Young moms to bring their gripping stories to Town Hall Theater
MIDDLEBURY — Her words cut a fiery path across an ivory page.
They tell a tale of a survival, of a whirlwind childhood molded from domestic chaos.
“I am from the small town that made everyone ask, ‘Where is that?’ From the trailer park, Fernwood Manor, where I lived, and that made the people call me ‘white trash.’ I am from my sister’s house — dishes, clothes, dirt and toys everywhere, from her needles and heroin. I am from watching my sister, the person I looked up to, throw her life away (spoons, lighters and needles making her too high to care).”
But the young woman who wrote that passage notes that she is also from her daughter, “from her small fingers wrapped around mine, her eyes so big and blue.”
And that’s what keeps this client of the Addison County Parent/Child Center (PCC) moving forward to a better life.
She is among a handful of PCC clients who recently wrote their personal life stories during a “memoirs” class offered this past winter/spring at the center in Middlebury. Those memoirs have now been pooled together in a single script called “Hole Life” that will be performed this Tuesday, Aug. 2, at 1 p.m. at the Town Hall Theater. Four professional actors will bring the women’s words to life, under the direction of the authors themselves.
“This is such an empowering, fascinating group of women,” Parent/Child Center Co-Director Sue Bloomer said of the authors of “Hole Life.”
“It’s a funny thing, a serious thing, and a true reflection of life,” she added.
The “Hole Life” authors include Sadie Pelkey, Helen Hill, Elizabeth Morse, Keisha Thomson and Darian Jerome. All receive services through the PCC, including various classes to improve their writing. Deirdre Kelly, the center’s education director, has been instrumental in that programming. And she is proud of her students for the work they have produced for the stage.
“The ‘Hole Life’ play gives back to our community what we’re all thirsty to hear,” Kelly said. “The real possibility of this play is that it becomes a catalyst for our community to reflect on scenes that are often not discussed, or shoved under the rug.”
Under normal circumstances, the memoirs class would simply produce some nice writing samples that the clients could take with them as keepsakes, to serve as reminders who they are and where they came from.
But this year was different, according to Bloomer.
“From that class came some amazing stories that made us think, ‘Wow, we can do more with this,’” Bloomer said.
So PCC officials reached out to folks at the Town Hall Theater to talk about an artistic collaboration. The two organizations have a nice history of co-producing fundraisers and other activities. Lindsay Pontius, the THT’s education director, joined PCC organizers in developing the “Hole Life” performance. The young authors also served stints in the director’s chair, advising the actors on dialogue, inflection and other subtleties in imparting their very personal stories.
“Over the five years I have been with THT, I have become increasingly passionate about outreach to the community that for various reasons cannot take advantage of what THT offers as a venue,” Pontius said.
“The student/directors from PCC are so savvy, they instinctively get how to make a dramatic choice,” she added. “The material they have created is authentic, moving and funny. It is deeply human and needs to be heard by our whole community. I love this partnership and am excited to see where it will take us.”
Hill acknowledged being a little nervous about sharing her history with an audience of largely strangers.
“Random people will know what I went through,” she said.
But while her life’s road has had many bumps, Hill believes her experience will leave spectators with a positive message.
“No matter how hard life gets, there’s an upside to everything,” she said.
Morse had always wanted to do some directing, and said, “it was really cool how everyone’s pieces came together.”
She will keep the memory of seeing her story play out on stage, and hold on to a copy of the script for her daughter to read when she gets older.
“It is important for my daughter to know how I grew up, how it affected me, and how it can be different for her,” Morse said.
Hill would just as soon take a pass on sharing “Hole Life” with her child.
“I try to keep my daughter away from everything that has happened to me,” she said.
Pelkey does not have a child at this point, but vowed to read her story to a future son and/or daughter. It’s a story in which she comes to terms with some bad habits.
“My piece is about how I always need to have the last word,” she said with a smile. “And I grew up (in a home) with a lot of swearing.”
She’s working to become less argumentative and to cleanse her speech of four-letter words.
Pelkey on Thursday was looking forward to finally seeing the play.
“I can’t wait to see it come together,” she said.
And when it does, the audience will see some souls laid bare.
“I am from the aching anxiety of separation, from depression and pain, from anger and rage because no one ever sees … I am from being raised by a pervert called grandpa and his wife, the angel who didn’t, and couldn’t know… ” reads another portion of the “Hole Life” script.
“I am from growing up too early.”
Tuesday’s performance at the THT is free and open to the public. Organizers said “Hole Life” will run for around a half-hour.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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