BWW Reviews: Taking Time to Understand That It's NOT ALWAYS A PARENT

BWW Reviews: Taking Time to Understand That It's NOT ALWAYS A PARENT
Jennifer Scott as Alli, Christie Stadele as Haley,
and Malissa Petterson as Julie (left to right).
Photo provided by: Encore Studio for the Performing Arts

It happens faster than one can fathom. A child acts out in a public space - one automatically looks to the parent's reaction. A slew of questions arise: does that happen often? What are you going to do about this? Why aren't you more upset? Why did you even bring your child here?

What one does not often immediately conclude is that the parent may not be the penultimate problem solver.

More often than not - particularly in the case of families with children who have disabilities - it's Not Always a Parent. This concept of the family dynamic is what Encore Studio for the Performing Arts is tackling in their newest set of vignettes that round out the end of their 15th season.

Six different shorts, written by Director KelsyAnne Schoenhaar and Wendy Prosise, outline several different ways in which a family unit can come together when one of the members is living with a disability. Whether it's the normative biological family or an adoptive one - the work of Schoenhaar and Prosise examines what it means to truly be a 'family'.

In the short with the title's namesake Not Always a Parent, for example, a young mother named Julie (played

BWW Reviews: Taking Time to Understand That It's NOT ALWAYS A PARENT
Scott as Alli, Francisco Torres as Dr. Monk, and Stadele as Haley
(left to right).
Photo provided by: Encore Studio for the Performing Arts

by a resilient Malissa Petterson) is at her wit's end with her daughter who doctors insist should be on stronger medication. While waiting in the lobby of her daughter's therapist's office, Julie finds comfort in talking things out with a chatty Christie Stadele as Haley. Haley warmly greets everyone as they enter the lobby, hoping to strike up an interesting conversation. It is in the midst of talking with a stranger that Julie confronts her biggest insecurities about her role as parent - the judgment of others.

Not Always a Parent is a wonderful introduction to the set of short plays as it succinctly sets the stage for the play's overarching questions: 'who are we to judge the lives of others' and 'what makes a family?'

What is the most profound about this production, however, has nothing to do with the written script. Between several of the shorts are candid video clips of the performers telling stories from their own lives. Heartbreaking tales of destructive familial relationships, finding solace in sustained friendships, and stories about what it means to be unquestionably loved.

There is simply nothing more captivating than the truth; particularly when it is a first-hand account.

Encore has, for fifteen years, told the stories of those who are so often unheard. As the theatre continues to grow and tell its own story, people will continue to learn or understand - hopefully both. Not Always a Parent is the ideal end to a strong season as it embodies the understanding that "everyone is family" at Encore.




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