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Campfire Theatre Festival Day 2: A Vegetarian Bear Doesn't Lessen A Camper's Danger


Content warning: This blog post contains material that is intended for a mature audience.

Megan's recent travails would make for a great country song: Her mother died young, her lover left her, she lost her job and she now struggles with alcohol. While taking a break from it all in a tent a short walk from her brother's house, she encounters a bear.

These problems aren't set to music, but they were catchy in Campfire Theatre Festival's staged reading of Megan and the Bear Go Camping (To Solve Their Problems) on Sept. 7. Campfire has a reputation for staging serious contemporary plays, and Megan and the Bear Go Camping has to rank among the most poignant. Megan (Sarah Priddy) suffers from depression and suicidal ideation, and her camping trip was intended to be a weeklong moratorium from both the outside world and her mental state, but both come scratching at her tent flap in the forms of her brother Jared (Daniel Vogt) and a fastidious talking grizzly bear who happens to be a vegetarian (Benton Lane).

The play is broken into lots of short pieces—cutaways to Megan's romance, her job and dealing with her mostly estranged father after her mother's death—that build up to its core problem. Many people have faced tragedy, heartbreak and professional setbacks, her brother notes. It leaves him, and the audience, wondering why all of it adds up to her being in the woods threatening self-harm.

Even as a staged reading, this play was difficult to watch, but in a good way. Playwright Zoe Jovanovich has a talent for showing depression from multiple points of view in intelligent and sensitive ways. It is, however, a very fragmentary play, and a full production may have to get creative to ensure it's coherent for audiences.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or needs support, please reach out for help by calling or texting the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 208-398-4357. All calls are confidential and anonymous.