October 20, 2023
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Laura Esping) shaking hands with Sandra Day O'Connor (Patty Mathews). (Photo by Sarah Whiting)
When picking out productions to present in Six Points Theater’s seasons, Producing Artistic Director Barbara Brooks tends to choose shows that revolve around important topics that will resonate with audience members.
“I look for plays that are thought-provoking and bold, you know, that make a statement that are relevant to what’s going on in our lives, in our community and in the world now,” Brooks said.
This reasoning is why Brooks chose “Sisters in Law,” a play about the first two female Supreme Court justices, to be part of Six Points Theater’s 29th season. The show, based on the novel of the same name by Linda Hirshman, runs Oct. 21-Nov. 5.
The play, which spans over 40 years, follows the careers of Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, played by actresses Patty Mathews and Laura Esping respectively, who were the first two women to serve on the Supreme Court. Despite O’Connor and Ginsburg’s different backgrounds and political ideologies, they were still able to find common ground and work together, an aspect of the show that Brooks finds particularly relevant and compelling.
“They bridge that gap, and that is something that I think is so missing right now as a country,” Brooks said. “A lot of people are polarized and they’re set in their beliefs, but we have to find a way to work together and that’s what these two women did.”
Jonathan Shapiro, the playwright of “Sisters in Law,” said the actual writing process for the show only took around two months. According to Shapiro, being a newspaper reporter for a few years and a trial lawyer for 10 made him accustomed to tight deadlines.
When Shapiro was commissioned to write the play, he said he approached writing the show as a fan of the theater. A self-proclaimed “theater-goer,” he wrote the show how he would want to see it performed onstage as an audience member.
“It freed me to write a play that every page of it and every line of it is something that I would enjoy watching great actresses do,” Shapiro said.
On the production side, Director Laura Stearns said she “jumped at” the opportunity to work with Six Points Theater again, especially in a major leadership position. Stearns, who has been involved with the performing arts since her youth, has worked on and off with the theater company for over 10 years in a variety of positions, from acting to stage managing to wig supervising.
“It’s just really exciting and fun for me to move into the position of directing with them,” Stearns said. “It’s kind of coming full circle.”
“Sisters in Law” holds a high level of importance to Stearns, as she said she didn’t start paying attention to the Supreme Court in earnest until she started having children and had to think more about the world around her. Now, Stearns and everyone in her circle has been paying closer attention to the nation’s highest court, especially in recent years.
“It [the Supreme Court] just became more important to me as a person living on the planet and as a woman in the United States,” Stearns said.
The rehearsal process for “Sisters in Law” has been quick, with the cast only getting 12 rehearsals before the technical week started. But, both actresses came to the first meeting almost completely memorized, something Stearns said helped greatly with the entire process. The director added her background knowledge in many different areas of the theater helped aid in rehearsals because she understood the show and its details from every angle possible.
Stearns hopes the audience learns more about the United States court system and both of the justices highlighted in the show, especially O’Connor, as she was more of an “enigma” than Ginsburg. Ultimately, the director wants attendees to gain a complete understanding of the significant contributions that both women had on the U.S. justice system.
“What I want people to walk away with is appreciation for the foundation of what these two women did so that we are now able to have four women on the Supreme Court,” Stearns said. “We wouldn’t have that today if it weren’t for these two women.”
Tickets for “Sisters in Law” are available on Six Points Theater’s website.