Wishbone Theatre Collective

Wishbone Blog

Updates of the collective.

Meet Wishbone's Laura Fair


Kimberly Van Ness plays Laura Fair in Wishone’s production of FAIR
at The Magnetic Theatre, April 5th and 6th.

Laura D. Fair shot and killed her lover, Alexander P. Crittenden, in broad daylight on a ferry off the coast of San Francisco in 1871. While this crime and the trials that followed have defined her life in the history books, the actual story was more complex. A single mother, Laura was also a successful entrepreneur, amassing a large fortune on her own in a time where a woman’s influence was relegated to child rearing and quiet conversation. In contrast, Laura did what she had to do to survive, and then thrive in the chaotic world of the West at the turn of the century. Unfortunately, going after what you wanted was a trait generally allowed to men, with women being condemned for taking their destinies into their own hands. It was this reason that Laura's trials were filled with scandal. In a time when society favored poetry and melodrama, the prosecution used flowery rhetoric as they positioned themselves against any woman with power.

As we developed this show, it became clear that nothing was as it seemed - the more the ensemble dug into the letters, papers, and reports that surrounded the key players, even the love affair between Laura and Crittenden had depths and mysteries that even today, after nearly four years of work, we have not found concrete answers to. But, while frustrating to the researcher, layers and murky complexity make for a damn good story and the central show development question became - how much is too much? Because even for a melodrama, this doomed love affair had more extremes than any self-respecting writer would allow in a plot.

Kimberly has been deeply involved in the development process for FAIR from the beginning. She lead the historical research over the past few years - combing through the court transcripts, seeking out additional primary source documents, and pitching some of our secondary characters that greatly influenced Laura’s life. Through our development process, Laura’s agency versus her victimhood has always been a topic for debate - Kim always brought the group back to this topic, fleshing it out with historical evidence (newspaper headlines, trial evidence, or love letters). In this latest version, Kim went back through months of source material to explore more themes and add additional dimension to the big personalities that fill the world of Laura Fair. In earlier versions of the play Kimberly played other characters in Laura and Crittenden’s life, so it will be so wonderful to have her dive into this complex character.

A founding member of Wishbone, Kimberly’s favorite productions include: designing costumes for Woman in Black, and Maybe Baby, It's You, acting in Returning from Madness, and developing, writing and acting in SPANDEX, and FAIR as well as taking Wishbone’s ensemble devised shows to Fringe festivals in Chicago, Hollywood and Edinburgh. In her non-Wishbone hours, she works as a creative director in advertising.

Megan Ranney