My mum. If you don't understand the shirt, I can explain it to you.
Today my mum turns 50.
This is the first year I haven’t been with her to celebrate her birthday and this will also be the first year that she won’t be with me to celebrate my birthday, a inevitable event that occurs as we get older and move away from our parents.
Of course, this birthday is in a way a milestone and is the main reason why I chose this birthday to write this. I realize that this is oddly personal, but there is a theater connection here.
I don’t think that I would have an interest in theater if it wasn’t for my mother.
She took me to my first play when I was five, which was the national tour of Beauty and the Beast. (I know, that seems really odd when we’re talking about me.) She took me to plays when we moved to Iowa, encouraged me to audition and would give me tips on how I said lines and would remind me to project. I remember that she would include my sister and I in the process of selecting the plays that we would go see at the local children’s theater.
My mother was not a Mama Rose, a term I give any mother who tries to vicariously live through their daughter(s) that perform. She was supportive and encouraged me to do theater. She nurtured me and got involved in theater when I was cast in my first play at the age of nine. Unlike some Mama Roses at the children’s theater, who would be in charge of the costume crew for a play and then only change their child, my mother actually ran the crew. She didn’t hover over me with rehearsals and there was no need for her to do that during tech and the run of the show.
My mother eventually was bitten by the theater bug and was in the next play that the children’s theater did. (I was on the props crew.) As time progressed, my mother made more onstage appearances than I did, but still did a variety of things. We would run the light and sound boards together, which we did for a production of Charley’s Aunt. When she stage managed a production of a stage adaptation of Junie B. Jones, I served as the assistant stage manager and learned various tips and tricks for stage managing that would later help me when I stage managed a show.
She is also an actress that I greatly admire; the comedies being performed in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area are probably a little more dull without her in them. She posses an incredible comedic timing while playing the roles straight, never for laughs. She can only be onstage for one scene, but steal the entire show. Any tip or compliment I would receive from her on my acting I took with great honor. When I did a staged reading of a stage adaptation of The Wolves in the Walls that I wrote and directed, she played the Queen of Melanesia. She simply sat there, miming the motions of gardening before saying her one line, “What?!” and I had to refrain from bursting out into laughter.
After we read through my first original play, we had an discussion about the motivations for the characters and my ideas with it. She encouraged me to apply to DePaul University and we both went to Chicago for my interview, which required her to leave a math teacher’s conference early. But it was worth the memories of food at Venus, the math section of the Borders on Michigan Ave at 9 p.m.. Only with her could I sing a rousing rendition of “The Ladies Who Lunch” while sitting in traffic on I-90.
I will also remember her reaction to someone telling her that she’d have to go to Chicago to see the shows I worked on. The person had made it sound like a horrible thing and my mother said, sarcastically, “I know. I’ll have to go to Chicago and see plays. And I’ll have to eat.”
She has managed to see the one show I’ve worked on since moving to Chicago. Even though I was only on the house and public relations crew, she still made it out here for opening weekend. When we talk, she’ll ask me about the shows I’ve seen recently. On the main screen of her iPod touch is a bookmark of my blog. She gives me constructive suggestions and I take them. She has dropped everything and came to Chicago when I ended up in the hospital.
If there is one thing I miss, it’s the commentary that she’d share with me about a play we’d see. Our opinions might’ve differed, but she stood by her opinions and she always told me to stand by mine and to think for myself.
On Friday, I walked to Swirlz Cupcakes to pick-up a cupcake for two reasons: one was as a celebration of her birthday and I felt as though I needed to pick it up then because cupcake shops would be packed on the 13 and 14 due to Valentine’s Day. The second one was because I was craving a cupcake.
The two cupcakes that caught my eye were the red velvet cupcake and the bittersweet chocolate. My mother is a true chocolate lover and prefers dark chocolate to milk chocolate. I decided to get the bittersweet chocolate because that seemed very appropriate for the occasion.
So, I lift a cupcake to my mother, who not only gave birth to me and my sister, but also helped nurture a love for the theater for me.
Hopefully we’ll be able to see another play soon.