Creating The Memory of Water

Plays about mothers and daughters and sisters were rarely seen on stages 25 years ago. One of the best that remains is Shelagh Stephenson’s dark comedy, The Memory of Water, which premiered at London’s Hampstead Theatre back in 1996. The comedy tale is set in a house in America where three sisters are haunted by their own demons. The University will be showing the play directed by Cathy A Fank.

Shelagh Stephenson was born in 1955 in Northumberland and read drama at Manchester University. She is the author of several plays including Darling Peidi, The Anatomical Venus, Ancient Lights, Mappa Mundi, The Memory of Water and more. Shelagh didn’t even think of writing The Memory of Water at first, it just came out in a conversation in a rehearsal. On suggestions that she made conscious references in the play to Woody Allen’s film Hanna and her Sister. Some people have dubbed The Memory of Water as Shelagh and her Sisters.

The Memory of Water is about three sisters; Teresa, Mary and Catherine, who come together at the home of their recently deceased mother and revisit the path. Each are haunted by their own demons, in which the play focuses on how each sister deals with the death and how it directly affects them. The three each have different memories of the same events, causing constant bickering about whose memories are true. As the three women get together after years of separation, all their hidden lies and self-betrayals are about to reach the surface.

Vi is the mother of the three sisters and whose funeral they are together for. Mary is the middle sister and a doctor whose five-year affair with Mike, a married doctor, is starting to show strain. Teresa is the eldest sister and an unhappy housewife, who runs a store with her husband Frank, and who feels she has to keep the family together for years. Catherine is the youngest sister and the only sister who does not have a partner. Throughout the story Catherine is trying to catch her sister’s attention and feels that she was always left out. Mike is a doctor whom Mary has been having a 5 year relationship with. Whereas, Frank, Theresa’s husband is never satisfied by doing a job which he doesn’t believe in nor care about.

Nathan Kashak -- The Stinger
The main theme of the play is memory and the sister’s memories interact with each other and show that, despite the synchronicities of time and place, they can’t agree upon one unifying experience. The sisters drift around their own memories and are unable to agree on a particular point. They are then unified by their familial bond.

The comedy and drama of three sisters istaking place in Manion Theatre in the Holden Fine Arts Center. Performances will show November 15, 16, 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. and also November 17 and 24 for matinee. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and non-UW-Superior students, and $2 for UW-Superior students.

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