Jennifer Wynne Webber said the eight years she spent caring for her mother was one of her most meaningful, life-changing experiences and taught her more about love than anything else.
Now the Nanaimo-based playwright is drawing from that experience in her new play, Wild Geese, of which TheatreOne is presenting a staged reading in the Port Theatre lobby on June 18.
“I wanted to look at what can happen, what are some of the challenges and what are some of the steps in the emotional journey that a caregiver goes on when they decide to try to take care of an aging parent,” Webber said. “Particularly if they have that aging parent come live with them.”
In Wild Geese, Sam, an independent-minded old farmer, moves in with his daughter Cass, a constantly busy current affairs commentator, and her wife Zoe, a calligrapher. As Sam’s health deteriorates, Cass unexpectedly finds herself in the role of caregiver.
Although the story is based on her experience with her mother, Webber said she changed a number of key details to keep some “emotional distance.”
“I didn’t want to write my mom. I wanted to try to write something a little different,” she said. “I got along famously with my mom and I thought, ‘Well, you know what I want to do is think about what if the person who came to live was more like a crusty character that might have been a little harder to live with?’”
The play features Tamara McCarthy, who appeared in Webber’s last play, With Glowing Hearts, as Cass, former TheatreOne artistic director Garry Davey as Sam and Nanaimo-raised actress Jessica Lowry as Zoe. On June 6 Webber attended the play’s first workshop along with director David Mann and dramaturge Sara Graefe, Webber’s creative writing MFA thesis supervisor at UBC. Webber said the cast connected with the material immediately.
“Hearing it read … I definitely could choke up watching it because even though it wasn’t exactly what happened with my mom, it was close enough that it brought it back,” she said.
The upcoming staged reading is the first time Webber will see how audiences respond to the play. She said having viewers present will help her gauge the rhythm and pacing of the play and inform how she further edits the script. She said the play is close to production ready and that TheatreOne hopes to eventually bring Wild Geese to the stage.
Webber said the title of the play is a reference to the family support system of geese, and how that behaviour is reflected in Cass and Sam’s relationship and Cass’s motivation to care for her father.
“Something that a lot of people may not know about geese is that if a goose is sick or injured, there’ll always be one goose that drops out of the flock to come and stay with the sick or injured goose for as long as it needs before it can continue the journey if it’s able to continue the journey.” she said. “So you’ll rarely see a goose alone.”
WHAT’S ON … Staged reading of Wild Geese takes place in the Port Theatre lobby on Tuesday, June 18 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $10.