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Can a young woman from rural Beaver, Utah, find success in the bright lights and fast lanes of Southern California - or even in the country's regional theaters?

Can a child of the '60s - who admits she fell asleep during the Sixties and Seventies, only to wake up in Eighties and find America and the world in a political shambles - take up the pen and "write" some wrongs?Stay tuned - at least until later this week, when playwright and Utah native Julie Jensen's "White Money" has its world premiere at Salt Lake Acting Company.

And if the first three paragraphs of this story sound like a soap opera, there's a reason.

"White Money" probes a society addicted to television and politics.

We're not talking about PBS or "Live from Lincoln Center" or "Hallmark Hall of Fame" or even such quality prime-time stuff as "Murphy Brown" or "L.A. Law."


We're mucking around in "vast wasteland" territory.

Jensen, who really did grow up in Beaver, got hooked on theater as an actress, then discovered that writing scripts is more personally fulfilling, is now busy developing and writing screenplays in Los Angeles.

"White Money," which has been developed as a theater work over the past couple of years, focuses on one woman's slightly surreal journey from a trailer house outside Wendover, Nev., to the Exit 3 Motel on the outskirts of Oklahoma City. In between there are stops at Panaca, Nev., and a truck stop called East Jesus, north of Las Vegas.

Ella, the central character in the comedy, also confronts an assortment of over-the-edge people - truck drivers, professional wrestlers, an ex-husband, his former wife, and folks hooked on televangelists and late-night wrestling matches.

Some of these characters appear to be the kind who don't just glance at National Enquirer on the sly when they're in the supermarket express lane, they read it from cover to cover - and accept it as gospel truth.

That's frightening.

Already "White Money" has earned some important national attention and recognition. Last fall, Salt Lake Acting Company was among only eight theaters in the United States selected to receive a grant from the Fund for New American Plays, a joint project of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and American Express Company, in cooperation with the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

Four of the theaters were in the New York City area and the other four all were in the western United States, includ