‘She’s at the Library’: New play by La Jollan Dori Salois gives ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ a new focus

La Jolla resident Dori Salois' new play, "She's at the Library," premieres at the Point Loma Playhouse on Friday, Nov. 19.
La Jolla resident Dori Salois’ new play, “She’s at the Library,” premieres onstage at the Point Loma Playhouse on Friday, Nov. 19.
(Courtesy of Dori Salois)

Providing a contemporary take on a holiday classic, local playwright Dori Salois poses modern choices for a female character who she says needs “a sense of her own identity.”

Her new play, “She’s at the Library,” is a twist on “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the classic 1946 film in which main character George, at the intervention of guardian angel Clarence, contemplates what the lives of his wife, Mary, and others would be like if he had not been born. It will premiere onstage at the Point Loma Playhouse on Friday, Nov. 19.

In “She’s at the Library,” Salois, a La Jolla resident since 1986, envisions a world in which Mary is empowered to make different choices. “I just took George out of the picture and said, ‘Now what would have happened to Mary really?’” Salois said.

She thought about what Mary would have chosen without George, and the resulting play “is a fun, feminist take for Mary” while staying true to the 1940s time period, said Salois, who runs the La Jolla-based Vantage Theatre.

“Most women who come to see the show will go ‘A-ha,’” she said, as Mary’s conflicts and choices resonate with them.

Salois said that once “She’s at the Library” was cast and rehearsals began, she found herself “really rooting for George” as well.

Kirra Adams, Pete Zanko and Carly Salway will star in "She's at the Library" at the Point Loma Playhouse.
Kirra Adams, Pete Zanko and Carly Salway will star in La Jollan Dori Salois’ play “She’s at the Library” at the Point Loma Playhouse.
(Farhad Deylami Azodi)

The show is “still light, it’s still a Christmas story,” with many references to the original film, Salois said.

She said she has been “so happy” watching the play come to life at the Point Loma Playhouse. “Keeping it local first has been a gift. I was able to add scenes, hone dialogue, etc. … Point Loma is the right space for it.”

Those who haven’t seen “It’s a Wonderful Life” will still enjoy the play, said Salois, who watches the movie every holiday season. “It’s like a religion in our house. … I know it backward and forward,” she said.

Salois used to “absolutely cringe” during the scene when George asks where Mary is and “Clarence would scream … ‘You’re not going to like it, George. She’s at the library!’ What’s wrong with that? It’s a good thing,” Salois said.

She said she was inspired to write “She’s at the Library” while caring for a friend who was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. “I started to think about women’s lives and choices. … I looked at my own life. I’m a wife, a mother. … You’re looking at what would be your life without somebody.”

"She's at the Library" is a "fun, feminist take" on "It's a Wonderful Life," writer Dori Salois says.
(Courtesy of Dori Salois)

Salois also is a novelist who under the name Dori Salerno wrote “Mrs. Bennet’s Sentiments,” a book based on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” that examines the story from the mother’s point of view.

She said she’s drawn to refocus classic stories with a feminist angle because “I feel the woman is not represented correctly.” She felt that both Mrs. Bennet and Mary were “not being appreciated” or respected.

Salois is now working on her next play, researching a “controversial” subject she’s reticent to say more about.

Concurrently, she’s preparing to act in a play at the Point Loma Playhouse in February and is working on bringing a new, also-secret project to the Vantage Theatre in 2022.

‘She’s at the Library’

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays from Nov. 19 to Dec. 5

Where: Point Loma Playhouse, Point Loma Assembly, 3035 Talbot St.

Cost: $15 and up