After a 19-month wait, Village Theatre Guild to bring Terrence McNally's 'Mothers and Sons' to the stage
The date was March 20, 2020. Village Theatre Guild's third show of their 57th season, "Mothers and Sons" by Terrence McNally, was scheduled to have its opening night.
The set was built. Many tickets had been reserved to see the play.
The cast and crew had worked hard to create this production with its 12 performances. But with only a handful of final dress and technical rehearsals remaining before opening night, Village Theatre Guild had to postpone the production due COVID-19.
It originally was moved back to April 17, 2020, but that date was soon ruled out as well when more information about the virus came to light. Hopes that it might open that summer and then that fall of 2020 were also dashed.
They joined the rest of the theater world and shut down for the 2020-21 season. Meanwhile, the set remained in the dark, unused theater. Would the lights ever come up on this play at Village Theatre Guild?
The answer is yes.
Jackie Meara, the director of "Mothers and Sons," always remained committed to the show. She checked with her cast and they were all still interested and available to bring the show to life 19 months after it was originally scheduled to open. Rehearsals recently started up again as they gear up for the production to finally open on Oct. 15, 2021.
"Mothers and Sons" deals with a woman who unexpectedly visits the New York apartment of her late son's partner, who is now married to another man and has a young son. The cast features Karen Bronson, Tony Lage, Kevin Taylor, and Cameron Taylor.
"When I first read the script for 'Mothers and Sons,' I was struck by how far back we have slipped in living a life full of love, kindness, and acceptance of all people. In 2014, the setting for the story, gay marriage was legal and adopting a child was met with celebration and joy, not scrutiny and scorn as it is now. The very fabric of this tenant is under constant threat amid an encouraged atmosphere of suspicion, hate, ignorance, and prejudice," Meara said. "That said, even in 2014, there were still challenges with some people who were unwilling to see all human beings under the same light and through the same lens. What 'Mothers and Sons' is trying to tell us, is that we are all one human family and life is too short to undercut that precious time with fear, shame, and regret."
Despite the long delay, those involved with "Mothers and Sons" shared the strong desire to finish what they started.
"So much work was already put into this production prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, that it would have been a shame not to see the production through to completion. In addition, this play was a favorite of our recently departed friend and mentor Sue Keenan. I feel that performing it will be a tribute to her," Lage explained.
Keenan was one of Village Theatre Guild's co-founders when they formed in 1963 and she volunteered enthusiastically and expertly in numerous capacities over the years. The performing area inside the theater was recently named "The Sue Keenan Stage" in her memory.
Meara is grateful that theaters are opening back up and that VTG audiences get to witness this story. "Good theater is not only supposed to entertain, but also to educate and inform. It's a great way to get people to really think and discuss the different themes and messages they just experienced," she said.
Bronson identified a powerful message for discussion within McNally's play. "There are always two sides to a story. And loss is something everyone deals with and processes differently -- there is no right or wrong. But there is always hope," she shared.
Most community theaters have a rehearsal process of six to eight weeks before the show opens, so these actors were in new territory when it came to creating their characters. "I would do periodic line readings and 'run throughs' to stay current with the show. Of course, nothing compares to being back in person with the cast and our director," Lage said.
"This is the longest time I've been able to sit with a character. For many regular experiences in my life these past several months, I asked myself how Will would respond to a given situation. I've definitely grown closer to Will and -- with the help of our fabulous director -- I believe I'll bring more depth to him, having had a longer time to understand him," Kevin Taylor explained.
"When we first were told the show was postponed, it was thought it would only be postponed for a few weeks. So, I kept my script out and kept going over my lines. Then it became very clear this was not going to be a short-term postponement. And I put my script away. But then when there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel, I took it out and started reading through it again, finding new things, new ideas. And it's been on my coffee table ever since. Now of course it's getting all those lines back into my memory banks," Bronson added.
"Mothers and Sons" opens Friday, Oct. 15, for a run until Saturday, Nov. 6. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 15-16, 22-23, 29-30, Nov. 5-6, with matinees at 2 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 17- 31, and Saturday, Nov. 6. Tickets are $22 (all fees included).
Tickets are available at villagetheatreguild.com/productions or by calling the box office at (630) 469-8230.
Village Theatre Guild is located at 2S720 Park Blvd. near the northwest corner of Butterfield Road and Park Boulevard in Glen Ellyn. Free parking is available.
The Village Theatre Guild has joined a growing coalition of performing arts venues across the Chicago area and has adopted proof of COVID-19 vaccination (or proof of a negative COVID-19 test) and mask requirements for audiences and members. Visit www.villagetheatreguild.org for more information.
"I think it's more important than ever to show this play after what the world has gone through this last year and a half. So many of us lost people close to us and the themes in this play will resonate in different (and I believe more powerful) ways than if we were able to put it up in March 2020," Kevin Taylor said.
Meara agreed with this sentiment as she thought of the source of the material. "Terrence McNally passed away from COVID-19 early in the pandemic, so that kept us all focused on ensuring we would somehow, someway bring his beautiful work to the stage and our audiences."
If you goWhat: Village Theatre Guild's "Mothers and Sons"
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 15 to Nov. 6; matinees at 2 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 15-31, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6
Tickets: $22 (all fees included), available at villagetheatreguild.com/productions or the box office at (630) 469-8230.
Where: 2S720 Park Blvd. near the northwest corner of Butterfield Road and Park Boulevard in Glen Ellyn. Free parking is available.