We are excited to welcome Michaela Di Cesare to FemFest this year! She completed her Master’s Degree at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies and is a recipient of a MECCA award for Best Text (along with a Best Actress and Revelation nomination) and the Launchpad Award for Emerging Artists. She is a celebrated performer as well as having been recognized for her writing. We asked her to talk about the show for our blog readers!
8 Ways my Mother was Conceived has been a journey unlike any other in my life. This little show has taken me places (both geographically and artistically) that I would not have imagined when I first began to write it. Like many other stories of self-discovery, the embryo for this particular play was fertilized in a moment of crisis. At a time when everything I thought I believed and everything I believed defined me as a young woman was challenged, I locked myself in my room and wrote the first draft of 8 Ways in 2 weeks. That draft was terrible, but necessary—much like the pain I was going through at the time. You see, the event I believed to be a crisis at the time was that my first (“and better-be-last”) boyfriend had proposed marriage and then took it back. This is something that does not go over lightly in a family of Italian immigrants.
Here is a synopsis of the play:
In order to cure herself of the Virgin Complex sabotaging her love life, a young woman must face her eccentric Italian family and disprove their belief that her mother was conceived à la Jesus Christ (sans sex). Her quest for the truth takes her from the gynecologist’s office, to a clairvoyant, to her estranged and mysterious great-grandmother in Southern Italy.
I have toured this show for over 3 years now and each time the show travels, I can feel it evolving and I can feel myself maturing. At first, I felt a certain shame in performing the show. I found myself using judgmental words like “ranting” and “complaining” to describe my actions as the protagonist. I performed with an assumption that no one but myself cared about the subject matter of the show. That was my show in its adolescent stage. Ironically, an adolescent girl changed my outlook. I had been invited to perform at a Woman’s Day event and among the invited guests were young women from a local women’s shelter for refugees. When I found out, I went into a panic worrying that these women would interpret my comical show as “a privileged rant” compared to the real injustices they had been through. After my performance, a 16-year-old Afghan girl came up to me and thanked me for “talking about the things [her] community doesn’t feel comfortable talking about yet.” That conversation forced me to take myself more seriously and allowed the show to mature. The last run of 8 Ways prior to FemFest was a special run for high schools in the neighborhood I grew up in. It felt like coming home again, familiar yet grown up. I had many interesting discussions with the youth in my talkback session. The action words I use now are more along the lines of “exploring”, “healing” and “growing.”
I look forward to the exploration, healing and growth that will undoubtedly occur when 8 Ways comes to Winnipeg.