A Note from the Dramaturg, Adrien-Alice Hansel

At the Wedding didn’t start off as a comedy. Playwright Bryna Turner began work on the play after reading an article about a queer teen who had died by suicide. Turner initially conceived of the piece as an issue-oriented musical aimed at teen audiences. “I was just like, ‘How do we stop queer suicide?’” Turner said. “I wanted to tell everyone not that it gets better”—referencing the widespread and widely criticized public service campaign—“but that it gets worse. And that you shouldn’t kill yourself anyway.” Turner adds, “I was in a really dark place.” 

Encountering their notes for the play a few months later, Turner had another view on it. What they’d written was an unhappy lesbian, unspooling her life story—including thoughts of suicide—to a table of kids she’s cornered at a wedding. “And I was like, ‘That’s a comedy, actually.’”  

From there, Turner built a play they describe as “a comedy about a heartbroken who lesbian goes to her ex’s wedding, maybe for closure but maybe to win the bride back.” Turner reveals in the second scene that Carlo, our heartbroken lesbian, was invited to the event but didn’t RSVP—which is how she ended up at the children’s table for the play’s opening scene.  

Over the course of the reception, Carlo dodges old enemies, connects with the kind of eager-to-chat strangers emboldened by communal wedding vibes and an open bar, and has a fateful encounter with her ex, the bride. Set on the outskirts of the wedding, Turner makes the most of the opportunities that Millennial weddings—succulents, mason jars, the Cupid Shuffle, the mother of the bride—to build Carlo’s long night of the soul.  

One unorthodox element is the play’s collision with another unexpected wedding raconteur. One of Carlo’s frequent run-ins is with high school English teacher Eli, who turns to Carlo for advice on his personal life but ends up offering advice of his own, referencing Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. This epic poem follows its eponymous cursed sailor who button holes a wedding guest to spin out a story of natural beauty, bad choices (the sailor spends much of the poem with a dead albatross around his neck), and moments of horror, shame, and a kind of beautiful terror turned partial redemption. Find a deeper dive on the Rime of the Ancient Marier here, and take a listen to Ian McKellan reading the full poem here

The initial DNA for At the Wedding is still apparent—Turner dedicates the play, ‘To the kids.’  Carlo’s slow-burn awakening to the promise of new connections, romantic and non-romantic alike, offer a vision of life in a queer community that is messy and complicated but not an un-happy ending.  “It’s not a traditional romcom,” Turner admits. “It’s a little more realistic. It’s a bit more messy life stuff—hopefully people feel like, Carlo came thinking she wanted something, and maybe she didn’t get what she wanted, but maybe she actually got what she needed.” 

Adrien-Alice Hansel