we can get so attached to our homes," Jarvik said.

Starring David Phillips, Dee Mancuso, Teri Cowan and Winkie Horman, Jarvik notes that wherever you are in life, there is a character to relate to. "And I'm just so amazed by these people," she said of the cast. "It's way better than I would have imagined it to be. Every night, to be able to go to rehearsal and watch them work, and talk about my characters, I feel like the luckiest person in the world."

Jarvik worked as a reporter at the Deseret News for over 20 years and recently began writing plays. Her short play, "Dead Right," was produced at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in 2008. "The Coming Ice Age," is a prequel to that play.

"While at the festival, I was homesick and trying to figure out what to do with myself when I wasn't watching plays. So I started writing," she said.

As a reporter, Jarvik's work also frequently explored issues related to aging. "What struck me when I did that series [on aging] and I would visit nursing homes, is how some have lost their identity and the way society treats them — just that invisibility of old people. And one day you start to notice yourself in that group.

"On the other hand, I've met so many old people who are so full of life and I wanted to honor that, too. The characters represent both types," she said.

"In the end, it's really about you are sort of refugee as an old person, but you can find refuge in the strangest places."

If you go:

What: "The Coming Ice Age," Pygmalion Theatre Company

When: Oct. 22 - Nov. 6

Where: Rose Wagner Theatre, 138 W. Broadway

How much: $20

Phone: 801-355-2787

Web: www.arttix.org

e-mail: ehansen@desnews.com

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