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'The Cake' By 'This Is Us' Writer, Producer At La Jolla Playhouse

February 7, 2018 1:41 p.m.

'The Cake' By 'This Is Us' Writer, Producer At La Jolla Playhouse

GUEST:

Bekah Brunstetter, playwright, "The Cake"

Related Story: 'The Cake,' By 'This Is Us' Writer, Producer, Comes to La Jolla Playhouse

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

You are listening to KPBS Midday Edition. A play can go through years of workshops before it is ready to make its debut. The idea that the subject of a play is also being decided by the Supreme Court is remarkable. The work in question is called the cake. It is about the controversy surrounding a Baker's refusal to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The court case will be decided later this year. The issues raised in the play may be food for thought for a long time. Maureen Cavanaugh spoke with the author of the cake. She is also a writer and producer for this is us. Here's the interview .
>> Welcome to the program .
>> Thank you .
>> Your work on the play started long before the legal case. Whited the conflict over wedding cakes and gay marriage peak your interest?
>> I am a fan of cake. And the baking world. And baking reality competition. When I heard about what had happened in Colorado, it instantly grabbed my attention because it is huge as a philosophical conflict centered around something so beautiful and lovely and universal. A cake. Is meant to make people happy and bring them joy. I was fascinated. I honestly did not do much research into the actual case. At the time I used it as a springboard for my play .
>> There is an irony about a wedding cake being a divisive issue because baking and marriage have so much to do with love and family. With this issue be divisive in your own family?
>> Absolutely. It is. And it has been. And it will continue to be. Which is another reason I was brought into right this play. I happen to be straight. My parents are lovely and strong conservative Christians. Since I since high school have had close friends and theater colleagues who were gay, and it started to create a huge divide because I knew how my parents felt and I knew how I felt and I did not know how to reconcile those two things. The great thing about working on the play for me on a personal level is that it has forced me to have conversations about it with my parents. Even though I am fortunate that when I got married, when I married my husband a year and a half ago, there was not a drama over the cake. That was my privilege. I cannot help but imagine what would happen were I to be wanting to marry a woman and imagining that situation makes me want to be able to communicate with my parents and communicate with people who share their values and try to find a middle ground of some kind .
>> Some people going to see the cake may have an instinctive sympathy for Jen and Macy, the gay couple. Tells about Della, the Baker, and why she is not the villain in this play.
>> That was important to me. It was why I set out to write the play to begin with. I have never seen a play where a conservative person was the hero. What I set out to do was to introduce an audience to a conservative character, hopefully have them develop affection for the character, and then reveal the beliefs. And then put the audience in the situation where they have to reconcile those two feelings. I love this person but I do not agree with what they're saying. What do I do with that? I think a lot of people in this country are in that situation with their own families. And, when you live or work in a liberal community, Hollywood and Los Angeles or New York or any major city in the country, liberal values pervade and if you have family members with conservative values, at least for me I have heard other people speak to this as well, you develop a sense of shame about the empathy that you feel for your own family members. I find that to be said. I really wanted Della to be at the forefront of the play, to be really human, and I wanted to tell a story in which she does change and she does open her mind but in a way that is grounded and believable, not an overnight change of belief systems. Humanizing her was incredibly important to me .
>> You said that your parents have seen the play. Has it opened up the dialogue in your own family between you and your parents and have you reached an understanding?
>> I feel like I was able to express to them when I am wrestling with through the play. To be honest, it is not like we are now having weekly salons in which we discussed our opposing beliefs. It has not been a massive change. It feels like small steps toward a new level of understanding. At least for me, I feel like I am done keeping my beliefs from them, and protecting them from my beliefs. If nothing else, it is 100% clear to me how I feel and that feels good.
>> You are a writer and producer for NBC's hit show this is us. I wonder if you could tell us about the differences you find in writing for TV and writing for the stage .
>> One thing I love about TB writing is that I am part of the team. I am not the sole writer. It is the grandchild of my boss. Most of what we do comes from his brilliant brain. I am part of the staff that helps execute the vision. On any given day at work, we are coming up with story ideas and episodes together. While I am working on the play, it is truly just my vision. So, it is nice to get a relief from that in the TV world and it is nice to get back to theater and work on something that is just mine. The two types of writing complement each other in that way. I think it is why you find a lot of playwrights doing television now .
>> The cake runs through March 4 at the La Jolla Playhouse. I have been speaking with the playwright. Becca, thank you .
>> Thank you.