Big Dawg will be undertaking quite a task this season in honor of their debut of “Motherhood Out Loud.” Four local female directors will lead a cast through the show’s multiple vignettes (written by multiple authors: Leslie Ayvazian, Brooke Berman, David Cale, Beth Henley, Lameece Issaq, Claire LaZebnick, Lisa Loomer, Michele Lowe, Marcoe Pennette, Theresa Rebeck, Luanne Rice, Annie Weisman, & Cheryl L. West), all extropolating the ups and downs of parenting. Artistic director Steve Vernon has numerous hands in the pot to keep with show’s central focus: Various life situations from different women bring with it divergent actions and reactions. Still, at its heart, they contain commonalities which connect us all.
“I loved the fact that ‘Motherhood’ was such a collaborative piece, and that it would allow for multiple inclusion of directors, actors, and designers,” Vernon iterates.
The artistic director ordered the play on a whim, after being intrigued by its description. He became fascinated by the levels of drama and comedy crossing each section in the play, which is divided into chapters. Each chapter features situations from birth to old age.
“There really is something for everyone, as far as audiences go,” he says. “There are so many points of view represented, from traditional motherhood to adoption, single parenting, parenting of children with special needs, [and] same-sex parenting.”
Local actress, puppeteer and director Gina Gambony will oversee chapter two, featuring three pieces focused on parenting during the young child phase of life—the education years. Though she’s tackling issues not necessarily considered the norm, they all deal with some of the same emotional outcomes.
“One of my pieces is about a family with two dads,” Gambony explains, “which is not something many of us have experienced or even seen in this area. But we can relate to the humanity of the character and the common difficulties he is experiencing.”
Gambony—a mother herself—says rearing a child against the grain of public opinion can be scary for any parent. The worry over scrutiny endured from others isn’t necessarily something one prepares for, but at some point will face and have to separate from in order to best suit their child’s need for support.
“For instance, what do you do when your child has interests that are really frowned upon by the majority of your social group?” Gambony rehtorically asks. “Do you attempt to suppress your child to ‘save’ him from scrutiny and rejection, or do you stand by him, and help him be what he wants to be, even though that might cause a lot of social and personal pain for him?”
Gambony feared at first read of the show’s title that she would be dealing with a vapid rendering of a play on mothers—one that encapsulated stereotypical girl-power ideas without much else backing it. “But I read it, and it is full of some authentic experiences about motherhood, being a mother and having a mother, throughout the human lifespan,” Gambony tells. “Most of the script is personalized storytelling that I may or may not have experienced myself, but that I could really empathize with.”
Gambony especially felt a connection to a piece about kids growing up and moving away; her son is currently at college. It left her contemplating and reflecting, as did the vignette on senescent parents.
“One piece that really gets me is about a grown son dealing with his aging mother,” Gambony tells. “It makes me think of my grandmother, my mother, myself, and my son, and the brevity and preciousness of life. Widely, it makes me sad for the distance between families in our culture.”
Newcoming director Heather Dodd jumped at the chance to be one of the “directresses”— a phrase she says the women coined during this project—when at the end of last season Vernon introduced the show at curtain call. Dodd hoped to merely land a part in “Motherhood Out Loud.” “But when Steve asked me to be one of the directors, I nearly peed my pants with glee,” she says.
Dodd will direct scenes from chapter three, which begins with “The Sex Talk Fugue.” In essence, she is taking on the teenage years of child-rearing. It deals with many mother-daughter firsts, all from the perspective of the parent. “For this I needed people who could make you laugh, as well as tug at your heart strings,” Dodd says.
First dates, step parents, coming of age, and a lot of swearing for emphasis cover the gamut and style of topics. All come swathed in various cultures and ethnicities, too.
“One of the funniest pieces involves a Muslim mother talking to and about her daughter’s menstruation,” Gambony states. “That doesn’t sound like a funny topic, but it is hilarious.”
“I think the things in the show that make me laugh the hardest are the same things that make me think,” Dodd continues. “It makes me look back at my childhood and all of the stupid things I did. Sorry, Mom!”
Audiences will find a multitude of themes apparent in the human condition, regardless of gender: judgement, loyalty, faith, acceptance, fear, connectivity, and of course love. “Everyone who has a mother will enjoy this show,” Dodd states. “It’s about our relationships as a mother and with our mother, so who couldn’t benefit from an evening exploring that?”
Melissa Stanley and Rhoda Gary round out the directors in the show. Thespians taking on multiple roles will consist of Steve Vernon, Eddie Key, Kenneth Rosander, David Bollinger, Terrie Batson, Beth Becka, Chris Brown, Tamara Mercer, Suzanne Nystrom, Meghan Parker, Beth Raynor, Dori Schoonmaker, Pam Smith, Vanessa Welch, Abby Winner, and Amanda Young.
“I think this is definitely for both men and women to enjoy,” Vernon clafiries. “For men, it’s a chance to see what your momma, wife, sister, and girlfriend have to put up with.”
Motherhood Out Loud
Thurs.-Sun., April 17th-20th, 24th-27th, May 1st-4th and 8th-11th, 8 p.m. • Sun. matinee, 3 p.m.
Opening night: Pay what you can, cash only (min. $5)
Cape Fear Playhouse • 613 Castle St.