|Photo by Richard Fleischman|
|Jamila Anderson and Rebecca Yoho.|
Knitting is at the hart of the latest Theatre Unbound work.In fact, it is part of the connection between the company and the playwright, Jennifer Blackmer.
Blackmer worked with Theatre Unbound actor Noe Tallen earlier in her career. Tallen also taught Blackmer how to knit. It was Tallen who brought the script to the attention of Stacey Poirier, Theatre Unbound's artistic director.
"It's about a woman who has cancer. It sounds really awful and sad, but it is a beautiful story about her relationship with her daughter. That is what drew me to the piece: the loss of their connection and their regaining of it," Poirier says.
The play opens Theatre Unbound's 14th season this week at the Woman's Club of Minneapolis.
Blackmer's play jumps back and forth in time, with two women playing the role of the dying mother, George. "One is after the dementia and one is before. The play sort of takes place in Joy's [the woman's daughter's] mind. She is jumping around where her mother is in this continuum," Poirier says.
"One of the things that weave the whole story together is Joy giving a lecture on time and space. She poses this question: If you had a time machine, where would you go? That's what drives her to different points in her life. What could she have done differently? What should she have done differently? It is just showing this beautiful relationship that she had with her mother," Poirier adds.
The final member of the cast is a hospice nurse that cares for the elder George, who suffers from dementia brought on by chemotherapy. "The hospice worker helps to bring Joy around to see that her mother is still her and to make an effort to connect with her," Poirier says.
That's where the knitting comes in, as Joy learns to knit as a way to connect with her mother.
When Tallen brought the piece to the attention of Theatre Unbound, Blackmer had been working on it for some time, both at a play festival and with her university students. "She has sent a couple of new drafts our way. She has Skyped in a couple of times and has gotten feedback," Poirier says. "I still get the same beauty of it when I first read it."
The company includes Jamila Anderson, Eli Coats, Carin Leonard-Gorrill, Kristen Mathisen, and Rebecca Yoho. The show is directed by Mary Cutler.
"It's also good for the actors and the director. Most of them have never worked with original work, so it is a good stretching of their experience. They have to give up some things that they have grown attached to in the writing. On the other hand, they have some input on things that aren't working," Poirier says.
"I hope they feel some connectivity to the piece. There are definitely things in there that everybody will relate to. Even though it is a sad subject, I hope they go away with some hopefulness and some joy about it. I hope they also go away with the idea that hospice is a wonderful thing," says Poirier.
IF YOU GO:
Woman's Club of Minneapolis
410 Oak Grove St., Minneapolis
410 Oak Grove St., Minneapolis, MN