Middle-aged moms unite to stage a new musical comedy about women in midlife crisis

Theater and parenting may make for strange bedfellows, but a group of Seattle moms recently found common ground in a musical production scheduled to open Friday, July 11.

The four mothers of children in elementary school bonded over their dream of returning to the theater.

It all began when Ellen Hastings, writer and producer of the musical comedy "Who am I now?," met Page Byers while their children were attending kindergarten together.

"We were moms who had a secret past in theater," Hastings said.

The women connected immediately when they realized how similar their backgrounds were. While they had both taken time off to raise young children, they always wanted to return to the theater some day.

"When Ellen showed me the play, I immediately related to the Elaine character," Byers said. "She's a full-time mom, married with two kids - just like me. I know a lot of women who will relate to this play."

The women enlisted the help of Vicki Hatch Moen, another parent at the school, to do the choreography, and Byers suggested her friend Magnolian Teresa Thuman as director. Thuman had recently obtained her master's degree in directing.

Suddenly, the dream was fast be- coming a reality.

"Page got the ball rolling," Hastings said. "She knew people."

Another school connection, Dan Greenfield, suggested the venue: the Northwest Actors Studio in Capitol Hill. Hastings found the Northwest Actors Studio to be a supportive venue for her first outing as pro- ducer. The studio is committed to emerging actors and playwrights, and subscribes to the notion that theaters should not be solely for the élite.

"They allow people to go in with core work and do very good work," Hastings said. "They really helped with technical support as well."

"Who am I now?," a musical comedy depicting a college reunion, is satirical and touches on the heavier themes of contemporary life, such as the loss of dreams, soured perspectives on marriage and midlife crises. The production features a score that parodies '50s doo-wop, grunge, pop and folk music.

"The music provides a rich, dramatic overlay," Hastings said. "It should be fun and funny, but it's not all light and feel-good stuff."

The women believe the play will appeal to a demographic similar to their own: middle-aged, family-oriented, appreciative of the nuances and parodies of their college days.

"Who am I now?" plays at the Northwest Actors Studio, 1100 E. Pike St. on Capitol Hill, from Friday, July 11, to July 26, on Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. Price: $15. Tickets/information: By reservation at 783-5559, or go online to www.whoaminow.com.

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