Though Carol Estey, the director of Mothers and Sons is relatively new to the Columbia theatre community, she has been, in her own words, “directing, choreographing, dancing, and acting somewhere for a very, very long time.” She’s been a part of the Stephens theatre and dance programs (Carol retired from her position as chair of the dance department last year), has appeared on stages in New York, and has been instrumental in the arts in Maine. You may have seen her onstage at Talking Horse in Rapture, Blister, Burn last year.
Here are some of Carol’s thoughts on Mothers and Sons.
1. Why this play, now?
I think you’d have to ask [Talking Horse Artistic Director] Ed [Hanson] why he chose it for now. But why would our audiences want to see it? It reveals so much about how people deal with crises in their lives, with both how we discriminate and what it is like to be the target of discrimination. It shows us people who tackle their own prejudices and try to get to the core of them. Brave people just like us.
2. How did you approach the “absent central character” of Andre with the actors, and the backstory of the AIDS crisis in America?
We all talked about him. What he was like. Imagined him. The play itself gives us plenty of information about him, and everyone made up their own version of what he was like and what he meant to them. We talked about the AIDS crisis and what each of us knew or experienced with it. It got kind of dark for awhile, but we are starting to get to the other side of that now.
3. What is your favorite thing about the rehearsal process for Mothers and Sons?
The actors. Their imaginations, their willingness to dig deep. And to find the humor the playwright gave us as well. And every time Cooper comes to rehearsal we all have a lot more fun. And I personally love the exercise of trying to find the core of this play and bring it to life. And I love going to the theatre so I get to go every night and see what wonderful things these actors are capable of—What places they can take us that no other actor would take us, seeing the uniqueness of each actor’s personal viewpoint and emotional life. It is an honor.
I hope the audience sees themselves and people they know in the characters in the play. That’s not always an easy thing. To recognize our own weaknesses or challenges that life has given us. I think they will talk about their experience of the AIDS crisis as we knew it and I hope they also try to learn more about what is happening now. It isn’t over. It isn’t over. People don’t always know that. And young people barely know anything about it. It changed how we live our lives. People forget. Or don’t know.