Mamahood Bursting Into Light. UVic Phoenix Theatre Spotlight on Alumni. Interview.

Nicolle Nattrass, who graduated from the University of Victoria Theatre Department in 1991, brings her solo show Mamahood Bursting into Light to the UVic Phoenix Theatre October 9-20 as the “Spotlight on Alumni”.  She answered questions about the creation and refining process of creating this show, and its reception.

What sparked the creation of this show (can you speak to the creation process)? Is this your first one person show?

In the first 2 years of being a parent, I was flooded with ideas & feelings & thoughts- I would grab a scrap of paper around me and quickly jot my ideas down because I knew I would not remember it if I didn’t!

Generally speaking, this is the beginning of any creation process for me.

I use index cards to quickly capture what I need and then I stick them in an old school recipe box (you know like maybe the kind your Grandma used).

(I have several on my desk right now, different ideas for different shows, multiple boxes.

Through capturing my ideas and my experience as a new mom, I got the idea to pitch a course called “Mama Memoirs” and then taught it at Camosun College in Victoria.

It was after that course~ that I got the idea that led to a monologue about what a mother would say if she had not been out of the house on a “night out” in like 3 years. Janet Munsil encouraged me to enter the Monobrow Competition during Unofest and it was well-received. Then I applied to Intrepid Theatre’s YOU  Show and presented the first ever reading of what was called Mamahood: turn and face the strange.

Not long after performing that monologue- I was looking for activities to do on a rainy day with my then four year old and visited our local museum. There was a small NASA space exhibit, with a rocket ship, full space suit and images of that first trip to the moon. As I walked around that day, it suddenly dawned on me that Space was an unknown subject for me and that walking through it was very much like how I felt as a new mother.  That became the strong force for me to explore even further.

This is actually my second one person show- my first one “Brownie Points (Boldly going where no Brownie has gone before). Brownie Points was nominated for “Outstanding new play” and “Outstanding Performance” at the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards, it was also adapted into a short film, winning several awards and also had an American premiere production.

Both of my one person plays~ ironically deal with rites of passage for women.

When did you debut the show and how has it changed since the debut?

First production, my play was presented as part of the “Welcome to Parenthood Festival” at Theatre One in 2015.

The show has changed a great deal since its debut.

After the first production, in between being a busy, working Mama I was able to go back into a workshop process with TJ Dawe, as dramaturge/ director in a week long process which was incredibly beneficial. That was in 2016 and I did an invited reading after the workshop in Vancouver and then it has a production in 2017 at the Firehall Theatre in Vancouver.

The re-working and re-write process has been essential and I have been fortunate to also take part in Canada Council & Playwrights Guild of Canada reading which allowed me to test my material as well as being supported by being invited to do stage readings with various theatre companies.

One of the unique things about having a show of your own is that you grow with it and continue to make shifts, small changes etc. My discovery process continues over a long period of time.

Can you comment on the design aspect of your show, its esthetic?

When I was invited to take the to Toronto in the Soulo Festival~ Tracey Erin Smith described it as a “rock n’roll ride of Motherhood”. I think she was referring to the sound design aspect. Sound is a major element in this play.  The ideas that spoke to me strongly when I was first capturing my ideas for the show, were while I was immersed in “baby land” & my son was discovering all the toys – around him- which came with a variety of sounds, beeps, nursery rhymes which were all new sounds to me and really made me feel like I was in a different world as a new mother.

The other design aspect that I must speak to is my “Set” which consists of three beautiful banners that were created & designed by an incredible comic book artist, Pia Guerra who regularly does cartoons for the New Yorker, she read my play and absolutely captured three iconic images of Motherhood which speak very succinctly to societal “stereotypes” of mothers that are deeply ingrained.  * If you google Pia Guerra- you can see her work)

What do you hope to inspire in your audience?

To inspire others to own, to listen and honor their own stories, not the Hallmark or Hollywood version- but embrace the real impact so we can have greater impact and support for women.

I think TJ said it best- his quote is in the section below.

Who will be interested as a potential audience member?  What would you say to entice someone to come?

Anyone. This show is not just for parents or families. It is for anyone who cares for women.

My director, TJ Dawe is not a parent (and does not plan on becoming a parent) and when I sent him the play ~ he was moved by the STORY.

I asked him why he wanted to direct it, he said:

I’m attracted to this show because this is a story that’s represented of many, many women’s experiences, and yet is frightfully underrepresented on stage. Women’s stories have been undervalued for millennia, even though they’re half the population, and more than half the audience in any theatre. And when an underrepresented population sees their story told on stage, with truth and courage and artistry, there’s a collective yes! that goes up, a validation that their experiences are worth talking about. I’m honoured to help make that happen.  TJ Dawe.

What’s next? 

I have several comedy projects as an actor on the go, rewrites on a full length play as well as being inspired by working as a dramaturge to support new playwrights as well as working as Associate Artist with Theatre One in Nanaimo where I program Emerging Voices, to support new plays.  For Mamahood show, I will continue to find opportunities to perform Mamahood: Bursting into Light. I want to raise funds, to hire a part-time producer as I would like to tour my show so that it can evoke CHANGE in how women are treated during pregnancy, birth and post-partum.

Significant accolades or awards?

The biggest accolades have been from AUDIENCE~ coming from all AGES and surprisingly most of who were NOT parents –

For example,

I had a 19 year old young man come to the show who came up to me afterwards and spoke of how this had changed how he saw his mom and how important it was for him to see it.

23 year old girl who spoke about how seeing my show had given her insight into her own anxiety and courage to speak about it.

A 81 year old woman who said I brought her right back to that moment – in the delivery room- when her son was born.

A mother-in-law who came to see the show who told me she was going to now go back home and treat her daughter in law differently now as a result of seeing my show.

About @lacouvee

Community Builder. Catalyst. Speaker. Writer. Arts Advocate.

Passionate about bridging online and offline communities to effect positive change.

I truly believe that one person can make a difference and that we all have our own lives to live, creatively, while respecting the unique nature of others.

Speak Your Mind