A common thread in life’s experiences
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A common thread in life’s experiences

Different takes a matter of perspective in the Elmira Theatre Company’s production of If We Are Women

Anyone who has ever had parents knows that they are out-of-touch fuddy-duddies who have no idea how people behave in the real world. Anyone who has ever had kids knows that they’re immature, hormone-crazed young’uns with no understanding of how the world works.

There’s a good chance you’ve agreed with both of these fundamental truths at some point or another, although almost certainly not at the same time.

Those worlds collide in If We Are Women, the latest production by the Elmira Theatre Company. This cross-generational comedy-drama brings two grandmothers, a daughter, and a granddaughter together at a beach house in Connecticut, where the family is in the midst of a crisis. It’s the night of the granddaughter’s prom, and after spending the night with a gentleman caller, she announces she’s ditched her plans to go to Yale in the autumn, and is running away with the love of her life. For the older women, this youthful exuberance is very familiar.

“The two grandmothers and the mother, they talk about how they grew up and what happened in their first loves, and you see the young blossoming ones,” said Joe Brenner, producer of the play. “They’re trying to tell the granddaughter, ‘y’know, don’t make the mistakes we did,’ but every generation has to have its own life.

“Anybody that is middle-aged will really get a lot out of this story, because you’ll be thinking about your past too,” he continued, “I think the audience will like it because they’ll really get to know each character.”

The play, written by Joanna McClelland Glass, was a longtime favourite of Susan Jennings, director of the production.

“She always loved it,” said Brenner. “She actually read it back in 2005, and she just waited until she thought it was the right time and right group to do it with. She calls it a ‘funny, sad, and eloquent tribute to the lives of women.’”

“Funny, sad, and eloquent” is surely a difficult balance to strike. How does ECT tackle it? Not surprisingly, it’s a matter of casting.

“It was difficult,” said Brenner. “We did two rounds of auditions, and then we had callbacks. We narrowed it down to two for each role, and then had callbacks and had them read together again. Sometimes you just get that reading where it gels – yes, these are the people.”

The resulting cast includes“four wonderful women,” said Brenner: high-school-age newcomer Megann Friesen, along with local theatre vets Deb Deckert, Sherry Heine, and Lisa MacNeil. “The other three have been onstage for years, and some have won awards. It’s very much an acting piece.”

A key challenge for the cast is making each character accessible to each member of the audience, no matter the age.

“I think different ages will have a different perspective,” said Brenner. “I think young people recognize and probably see it more through the granddaughter’s eyes, whereas a grandparent will definitely be able to see it through their life experience. … Your age may allow you to relate to one character more than another.”

However, he added, “The characters are very well-developed, and I think you get everybody’s story. I think you can understand where everybody is.”

If We Are Women runs February 7-16, Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m., at the Elmira Theatre Company (76 Howard Ave.). Tickets are $19 and available at the Centre in the Square box office – 519-578-1570 or 1-800-265-8977, or at www.elmiratheatre.com. A limited number of tickets may be available at the door.

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