The Bunnell Street Arts Center hosted on Saturday a one-night live performance, “MOMologues,” featuring excerpts from the newly released local book “The Momologue Collective: An Anthology of Self-Identifying Mothers.”
The “Momologue” anthology, which was curated by multidisciplinary artist Brianna Allen and edited by Mercedes O’Leary, collected short-stories submitted anonymously by local writers dealing the trials, tribulations and joys and love of motherhood. Topics ranged from losing dried bellybuttons in the laundry to watching a beloved teenager recover from a suicide attempt.
Allen started the project when she learned she was pregnant with her second child a little sooner than planned.
“I knew I really needed a supportive community and didn’t know how women really had more than one child,” she said. “I solicited anonymous stories online and my friends sent me these stories, some of them were really, some surprising. They were all really vulnerable. There was a lot of engagement.”
Once she collected 150 stories she found some financial support to publish the book. In 2020, Allen, O’Leary and Norton put together some short video monologues and shared them online “but the ultimate dream and goal was to do this, live, and we hope to do it again next year.”
Bunnell Street Arts Center offered the performance space to the collaboration for their December performance.
For Saturday’s live performance, Allen and O’Leary worked with Pier One Theatre Director Jennifer Norton and Claudia Haines with Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic to adapt and connect the monologues in the performance script to highlight reoccurring themes.
“We wanted to create a little interplay between the performers so it wasn’t just a straight up series of monologues. And it’s still kind of an evolving process as we experiment with the live performance aspect,” Norton said.
Allen opened the performance with a strong introductory statement about some of the universal challenges and choices related to the process of shared communication in mothering.
“Vulnerability in storytelling inspires a deeper kind of listening, which can challenge the larger systems that don’t serve us anymore. Vulnerable storytelling is actually the only thing that inspires lasting change. It also takes safety and that is vital to this project. Here there is safety both in anonymity and in numbers,” she said.
Sarah L. Brewer, Jessica Golden, Katelyn Hawkins-Wythe, Jules Joy, Sarah Roberts, Jessica Williams and Sunrose Winslow presented the 21 emotional acts of the show to a largely silent 21+ audience. Titles for the pieces include headings such as: “Momm! You are beautiful!”; “Who will hold me?”; “Rage shows up sometimes”; “Neither of Us Felt Ready”; “Coffee Table Confessions”; and “Echoes of Motherhood.”
The audience reaction to the stories was diverse with many experiencing sensitive responses to the various stories. There were tears, laughter and a generally stoic response with most applause held until the conclusion of the show when the packed gallery stood in appreciation.
Post-performance, Claudia Haines with the Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic spoke to the audience about some transitions and regulations the United States has experienced over the past year.
“Here we are in Homer, Alaska, on this cold winter night and we’re sharing powerful, very intimate stories about the choices we make. To be mothers at all, when to have children, how to get pregnant and to give birth and how many children to bring into our families.”
She also drew the audience’s attention to the general United States federal family planning services, reproductive health and youth access availability.
Homer’s Momologue Collection (www.MomologueCollective.com) will continue to gather stories. People who are interested in sharing their experiences can find the space and directions via the website at the “Get Involved” link. The 2022 publications can be found at Bunnell Street Arts Center or online.