In the wake of a worldwide pandemic shutdown, an earthquake that shook Salt Lake City and sudden isolation from others, Teah (Estephani Cerros), a single, LDS woman, goes to see a therapist and instead finds herself on a dating show. Aftershock, by Utah playwright Iris Salazar, will premiere next week at Plan-B Theatre, following the story of Teah as she, prompted by her therapist/game show host (Yolanda Stange), takes a step back to inspect not just life and dating, but also herself and her loneliness.
Salazar took the inspiration for this play from both her own experience as a single woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and from others’ experiences around her. “It’s 50% things I’ve actually seen or experienced and 50% made up,” she says.
Salazar had been wanting to write a play about single LDS people, and before the pandemic had written another story about a group of single LDS women that she described as more “cutesy.” But that wasn’t what she was aiming for with this play—she wanted to write more honestly and not sugarcoat the often painful experiences of single people in a religion that strongly emphasizes marriage. After shelving this previous play for a while, Salazar drew inspiration for Aftershock from social media posts she saw from other women openly describing the loneliness, depression and isolation they were experiencing in the pandemic. Salazar says this seemed to especially impact single LDS people, since they do not commonly move in with their partners without being married.
She says it was a challenge to write about therapy and living alone—she herself lives with her mom and brother. To create the character of Teah, she relied on her own interpretations of social media posts about others’ experiences. “I couldn’t relate to that loneliness that I would see people post about on Facebook, so I really had to explore that,” Salazar says.
That doesn’t mean Salazar avoided writing about her own emotions—there are still aspects to Teah that Salazar relates with. She says this personal connection makes this play unique compared to previous plays she has written. Salazar says she typically resists sharing her personal life onstage, but Aftershock required her to be a lot more vulnerable and open about her own emotions.
“I’m more hesitant to share personal things,” Salazar says. “But with this play, that 50% that I did put in there, I was like ‘Oof, this is a lot and people who know me are going to know what’s me.’”
Working a full-time job, Salazar hasn’t had much time to see her play comes to life in rehearsals. However, she has seen enough to feel excited about the play’s premiere next week. She particularly noted the natural flow of the actors, remarking that the actors appeared like they had been together forever.
For the viewers, Salazar noted that “the pandemic has really damaged connections” between people and their friends and family, resulting in some of the loneliness that Aftershock will explore, and she hopes that this play inspires people to find ways to reconnect.
“I hope that they take a step back and try to find those connections again or get help if they need help,” she says.
Aftershock will be performed at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center April 7-17, and will stream virtually April 13-17. For more information, visit Plan-B Theatre’s website. Read more Utah theater stories from Salt Lake magazine.