The world premiere of a new play about the bond between mothers and daughters, “My Mother, MySelf,” will have performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, and Saturday, Dec. 1, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, at Vashon High School.
The play, by islander newcomer Torena O’Rorke, details the journeys of four different sets of mothers and daughters, each facing difficulties, conflict and pivotal moments in their relationships.
O’Rorke described the play as a “dark, #metoo comedy,” but also stressed that the multi-ethnic characters and stories told in the play were meant to be uplifting and affirming of the mother-daughter dynamic.
“The play portrays mothers as smart, capable and able to change,” O’Rorke said, noting that too often in plays, books and movies, mothers are cast as villains or deeply flawed people. “Here, you can see mothers in a good light.”
O’Rorke also explained that despite the play’s title, it should not be confused as an adaptation of Nancy Friday’s seminal book, “My Mother/My Self: A Daughter’s Search for Identity,” which she said she had read numerous times.
“[The book] was really empowering, and it planted a seed, but no, this is something different,” she said.
O’Rorke, a recently retired mental health therapist who worked in Eastern Washington for more 30 years, had high-risk clients including juvenile offenders, sex-trafficking survivors and other clients with post-traumatic stress disorder, and these were the people who inspired her to create the play, she said.
The mother-daughter duos in the plays, she said, include domestic abuse and sexual assault survivors, women who are straight and gay, and another woman who is facing the end of life.
“My Mother MySelf” is being presented by Take A Stand Productions, a new nonprofit co-founded by O’Rorke and islander Carolyn Shilling Gill. The pair produced a 20th-anniversary production of “The Vagina Monologues,” staged last March at Vashon Theatre.
O’Rorke said that after that experience, she wanted to produce another show that gave positive messages to girls and women. But after reading 26 scripts, she opted to write her own play, drawing on skills she gained as the writer of a series of mystery novels — a sideline to her career as a therapist.
“None of the plays seemed as contemporary as what we needed in the wake of the #metoo movement,” she said. “I thought, I know how to write dialogue, and so I decided to write my own comedy.”
The play’s cast includes Bonny Moss (who also serves as the show’s assistant director), Dedra Dakota, Lucy Rogers, Emily Bruce, Chai Ste. Marie, Thea Vernoy, Jeremy Edmonds, Sarahfina Aldeane and James Norton. Laurie Minzel, who owned the Kingfish Cafe on Seattle’s Capitol Hill for 18 years, is the show’s set designer, and Kevin O’Rorke is the producer.
The show will serve as a fundraiser for other Take a Stand Productions activities designed for girls and women. These include Rainmakers, a group that meets during Vashon High School’s periodic “smart periods” — a time when students can catch up on homework or attend clubs. For Rainmakers, O’Rorke draws on her experience as a therapist to guide teens through arts activities that are also meant to address emotional needs and build skills in assertiveness, goal setting and other behaviors. Take a Stand also offers free weekly belly dancing class at Ober Park at 11:30 a.m. on Thursdays.
Advance tickets to the show, $18 for adults and $10 for students, can be purchased at takeastandproductions.org, Vashon Bookshop. At the door at showtime, adult tickets are priced two-for-one, with admission at $18 for two people. All performances will include post-show discussions, allowing audience members to share their experiences as well as ask questions about the play.