Modern motherhood on stage

Play offers reminder to enjoy all the moments parenthood brings

Oak Bay-raised Sarah Donald explores the motherhood as Jill

As both a mother and a daughter, Sarah Donald relishes her role in Mom’s the Word, opening at the Belfry Theatre this week.

A touching, funny exploration of the joys and disasters of modern motherhood, the play was written in 1993 by Vancouver theatre artists Linda A. Carson, Jill Daum, Alison Kelly, Robin Nichol, Barbara Pollard and Deborah Williams. It has since has been produced in 19 countries, in 14 languages.

“I have a daughter, all of us in the show also have children, and we have such a great time laughing,” says Donald, who will welcome both her six-year-old and her mom to the audience, which hasn’t been performed in Victoria since the 1990s.

“There are so many moments in the script I can totally relate to as a mother.”

Back in 1993, Linda, Jill, Alison, Robin, Barbara and Deborah gathered every Saturday to talk and write about their new lives as mothers. Those Saturdays were cathartic – each woman revealing their hopes and fears and the pandemonium they were experiencing. Vancouver’s Women in View Festival asked the six moms to put together a one-off performance of their writing.

Their words – and experiences – struck a chord and they were soon delighting audiences across Canada. Their first presentation at the Belfry was in 1995 and two years later the show was being produced in Australia, Scotland, Chicago and in London’s West End.

The Belfry’s all-new production of the original show marks the first time in Canada the show has been done with a new cast.

“I think it’s a wonderful mix of celebration and struggle,” Donald says. “There are scenes that are hilarious and scenes that will touch you.”

Growing up in Oak Bay, it was while attending St. Michaels University School she first took the stage in the school performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado. She credits the school’s theatre instructor, Colin Skinner, for inspiring her toward theatre life.

As well, “I was very inspired by watching live theatre – it’s something I’ve always been drawn to,” says Donald, also a violinist who has found the two performance mediums – music and theatre – have often married together quite well.

After graduation, Donald attended university in Montreal before spending time in the UK and Vancouver. Back in Victoria for about seven years, she now lives around the corner from the Belfry, making the young mom’s commute for her current project very manageable indeed.

Coming from real experiences of real people, the production features the art of storytelling as much as acting.

“We are all playing the original characters,” but at the same time, each actor draws on her own experiences. “We obviously try to bring a lot of our own experiences to the role,” Donald says. “And because it’s so well-written and so realistic, it’s easy.”

Donald’s character, Jill, is a thoughtful woman, who truly loves the experience of pregnancy, motherhood and yes, even childbirth. At the same time, she worries about whether she’s doing well enough as a mother.

“I love Jill,” Donald says. “She loves being a mother – we all do – but she really embraces the whole journey. She finds the ‘beauty in so many things.”

One of her favourite elements of the production is the camaraderie between the women, and the support they provide each other.

“I think what I can relate to the most is not to forget to enjoy the moment and not to forget you’re on this journey with your child,” Donald says.

Mom’s the Word continues to Aug. 28 at the Belfry Theatre. Tickets for range from $20 to $59 and are available at 250-385-6815 or online at tickets.belfry.bc.ca.

Did you know?

The Mom’s the Word creative team includes: director Michael Shamata; assistant director Deborah Williams; set and costume designer Pam Johnson; lighting designer Bryan Kenney; sound designer Paul Tedeschini; movement coach Jessica Hickman; stage manager Jennifer Swan; and assistant stage manager Sara Robb.

Joining Sarah Donald on stage are performers/moms Trish Cooper (Alison), Yumi Ogawa (Linda), Jennifer Paterson (Deborah) and Lisa Ravensbergen (Robin).

Donald is a founding member of Theatre SKAM, which has joined the Oak Bay Night Market this year, and performed on a number of stages here at home, across Canada and further afield.

A second show, Mom’s the Word: Unhinged, about the playwrights’ children as teenagers, also became a worldwide hit.

 

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