Harbur Gate

Harbur Gate

by Kathleen Cahill

directed by Tamilla Woodard

Originally produced at Salt Lake Acting Company, Salt Lake City, UT

February 8 to March 12, 2017

About the Premiere Production:

Synopsis: Composed of three interconnected plays, HARBUR GATE dramatizes the lives of three female veterans of the Iraq war and how they are tied together by one explosive, secret event. Between the three plays, appearing in the atmosphere like a dream, is the moving image of a military convoy travelling through the desert at night… and in the shadows, a balletic representation of a secret attack that effected all three female soldiers. The first play in the series is a ghost story set in 2005, during the period of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, in which Carey and Chad, roommates, both medics and veterans in the Iraq war who bonded through being in combat together—are up for the medal of the Purple Heart. The theme of ghosts, returns in the second play which goes back in time, to the night that Alyson, an experienced and tough-as-nails Marine, and a younger Marine, Vinnie Russo, are driving a truck in a convoy across the Iraqi desert at night. Vinnie’s fears are expressed as anger and taunts over being in a truck with a female Marine, until their ongoing verbal conflict is literally exploded by an IED and they become, at the end, what they actually are: the ghosts of two dedicated Marines who need each other. In the third and final play, we meet Michelle, and John in an American park in 2007. She is another Marine veteran who was involved in that same convoy explosion -- although in an entirely different way – and now suffers from what is probably undiagnosed PTSD . John reveals that he is also a vet who “lost his eyes in Iraq.” He’s a painter – a blind painter who turns out to be a kind of spiritual guide who leads Michelle from distress and internal conflict to a kind of peace. She confesses for the first time that she was attacked and raped by two fellow Marines – an event which caused Alyson to be sent in her place – on the convoy that ultimately led to her death. John invites the emotionally wounded Michelle to imagine a radically transforming image of herself. The play culminates with Michelle walking forward – into one of John’s paintings, into a transcendent image of light.

Artistic Statement: Salt Lake Acting Company has been commissioning, developing and producing new plays for the past 46 years, making a significant contribution not only to our local arts community but to the American theatre as a whole.


SLAC was introduced to playwright Kathleen Cahill in 2009 when she presented us with her play CHARM to read. CHARM was performed as a part of our NPSS and produced in 2010. Since then SLAC has produced 2 more of Kathleen plays, numerous readings and has welcomed her as one of our playwrights in residence. Through her intelligent, playful use of language, Kathleen takes our audience ‘where no one has gone before’; she merges the past with the present, the serious with the funny, the vintage with contemporary and the tragic with enlightenment.


HARBUR GATE is an enthralling addition to our season at SLAC as it is so timely. The play reveals that the damages of war are not just those inflicted by the enemy. Some of the most profound wounds are inflicted from within our own ranks of soldier, civilian and self. The play also focuses its narrative on the kinds of soldiers not often written about, those service people who are also female and/or gay. Kathleen’s impressive amount of research with female and transgendered female veterans during the creation of this play bolsters the authenticity of the characters. It brings attention to the special kind of stress and distress reserved for those who may be seen to exist outside of the usual mold and image of soldier. These topics are not often seen on the theatrical stage, and thus, HARBUR GATE is the catalyst to begin these important discussions among audiences nationwide. This play has inspired many possibilities to engage with our community during the run of HARBUR GATE, including partnerships with veteran organizations and the creation of a free, public panel discussion. "

Grant Statement: SLAC has budgeted for three weeks of rehearsal for HARBUR GATE. The generous grant from the Edgerton Foundation will allow for two additional weeks to extend the rehearsal period to five weeks total. The additional weeks will provide the necessary time for script exploration and character development, to delve into the rich characters and to help the actors meet the demands of the script. Especially important in the production of this story is the key element of authenticity. SLAC will be arranging time for the actors to meet with female veterans to explore the intricacies of boot camp, travelling in a convoy and combat with the final goal of fully understanding the experience of being a Marine.

Cast: Ariana Farber, Natalia Noble, Topher Rasmussen, Lane Richins, Matthew Sincell, Cassandra Stokes-Wylie


Set Designer: Shannon Robert

Lighting Designer: Jesse Portillo

Costume Designer: Erin West

Sound Designer: Jennifer Jackson

Projection Design: Joshua Roberts

Stage Manager: Jennie Sant

Additional Funders : Zoo, Arts and Parks Program, Salt Lake City Arts Council, Utah Division of Arts & Museums, George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation, The Shubert Foundation