The “Momoirs” ensemble of writers and writer-performers: left to right, front row, Randye Kaye of Trumbull, Katie Marchand of Stratford, second row, Nadine Willig of Stratford , Jo Anne Parady of Norwalk , Rosemary Foley of Pelham , NY , back row, Linda Howard of Bridgeport and Sari Dodi of Westport . Missing from the photo: Elizabeth Keyser of Fairfield.
The love and pain of the mother-child relationship are illuminated by “Momoirs: The Umbilical Cord Stops Here!”, an original stage production with a number of upcoming performances in Fairfield County and New York . The one-hour presentation—a vivid series of monologues and short scenes--has been acclaimed by the estimable writer and theater critic Geary Danihy as “humorous, heartfelt and heart-wrenching.”
Over the three years of its evolution, “Momoirs” has become a cathartic caldron of self-discovery for an ensemble of eight women. Half of them are writer-performers and half strictly writers. All are women of some theatrical accomplishment.
Drawing profoundly on the their own lives as mothers and daughters, they try, to quote critic Danihy, “to reach some understanding of the women, who for better or for worse, helped mold them into who they are and, in the process, perhaps gain a better understanding of themselves.”
Looking to the months ahead, the ensemble has booked appearances March 15 at a breakfast at Temple Rodeph Shalom in Bridgeport ( 2385 Park Ave.), May 2 at the First Congregational Church of Old Greenwich (108 Sound Beach Ave. ) as an evening benefit for the Stamford Counseling Center and two spring performances at the Manor Club in Pelham Manor , NY . Additional dates are being arranged.
In the last two years, “Momoirs” has engaged audiences at Fairfield Theatre Company, off-Broadway at the Zipper Factory Theatre & Tavern and in libraries, at benefits and for community associations.
Linda Howard’s creative intuition is the genesis of “Momoirs.” She is a resident of Bridgeport ’s Black Rock District, a writer and writing teacher in Trumbull . Her third novel, “Madame Bovary’s Daughter,” is to be published by Random House in 2010. “Momoirs” springs from the pages of a journal she started compiling when her daughter reached 16 and applied for a learner’s driving permit.
The spiritual home—and rehearsal hall--of “Momoirs” is the Theatre Artists Workshop, a stage fraternity established in1983 by Keir Dullea of Westport who played the lead in Stanley Kubrick’s iconic “2001: A Space Odyssey” and a memorable list of roles in major films and stage dramas.
The appeal of “Momoirs” radiates from its freshness, authenticity and energy. As material that largely transcends gender, men seem to identify with the essential truths of the characterizations.
The cameos onstage explore visceral themes: a mother watching helplessly as a premature infant struggles for life, in a dream a daughter is visited by her dancing--and dead—mother, a hippie mother and a yuppie daughter squabble over a wedding dress and a mom connects with the generous soul of a mentally challenged son.
Tracing the metamorphosis of “Momoirs,” writer-performer Jo Anne Parady of Norwalk recalls: “We met every Tuesday for two years. Each time we committed the outpouring to paper, we got closer to the hard-edge realities of our relationships as mothers and daughters, the anger, the joy, the hilarity. Out of the dialogue and hours and hours of refinement, our performance piece was born.”
“The audience response is powerful,” Parady continues. “Tears, laughter, cheering. We seem to capture the essence of the emotional baggage we all carry, guilt, frustration, disappointment and, underpinning everything . . . love.”
Sari Bodi of Westport is one of the non-performing writers. Some of her vignettes are conveyed to the stage by Kathryn Marchand of Stratford , a versatile and accomplished actress in her own right and the daughter of the late Nancy Marchand who played Tony Soprano’s manipulative and vengeful mother on TV.
Says Bodi of Marchand’s stage presence: “Katie always surprises me. She extracts facets of the material I didn’t know were there. Her timing is so good she gets laughs out of lines I never realized were funny.”
Another writer is Rosemary Foley of Pelham , NY , the author of more than 70 plays. One of them, “”Oh, Promise Me,” was originally produced at the Theatre Artists Workshop in Norwalk and then adapted for the screen as a 30-minute com comedy premiered at the Big Apple Film Festival in Tribeca last November.
Playright Elizabeth Keyser of Fairfield , one of the “Momoirs” eight and a former managing editor of the New Canaan News~Review, said the monologues written by Parady and Nadine Willig of Stratford give her “chills” because of their passion and intensity.
Willig reports the feelings and memories the collaboration evokes are so powerful and intimate “some of us clutched. It’s highly personal stuff.”
A recent staging of “Momoirs” was directed by Cynthia Granville, an actress and former director/production manager of the Samuel French Off-off-Broadway Play Festival. As part of the production, Trumbull actress and vocal coach Randye Kaye recounted the compelling feelings stirred in an interaction with her son.
So what’s ahead for “Momoirs” now?
Keyser expresses the aspirations of the octet simply as more gigs— especially in New York --and developing an indelible script that ultimately could be performed by repertory companies across the country, “a life outside us,” as she describes it. And maybe: “Momoirs II.” “We have a lot of material,” she says.”
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