I had a ‘sneak preview’ on Sunday of the upcoming performance of “Body Talk” by Maria McLeod to be at the Firehouse Performing Arts Center in Bellingham this Friday and Saturday evenings, September 28-29. The cast had a dress-tech rehearsal during which I shot production photos for Maria (full disclosure here). But as I was moving around, to photograph the cast, I could see and hear the show which is a collection of dramatic readings based on true stories that Maria has written about what it means to be a woman.
The readings–all short monologues–are terrific. Maria is a published poet, a freelance journalist, documentarian and assistant professor of journalism at Western Washington University. The collected stories are all taken from in-depth interviews that Maria conducted over several years and include a mammogram technician, a nun, a new mother, an esthetician, a transgendered woman and a Buddhist feminist. In their stories, they share and explore the definition of “womanhood”. Their tales are explicit (not recommended for young children) but not uncomfortably so.
Maria has done a wonderful job of structuring the overall piece into a cohesive yet varied look at her subject matter. The fact that each piece comes from actual memories and events gives it even greater impact. Her language, or that of her interviewees, is powerful in a way that causes you to stop and think about not only the lives of these women but your own as well. Director Karee Wardrop has done a good job of serving the text by keeping blocking and stage business to a minimum so as not to distract from the words themselves. Likewise for the incidental music as performed by two jazz musicians.
The individual performances themselves are strong and bring to life the women behind each of the stories. Actress Sheila Larkin Goodwin, in particular, gives a moving interpretation of the marathon-running nun’s surprising story.
But I would expect that from Sheila (also a personal friend) who has appeared in numerous television and theatre productions. However, all the women I saw in the cast–Marie Eaton, Pam Kuntz and Sarah Wallace (Kari Sevens was absent)–also gave weight to their women’s words. I felt that each had, in some way, connected to their assigned woman and carried that across in their reading.
If you haven’t yet purchased a ticket for these performances, I’d suggest you hurry. They can be purchased on-line at http://www.BrownPaperTickets, Village Books in Fairhaven or at the door for $15. Both performances start at 7:30 p.m. with American Sign Language interpreters present on Friday evening. A portion of the proceeds from the shows will be donated to Womencare Shelter.
The only regret I’d have about the show at this point is that there are only two performances scheduled. It’s so wonderful to see something as fresh and new and different as “Body Talk” staged locally and done well.