Playwrights Realm's MOTHERS Opens Tonight
Playwrights Realm's world premiere production of Anna Moench's Mothers opens tonight, September 25, at The Duke on 42nd Street in New 42nd Street Studios (229 West 42nd Street). Directed by Vampire Cowboys Co-Artistic Director Robert Ross Parker, and running through October 12, Moench's Mothers begins as a satirical comedy of manners, then daringly explodes the form, examining what happens when a group of Mothers (plus a nanny and a father) are thrown into circumstances far beyond their control.
The cast of Mothers includes Maechi Aharanwa (Ariana), Jasmine Batchelor (Vick), Satomi Blair (Meg), Tina Chilip (Gladys), and Max Gordon Moore(Ty). The creative team includes, Wilson Chin (Scenic Design), Porsche McGovern (Lighting Design), Karen Perry (Costume Design), Shane Rettig (Sound Design), Samantha Shoffner (Props Design), Teniece Divya Johnson (Fight Director & Intimacy Coordinator), and Christine M. Daly (Production Stage Manager).
Mothers is set in a Mommy & Me group rife with upper-middle-class malaise. Here, despite relative privilege, the social and biological pressures of parenting are nonetheless wholly consuming, and even small talk becomes a charged, fraught competition: whoever's the most devoted to her family, has the best-behaved child, and the most satisfied husband wins. But beyond the mild-mannered jabs deployed within this comfortably suffocating bubble, the world seems to be on the brink of far less subtle violence. As the chaos outside encroaches on the group's turf, passive aggression falls by the wayside, and each mom will have to decide just how much she loves her child.
Mothers is the first full, professional New York production for San Diego-based playwright and TV/film writer Anna Moench, whose "funny, creepy and unflinchingly observed" (Los Angeles Times) comedy Man of God was staged in Los Angeles earlier this year. Moench began her early playwriting career in New York nearly a decade ago, before relocating to pursue her MFA at UCSD. While there, she and her husband decided to start a family. Moench felt compelled to write Motherseight months after giving birth to her son, during a period of sleep deprivation; she had been reading the news late at night to keep herself awake while nursing. While holding her own infant, she encountered an article in TheNew York Times about the Myanmar genocide and a woman whose eight-month-old had been pried from her hands and thrown in a fire.
"This woman and I are two people who gave birth at the same time on the same planet, yet our lives are so radically different. Still, the membrane between our realities is quite arbitrary, it all comes down to where you happened to be born, who's in power at the time, and whether you're in the right group or the wrong one," explains Moench. "This was also around the time that US tensions with North Korea were ratcheting up. I lived under the launch route for Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, and fighter jets were flying over our apartment with increasing frequency. I had a realization that while I was completely focused on this little person whose needs dictated my every moment, large-scale things were happening all around me that I had very little control over yet could completely reshape my life. The play became about all of this-of the very real difficulties even for middle and upper-middle-class women raising infants-and how much harder it is for women who have much greater financial and geopolitical pressures on them to do the exact same thing, to be a person and support and protect your children."
This "membrane" that surrounds the privileges of birth, location, and circumstance, and can so easily enable us to distance ourselves from the world around us, is at the very center of the play. Mothers provocatively examines the insidious hierarchies of race, gender, and class that divide our experiences-and the primal heartache of raising children in a disintegrating world.
This production of Mothers has been accompanied by the launch of new initiatives: the Radical Parent-Inclusion Project (RPI), developed in association with Parent Artist Advocacy League for the Performing Arts (PAAL), seeks to dismantle the barriers preventing parent-artists from succeeding in the theater by illuminating, creating, and tracking new pathways of access and approaches to production. The initiative has been integrated deeply into the casting, rehearsal, and production process of Mothers (which will include a childcare matinee performance, offering free childcare to attendees, on October 5). American Theatre writes, "Though the word 'radical' is in its name, the artists at the Realm are hoping that soon such initiatives will be commonplace and will help lead to an industry more hospitable to working caregivers-one in which artists aren't afraid to speak up for their personal needs."As The Playwrights Realm continues to consider and introduce new modes of access and inclusion for theater artists and audiences, they have also launched A Ticket for Every Budget. Through this new ticketing program, prospective audience members can purchaseWelcome seats ($1 previews/$5 performances), Affordable seats ($25 previews/$30 performances), or Pay It Forward seats ($50 previews/$60 performances-which sponsor the Welcome tickets, allowing The Realm to offer those facing financial barriers the experience of an evening of theatre) for the entire run of the show. "The Realm isn't just revamping its ticket initiative-it's building a community and helping artists grow their careers," writes Playbill. An additional community-building event, on September 24 at 8pm, invites POC audiences to join The Realm's staff members for drinks following the performance.
Mothers began September 13 and will run through October 12 (see above schedule) at The Duke on 42nd Street (229 W 42ndStreet, Manhattan). Critics are welcome as of September 21 at 8pm for an official opening on September 25 at 7:30pm. To purchase tickets, please visit http://dukeon42.org/ or call 646-223-3010. For more details, please visit playwrightsrealm.org.
Photo Credit: Daniel J Vasquez