Repertory company explores grief and loss

'There is humour and a lot of heart that went into creating this show'

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My Mother’s Love is a multimedia exploration of grief and loss in which a daughter, Jules, looks back on the life of her bohemian mother and their contentious relationship after her mother’s death.

Written and directed by Stevie Lyons and presented by Paradox Repertory Company, My Mother’s Love is part of this week’s On the Edge fringe festival in North Bay.

Today I interviewed Cassy Wagner of Paradox Repertory Company to discuss artistic process and their show My Mother’s Love.

Windatt: “Can you tell me a little about the show?”

Wagner: “My Mother’s Love is a musical that we collectively created. It’s all original music, all original dialogue and everything. It combines a couple short films, but it’s more a projection piece as we are using a projector for these videos. Tied in with this, Vicky Bitis, one of my cast members, who plays Quinn, is doing a bit of movement because she is a self-taught contortionist. So we have some of that in there along with original music. The script was written by Stevie Lyons except for one song. I am producing and we are both in the show, as well.

“The show follows various characters, including Dawn (Stevie Lyons) and Holden (Shawn Parker) with Dawn being a musician trying to make it. Then there also are Quinn and Jules (Cassy Wagner) who are siblings. Their mother has just passed away, but Jules was never really close with their mom. They had a very tenuous relationship, so we are exploring people dealing with loss interspersed between two different story lines. There is fear when you have that type of relationship with your mom, but you are also kind of… like her. Is it better to seek fame as a musician or stay at home? There are so many ways that your life can go, and it’s all based on these little choices.”

Windatt: “You touched on your creative process, was everyone in your group involved in all aspects of creation for this production?”

Wagner: “Definitely. It started with Stevie writing the script and then we workshopped the show by exploring and changing things collectively. This includes some of the songs, which ended up being expanded and changed around. Throughout, Stevie wrote the lyrics and collaborated with Jessica McMullen on the composition and arrangement and then Vicki created her movement work to the video installations that Stevie made.

“We relied on our individual strengths as artists incorporating our works to make an immersive multimedia piece. It has been a lot of fun to create together while exploring very heavy subject matter, but I’m glad to be working with this group of people. It’s great to be working with them.

“This work supports and explores our dreams and aspirations as artists as all of us want to pursue the arts in some form and performance art has always been core to us as people. And it’s not necessarily a want, but a need to perform. I need to be an artist because I’m most alive when pursuing my artsy side.“

Windatt: :This work sounds like a very comprehensive multi-arts experience?”

Wagner: “That is very accurate. We have movement, music, installation, film, and photography. We have one of those Instax cameras and are going to be using it each night to tie into our set. It is a simple installation technique, but it works toward adding layers and different levels to the production over time. At the beginning of each show, our cast members will be going around asking if they can take a picture of audience members to add to a tree installation that is part of the show.

“By talking with the audience and gaining their permission, we take these photos and add them to our set each night expanding as we go so that on closing night, we will have gone from a few photos to a tree installation full of photos of our audience.”

Windatt: “There sounds like a lot of fun within this project, as well as drama.”

Wagner: “Yes. There is a lot of heavier subject matter as it deals with death and loss and difficult relationships. The idea that you’re not sure how to deal with loss when relationships were never fixed because you thought you had more time and you didn’t is terrifying.

“We also explore the connections between people and humour as life is not just sad and tragic. The audience is brought into this experience because we’ve all been a part of fringe for a number of years as both audience members, as well as artists. We’ve realized we’re so close to the audience that why not have them be a part of the experience, not just as audience members but incorporate them and make them part of it. There is humour and a lot of heart that went into creating this show. It’s a great thing to be a part of an ensemble production like this, and the shared experience of experiencing the show together with the audience.

“The central message within this work is that life is crazy and beautiful, and full of random choices that you don’t know what’s really right or wrong. Sometimes you’ll make a choice and you realize in hindsight you probably should have acted differently, but it’s too late. All these layers and thought processes for a group of people in their mid to late twenties getting into the real world is tough. They realize life is a guessing game, and they have to ask themselves, ‘Oh gosh, what do we do?’ Differences in people and choices that you make are difficult, no matter what. This is a story about those difficult choices because everyone grows up and goes out into the world without knowing where their life is headed.”

My Mother’s Love is being performed by Paradox Repertory Company at the WKP Kennedy Gallery. Showtimes are 5 pm today, 6:30 pm Friday and 7 pm Saturday. Tickets are $15 at the door at the The Paradox Repertory Company has issued a warning that the show contains mature content and some coarse language.

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