The extraordinary life stories of five ordinary women are the inspiration for Delta Stageworks’ latest production, coming to the Genesis Theatre next month.
Created by Delta Stageworks company members Camryn Chew, Peg Christopherson, Renee Iaci, Ragini Kapil and Eric Keenleyside, with dramaturgy by Marilyn Norry, Heirlooms & Baggage (My Mother’s Story) features compelling real-life stories of five diverse mothers’ journeys, the unique and universal life moments of their lives, all knit together with personal discoveries made by their story tellers — their grown children.
“Transformational, thought-provoking and funny, this is theatre that will capture your heart and make you want to discover more about your own mothers’ life story,” reads the show’s description at deltastageworks.ca.
After receiving rave reviews from audiences for the workshop production of Heirlooms & Baggage at Kinvillage in Tsawwassen back in February, the company is excited to bring new story elements and enhanced theatricality to the show when it plays at the Genesis Theatre Oct. 12-15 (plus a preview show Oct. 11).
The catalyst for the shows’ development was a series of “My Mother’s Story” writing and storytelling workshops the society held last year led by Norry. The sessions aimed to connect participants with their mother’s life story and encourage them to share diverse cultural experiences through writing and storytelling — no previous experience necessary.
My Mother’s Story was created by Norry in 2004, and since that time she has created an online archive of submitted stories; edited and published three related anthologies as well as a workbook, Writing Women’s History — Starting With Your Mother; and spoke about the important and transformative work of writing our mothers’ histories at the 2023 TEDx Surrey.
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Actor/writers Chew, Christopherson, Iaci, Kapil and Keenleyside were all drawn to the project by a personal desire to delve into their respective mothers’ life stories.
Kapil, whose mother’s journey began in Fiji and took her to Nelson, B.C. and on to a noted career as an educator in Vancouver, said in a release that she has often taken my mother’s strengths and accomplishments for granted, and that the creative process of putting the show together “has really opened up my understanding of who she is as a woman, not just as my mother, and what it’s been like for her to negotiate the cultural expectations and judgements faced by a woman of color coming to Canada in the 1960s.”
For her part in the play, Chew tells stories from both her mother’s life journey as well as her own that involve lived experience of anti-Asian racism.
“Before this project, Chinese characters in plays I have been cast as were written as racist stereotypes. Now I get to finally be the person writing the story. And the most poignant part is that I couldn’t be doing this without the power and strength of my mother,” she said in a press release.
Keenleyside’s mother’s story offers glimpses into the extraordinary ordeal and strength of a woman escaping Europe in the wake of the Second World War II, coming to Canada as a refugee in the 1940s with little but a piece of her family’s silverware.
Iaci, meanwhile, brings the audience on an emotional journey of revelation and heart-break with her mother’s story, a journey that runs from Powell River to the infamous Vancouver nightclub scene of the 1960s.
“This is theatre that will capture your heart and make you want to discover more about your own mother’s life story,” Christopherson, the company’s artistic lead, said about Delta Stagework’s first show of the fall season. “It’s the perfect show to make a date with your mom to see.”
Next month’s production is directed by UVic faculty member Fran Gebhard, with set and projections design by Christian Ching and lighting design by Keagan Elrick.
Tickets for Heirlooms & Baggage (My Mother’s Story) range from $27-33 and are available now through the Delta Stageworks website (deltastageworks.ca). A 15 per cent discount is available for seniors.
Shows take place at the Genesis Theatre, located at 5005 45th Ave. in Ladner. Preview on Oct. 11 and performances Oct. 12-14 start at 7:30 p.m. There will also be 2 p.m. matinee shows on Oct. 14 and 15.