Dr. Lynne Conner, an award-winning playwright and chair of the Department of Theatre, has released an audio production of her play, The Mother.
The play, which was a 2018 and 2019 O'Neill National Playwrights Conference semi-finalist, received its world premiere by Dramatic Repertory Company (DRC) in Portland, Maine, in March 2020. Originally scheduled to run March 6-12, it closed after three performances because of COVID-19.
Like other UNC Charlotte faculty researchers, Conner had to make significant adjustments in her creative research plan in order to accommodate restrictions brought on by the pandemic. Challenged and inspired by the hiatus in live theatre performances, she decided to develop the play for audio.
“When the DRC production had to close early, it left a profoundly unfinished feeling for me and everyone involved,” Conner said. It also threatened to thwart the play’s potential, since artistic directors, stage directors, actors and other theatre professionals who might have considered producing it had planned to see the show in Portland.
“That's one of the ways in which a play moves on from its premiere to other productions,” said Conner. “But that didn't happen because of the pandemic, which really took the steam out of the play's forward momentum.”
At first Conner considered filming a staged performance in the DRC theater, but it soon became clear that the COVID-19 crisis was not going to end any time soon. When one of the actors suggested she turn it into an audio play, she “started feeling the creative juices flowing.”
The Mother explores the effects on a mother – and her family – of a school shooting that is perpetrated by her son. It received a professional staged reading in Pittsburgh in 2018. A review of the March 2020 premiere in the Portland Press Herald called it "a powerful and harrowing drama."
Conner said that the play is “very theatrical,” with more than 50 scenes that move back and forth in time. For the audio version, she worked with Dagaz Media, a professional audio production company in Portland, and musician/composer Peter de Klerk, who created an original score. She also hired the original cast from the Dramatic Repertory Company, plus additional actors, since the double-casting that took place in the staged production would not be effective in an audio format. And she added a narrator, which she, herself, played. She also directed the audio version – via Zoom.
“Working with the DRC cast was a dream – all of them very talented professional actors based in Portland and all of them committed to the play and its message.”
Visit the production website to learn more about The Mother and hear the complete audio production.