This month, La Jolla Playhouse stages Bekah Brunstetter’s The Cake, which follows a gay woman who returns to her Southern hometown to plan her wedding, only to have the local baker—a close family friend—balk at baking a cake for two brides.
The subject couldn’t be more timely, considering the highly publicized Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which as of press time was awaiting a decision. But Brunstetter says she didn’t base The Cake entirely on this case; it was more inspired by her upbringing in North Carolina.
"I come from a conservative family, and that’s something I’ve wrestled with in my adult life," she explains. "How do I engage in these conversations with my super-liberal friends in LA and my family in North Carolina?"
For Brunstetter, the answer often emerges in the form of a play. In this case, she knew she wanted to write about someone with really conservative values. Crafting a story about a cake, rather than the issue, was her way in.
"I live out my ideal self through my characters and plays," she says. "And I hope that in real life, I can have a little bravery because of them."
Brunstetter has been praised for her fresh, funny voice and relatable characters, who remain loveable no matter which side of a political issue they land on. She moved to Los Angeles from New York, which she calls "a play-making factory," five years ago and has written for TV shows like ABC Family’s Switched at Birth and Starz’s American Gods, but her recent work as a coproducer on NBC’s This Is Us has earned her the most acclaim. The Emmy-nominated show is currently one of the most watched on television.
Exciting as her Hollywood ride has been, Brunstetter says she’s rediscovering the joy of making plays: "Getting to write a play and see it realized is such a privilege."
This play will be her second in San Diego, after The Old Globe’s 2013 production of Be a Good Little Widow opened to rave reviews.
It may be intensely personal subject matter, but her goal isn’t to change anyone’s mind. "All I can hope for is empathy," she says. "I don’t think plays can necessarily change people. ‘Change’ is a really ambitious word. If people are able to empathize with all the characters’ points of view, that can help with future conversations in their own life."
February 6–March 4
2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla