NEPA Scene Staff

Act Out Theatre addresses suicide with drama ‘Night, Mother’ in Dunmore Sept. 14-16

Act Out Theatre addresses suicide with drama ‘Night, Mother’ in Dunmore Sept. 14-16
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From a press release:

Act Out Theatre Group will present the emotional two-woman play “Night, Mother” for one weekend only in the company’s new home in Dunmore on Friday, Sept. 14 through Sunday, Sept. 16.

The production, directed by Dunmore High School senior Molly Butler, revolves around a mother, Thelma, and her 30-something daughter, Jessie, as Jessie informs her mom that she is going to end her life with her father’s gun. Written by Marsha Norman, the play won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play.

The story, summarized below, is particularly timely because September is Suicide Prevention Month:

Jessie’s father is dead, she is epileptic and unemployable, her loveless marriage ended in divorce, her absent son is a petty thief and ne’er-do-well, her last two jobs failed and, in general, her life is stale and unprofitable. As the play begins, Jessie asks for her father’s service revolver and calmly announces that she intends to kill herself. At first, her mother refuses to take her seriously, but as Jessie sets about tidying the house and making lists of things to be looked after, her sense of desperate helplessness begins to build.

Butler, who is active in Act Out Theatre’s musical workshops, is directing the play as part of her high school senior project. She is being advised by Kalen Churcher of Plymouth. Dan Pittman, also of Plymouth and the theatre’s owner and artistic director, serves as technical director.

“Theatre is a very important part of my life,” Butler said. “I plan to minor in theatre in college, and my goal is to direct plays at a high school in the future. I thought it would be useful to get some experience now.”

Laurie Kirk of Reeders and Shania Burns of Scranton play the mother and daughter, respectively. Kirk, who has two children of her own, said she relates to Thelma in that she has seen her own children in pain while not being able to help.

Shania Burns and Laurie Kirk

She also relies on her own childhood and mother as she develops her character.

“I don’t get overly method,” Kirk explained. “I bring up emotions from the past that relate to the scene. Even if the circumstances don’t apply, the emotion is the same.”

Burns believes the most challenging aspect of the play is channeling the emotion into playing Jessie, but it is that challenging aspect that led Burns to audition.

“The message [the play] delivers is not only super important in today’s world, but it’s also delivered in such a way that it deeply resonates with the audience. I’ve done plays before with a similar message, and I feel like ‘Night, Mother’ surpasses those simply because of how frank it is, and we need to be frank when it comes to issues like these.”

“Night, Mother” runs at the Act Out Theatre (150 E. Grove St., Dunmore) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 14 and Saturday, Sept. 15. A 3 p.m. matinee performance will be held on Sunday, Sept. 16.

All tickets are $15 and are available by e-mailing Tickets can also be purchased at the door.