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'The Mom Journals' at Live Arts explores motherhood through monologues

'The Mom Journals' at Live Arts explores motherhood through monologues

Jillian faces a swirl of emotions as her child prepares to leave for college. At a moment when everyone expects her to be overjoyed, Rachel is battling postpartum depression. And Beth’s journey to motherhood has been delayed by a struggle with infertility.

Courtney Jett Walker, local playwright and mother of four, wrote “The Mom Journals” to explore the experiences of women in different moments of motherhood. When Live Arts presents the new play online from Jan. 28 to 31, audiences can hear interwoven monologues that dive into the ways that motherhood enriches, changes and confounds.

Nina Haigney is the director. The cast includes Mary Best Bova as Jillian, Cadessa Davis as Mickey, Laura Mawyer as Dorcas and Mandy Shuker as Beth; Walker will portray Rachel.

A sixth character, Molly, won’t appear in this production as a result of an actress’ illness.

“With each monologue, they’re telling a story about where they are right now,” Walker said. “It will feel as if you’re getting to know these women personally.”

Mickey is a young mother who displays “an attitude of warmth and humor,” Walker said. Depicting a teen mom without resorting to stereotypes was important, “mainly to represent a young woman dealing with a difficult situation and being very strong,” she said.

Representing the new-mom glow was an important part of the mix, too. “I certainly remember that, with my first, that was the most blissful year of my life,” said Walker, who has 11 years of experience as a mother.

Both Walker and director Haigney are members of Live Arts’ Playwrights Lab, which gives local playwrights opportunities to present their work and receive feedback from other playwrights. Local audiences also have seen Walker’s work as an actress before, as Annelle in Victory Hall Players’ production of “Steel Magnolias” and Frankie in Persimmon Tree Players’ “Dearly Beloved.”

She’d originally envisioned the show as a stage production, but the COVID-19 pandemic had other ideas.

“Online theater wouldn’t ever be my first choice for theater, but I thought this one would work very well online,” she said. “The feel of the characters speaking directly to the audience works.”

Audience members don’t need to be mothers — or even women — to enjoy the play. Spouses and significant others are involved in these women’s lives to varying degrees; in Rachel’s case, while she fights postpartum depression, “her spouse really doesn’t get it,” Walker said, but he means well.

“I think what men could relate to are the challenges of raising children — and the fears,” she said.

“There are always going to be times when you’re raising children together that you aren’t always on the same page. As a stay-at-home parent, there are struggles that my husband sympathizes with but doesn’t know what they are, because I’m home with them more.”

Walker said the character of Beth pays tribute to the tenacity and hope of women who deal with infertility. “I think she’s really kind of a nod to how strong and patient I’ve known several women to be,” she said.

Walker said she’d love to see an in-person version of “The Mom Journals” around Mother’s Day, if gathering restrictions have eased by then.

If motherhood and fertility are sensitive topics, be aware that this show includes discussion of miscarriage, abortion, mental illness and the death of a family member.

Performances of “The Mom Journals” are planned for 8 p.m. Jan. 28, 29 and 30 and 2 p.m. Jan. 31. Once you buy your tickets, you’ll receive a Zoom link and instructions for viewing your livestreamed performance.

Tickets are $20 per household; get them through the box office at livearts.org or call (434) 977-4177, Ext. 123. Pay-what-you-can tickets can be purchased for the opening-night performance at 8 p.m. Jan. 28.

Coming up in the spring season will be “Let Go of Me” by Kelley Van Dilla from March 25 to 28 and “We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For” by Mariela Edwards from May 20 to 23. There’s still time to reserve season pass tickets by emailing darryl@livearts.org.

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