Over the Moon

What an amazing first night!

As many times as I've seen In Mother Words, last night I felt I was seeing it for the first time.  The play is so funny and touching, and the monologues weave into each other while managing to stand alone as their own contained worlds.  The actors were brilliant, absolutely wonderful.  Everyone stood up at the end, and I felt so grateful to be part of it.  Congratulations to all the incredible playwrights!  I am honored to be in your company.

So many high points.  Here are two: Beth Henley, whom I've loved and adored since her Pulitzer Prize-winning Crimes of the Heart, one of my favorite plays and films, and the best three sisters since Three Sisters, (as you may know, I have a penchant for three-sisters stories,) told me she loved my monologue.  Yikes!  That made my night, if it hadn't been made already.  (Photo of me, Beth, and Joan Stein.)

I love Beth's monologue, Report on Motherhood--such a true, deep, constantly surprising conversation between a girl and her great-grandmother.  I'm proud to have worked with her and so many writers I admire.

Another high point: meeting Jane Kaczmarek right after the play.  She is lovely and brilliant, and it was so funny because we hugged right away--an actor and writer do sort of bond without ever seeing each other, because she's living in my words, bringing them to life, and I'm handing her a piece of my heart, waiting to see what she'll do with it.  Watching Jane perform My Almost Family I felt breathless and cried because she hit the deepest part of what I was going for--made it seem worth cherishing.

The photo above is of the cast, creators and producers, and director--the shot is white-haze from photographers' flashes.  Paparazzi, darling.  From left:  James Lecesne, Susan Rose Lafer (creator and producer,) Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Lisa Peterson (director,) Joan Stein (creator and producer, my dear friend since she produced Crazy in Love,) Jane Kaczmarek, and Amy Pietz.

Opening Night

Opening night for In Mother Words! Tonight I'll go to the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, attend opening night and enjoy the celebration.  My wonderful agent, Andrea Cirillo, sent me the flowers and, yes, red panties, you see in the photo above.

My piece, My Almost Family, is about my experience as a stepmother.  The monologue went through several incarnations, and at one point it included a line spoken by the character's husband's ex-wife, a line-in-the-sand moment in which the mother phones the stepmother to ask if she's missing any panties, it seems one of the children may have stolen them.  The stepmother asks, "What do they look like?  And the mother replies, "Red with black lace, very trampy."

Ah, the pleasures of trying to merge a family.  I wound up cutting that line, even though it got laughs, because the heart of my piece is serious and more than a little sad.  The new family--the stepmother's--didn't stay together.  There were too many old wishes and ties, ways the original family had of doing things, stolen panties being the least of her problems.  Andrea knows me so well, and she knows all my writing, and the different lives this monologue has had.

So I thank Andrea and the agency for the flowers and...the red panties, black lace, very trampy...as well as loving "Break a leg!" wishes.  Tonight will be exciting.  Jane Kaczmarek will read my piece, as she did on Sunday, when I saw the play for the first time.  I loved and was so moved by the way Jane did my monologue.

My Sunday night theater party of close friends included Robert Loggia, who played Jane's father in Malcolm in the Middle, proving once again it's a very small world.  We enjoyed ourselves greatly--the production is gorgeous.  Break a leg to everyone in the show!

(I just realized the photo of the flowers and "accoutrement" is sideways, but somehow that seems just right.)  The show runs till May 1.  Everyone please come!  Bring your mothers, daughters, and sisters.  If you don't live in LA, fly out.  You'll definitely laugh and cry and adore the magical fairy-lit courtyard where you can drink wine, coffee, or a lovely sparkling water under the balmy sky.

(In group photo: Kenji Thielstrom, me, Mary Guterson, Audrey and Robert Loggia, and Julie, a friend from Shutters.)

Mothers on the Street Interviews

Have  you ever seen such interviews?  They're a phenomenon in Westwood, and I would feel remiss if I didn't share them with you. Everyone has a mother, and it's clear no one lacks for words on the subject.  Here they are, Mothers on the Street.

Writers love to talk--and write--about mothers, too.  Their own mothers, themselves as mothers, their daughters as mothers, their grandmothers as mothers.  It's a rich tapestry for all of us.  If you are in Los Angeles, I'd love for  you to see In Mother Words at the Geffen Playhouse.

The show begins previews tonight and opens on February 23.  The journey to the moment has been as exciting, funny, and poignant as the show itself.  It all began with a group of up writing about our experiences with motherhood.  I'm the show's stepmother, and my piece is "My Almost Family."

My work--on the same stage as Beth Henley's?  I'm in awe.

In Mother Words, part 1 (Photo: The Geffen Playhouse's dazzing courtyard)

It started with a phone call.  Actually, it began with love... Joan Stein called me.  She said that she and Susan Rose Lafer were putting together IN MOTHER WORDS, a show about motherhood, and would I consider telling a story about being a stepmother?

Because the request came from Joan, I didn't even hesitate.  We have been great friends for many years, since she discovered my second novel and produced CRAZY IN LOVE for TNT.  We clicked instantly, over that story of three generations of mothers and daughters, and have shared the joys and sorrows of each other's lives ever since.  The photo shows her giving an interview about IN MOTHER WORDS on NPR, and totally captures her warmth and enthusiasm.

Joan knew I love my three stepchildren and thought I might draw on experience to tell my story.  I decided to focus on M, my beautiful and amazing stepdaughter, who provides love, humor, and pathos at every turn.  A girl after my own heart.  She is a walking/talking Greek Tragedy with romantic comedy undertones.  I adore her.

I've gotten to know the lovely and dynamic Susan Rose Lafer, and to feel her deep support and belief.  She and Joan conceived of IN MOTHER WORDS and have been passionate about the project since the beginning.  Their devotion to the work has been so inspiring and heartening.  It's amazing, as a writer, to feel so backed by such great women.

Lisa Peterson, brilliant director, joined the project at the start.  Under Lisa's guidance, I wrote and shaped my monologue, MY ALMOST FAMILY.  She is kind, precise, open, and has an eagle eye for the right word, the wrong word, the necessary, the extraneous.  I have learned so much from Lisa.

I've met and worked with many of my fellow writers during workshops in New York.  We are: Leslie Ayvazian, David Cale, Jessica Goldberg, Beth Henley, Lameece Issaq, Lisa Loomer, Michele Lowe, Marco Pennette, Lisa Ramirez, Theresa Rebeck, Luanne Rice, Annie Weisman and Cheryl L. West.  I revere these playwrights, have attended so many of their plays.  We have true treasures, theater icons, writers of heart and soul among us.  To be part of their company is humbling.

Here's the great thrill: IN MOTHER WORDS will open at the Geffen Playhouse on February 23, 2011; previews begin on February 15.  To have written, trimmed, experimented, listened to our pieces read back to us, cut here, added there this last year or so, has been a glowing time for me: a slice of life in the theater.  Can you imagine how I've longed for that, dahling?  I moved to NYC when I was young, and Brendan Gill, drama critic of the New Yorker, became my mentor.  He taught me that going to plays, for a writer or anyone who dreamed of more, was as necessary to life as breathing.  I believe that to my bones.

We got the word just before the holidays: IN MOTHER WORDS would be opening at the Geffen Playhouse in LA in February.  When Janice Paran, our fairy godmother/dramaturg asked for character descriptions to give the theater, I knew this was really happening.

The Geffen Playhouse has special meaning to me.  I've attended many shows there and find it one of the most charmed, magical theaters in the world.   From the minute you walk through the warmly lit courtyard, you know you are entering another world.  Their productions are fantastic, and I never leave the theater without losing myself in the play's realm, left my own life for ninety stunning minutes.

I began this note with "love."  Love is all over this production.  In my own piece for M.  In all the monologues, the threads of motherhood, parenthood, new babies, old grandmothers, weave together into a tapestry of love.  More than anything, I wish my mother were alive, so I could take her opening night.  She was a writer, had a play produced in her youth, and--perhaps because of the times in which we lived--gave up her own art to raise three daughters.  So much of what I do is inspired by MY mother's words.

Please come to the Geffen and see our show.  You'll definitely laugh, and you'll probably cry, but isn't that what happens when you sit in the dark and immerse yourself in a show that reveals the truth about real, true, extraordinary, singular, ineffable, surprising, unending love?  The photo at the top of this page shows the Geffen's enchanting courtyard...how can you deny yourself an LA night of theater, beneath the twinkling lights and amongst the stars?

I haven't even told you the cast!  Click on the links to see...

(With M and her son in Connecticut)

(M at an early reading of IN MOTHER WORDS.)

(This is Part 1 because Part 2 is sure to follow...)