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...)