In Terrence McNally’s recent drama Mothers and Sons, we are witness to a meeting between Katharine Gerard, mother of the now-deceased Andre, and Andre’s former lover, Cal. Cal has, in the years since Andre’s death, married another man, and the two of them have a young son. Katharine’s visit comes as a surprise to the married couple, and their conversation and its emotional fallout make up the plot of McNally’s play.
Mothers and Sons opened on Broadway on March 24th, 2014 and ran for 104 performances and 33 previews. Among the cast of the Broadway production, which had its premiere at the Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania, was the formidable star Tyne Daly, whose performance as Katharine Gerard was hailed by critics as pretty much the best thing in the play (and was subsequently nominated for a Tony award). Stepping into Daly’s shoes in Champaign-Urbana’s first production of this “moving, intensely resonant” play (Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune) is Barbara Ridenour, who was seen last season in the Station’s production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.
This Thursday, March 26th, at 8 p.m., Mothers and Sons will open at The Station Theatre in Urbana under the direction of Artistic Director Rick Orr. In the run-up to her opening night, Ms. Ridenour answered a few of our questions on the play, the process, and the Station itself.
Smile Politely: What sparked your wanting to become involved again with the Station Theatre and community theatre in general, after a few years off?
Barbara Ridenour: I don’t feel like I ever left the Station Theatre community completely. Even though I didn’t participate in shows while I was the Theatre Arts teacher at Uni High, I still attended most of their productions over the years and remained friends with the people I worked with in the early 90s. After retiring from teaching, I finally had time to get back into that community.
SP: What do you feel makes the Station Theatre special, and where is your place within that?
Ridenour (pictured, right, in a scene from her final dress rehearsal): The Celebration Company at the Station Theatre produces top quality theatre. I want to be a part of that and support it as much as I can. I also am on the Board of Directors, and my husband and I are patrons.
SP: Had you been familiar with McNally’s Mothers and Sons before joining the production? If not, what about it surprised or delighted you?
Ridenour: I read Mothers and Sons last fall. I knew from reading it it would be an actor’s challenge, and it is.
SP: What is your favorite part about acting in such an intimate theater space?
Ridenour: My favorite part of acting in such an intimate space is the fact that it is so intimate. The actors and the audience aren’t separated by a great void. It seems like more of a shared experience because it is so close. It’s basic, no-frills theatre at its best.
SP: In a world where entertainment can be accessed in merely seconds, why do people still need to attend the theatre?
Ridenour: Live theatre is one type of entertainment. It doesn’t really compare to instant entertainment in that it lives and dies in the moment and is a shared experience with the audience. No two performances are ever alike. I can’t imagine live theatre will ever die.
SP: How has working in the theatre changed the way you operate in day-to-day life?
Ridenour: When I am in a show, that’s pretty much all I think about. I still do my daily things, see family, volunteer, etc., but learning the lines, thinking about the character, the story, the other characters, anything related to the show consumes me.
We wish Ms. Ridenour a successful and exciting run and look forward to seeing her in many productions to come!
Mothers and Sons will run at The Station Theatre from March 26th to April 11th at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays and $15 on Fridays and Saturdays. The play also stars Thom Schnarre (Cal), Eric Beckley (Will), and Max Libman (Bud).
Photos by Scott Wells.