My Mother’s Story documents women’s lives with book and show

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The personal triumphs and tragedies experienced by an older generation of women are the basis for a new book project and theatre show coming to North Vancouver.

My Mother’s Story: North Vancouver features the biographical tales of women born in the first half of the 20th century, as told by their daughters.

The stories were gathered during a series of workshops that drew more than 100 participants. From 60 submissions, eight stories were selected for the new stage production, which opens at Presentation House Theatre on (Friday) October 19.

“The way that we chose it was that we wanted to reflect the diversity of the community,” project founder Marilyn Norry told the Straight by phone. “We wanted to reflect the diversity of all the experience of women in different kinds of personal lives. We wanted to reflect the different ages, the different times of the century that women were living in.”

The Mothership Stories Society, the nonprofit group behind the project, is also publishing a companion book that contains stories from dozens of local women, including those used in the theatre show.

Norry said the stories provide an unvarnished look at the lives of women who came of age in the previous century. The tales offer personal windows onto major events in history from women who lived in Canada and beyond, she said.

“Their experiences are of the whole 20th century and you can see the changing standards of how women perceived their lives throughout the century,” she said.

“It’s a real personal micro-history of all of these headline news events.”

The origin of the My Mother’s Story project traces back to a poignant experience Norry had in 2004. While at a wedding, Norry met a woman who related the fascinating story of her mother’s life. Struck by the encounter, Norry, a well-known actor and writer, then asked her actor friends to share written versions of their mothers’ stories. This led to the initial run of shows that featured women reading out the stories of their mothers.

With the latest on-stage incarnation of My Mother’s Story, the approach has changed. Rather than having actors simply reading from scripts, it is a full-scale theatrical production with music, elaborate staging, and actors playing the story-telling daughters.

“This is a whole theatrical experience as well as telling these stories. And, you know, in the way that we have done everything on this, it’s a big experiment,” Norry said.

The opening performance at Presentation House Theatre in North Vancouver is on October 19. The show runs until October 28 with performances every day except for October 22. Preview shows are scheduled for October 17 and 18. Organizers hope to have copies of the new book available for $20 by the time the show starts.

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