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.

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.

Image cour­tesy of Nathan Kashak — The Stinger
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