written by Carina Abbaticchio, Literary and Public Programs intern
Before we officially opened this The Testament of Mary this past Friday, all of our post-show discussion audiences have pointed out the fact that Mary is a mother who has lost her son. When asked what this piece is about, audience members have chimed in with:
“A mother who has lost her son”
“A mother’s pain”
“A grieving mother”
This past Saturday we dedicated our entire post-show discussion to this conversation. The idea that transcends the story of Mary and Jesus and of The Testament of Mary: the relationship between a parent and child. While Mary bears witness to her son’s crucifixion, parents all over Chicago bear witness to their children’s suffering whether it be through gun violence, cancer, suicide, or other causes.
One of the many ideas that kept coming up in this discussion was how our society addresses loss of children and our panel quickly became a call to action. Alyssa Garcia of TCF said that, as an activist, The Testament of Mary is an important step in changing the way we view grief as a society. Through this discussion, our six panelists were able to discuss the grieving process and how unique it is to each parent. They challenged how society deals with bereaved parents and shared their own testimonies as examples.
Memory was an important component of this process, along with the reclaiming of their child. In The Testament of Mary, Mary attempts to reclaim Jesus as her son, rather than the symbol his followers have made him out to be. Jack Starkey of LOSS said, “When you lose your child… You’ve lost your future. You have to redefine yourself”. In looking at the Mary we see in the play, we can see this aspect of grief; a mother who is expected to be in accordance with our traditions, trying to reclaim herself and her son.
Theatre provides an intimate, shared experience but often we regard it as art, and leave the space talking about the show for a few moments before returning to our lives. Special afterwards, such as An Unspeakable Loss allow us to engage with the work in a more personal way and spark difficult dialogues which otherwise, have little or no room in our culture. Just as Colm Tóibín has allowed Mary to share her testimony, The Testament of Mary allows room for the audience to share their own.
Other quotes from our panel of parents at An Unspeakable Loss:
“After your child’s death, you’re left alone in their bedroom with clothes still hanging in the closet”
“There are 30 seconds of relief when [your child’s] pain is over. But it only lasts 30 seconds.”
“Even though everyone is touched by grief, its deafening…society and loved ones wont always see that”
“They ask: ‘did he deal drugs? Was he in a gang?’ Are those the criteria that make it okay to be murdered?”
“Mary was trembling. It’s something very physiological that happens when your child is taken away”
“I saw this play and if I can take away anything, it’s that you’ve got to hold onto hope.”
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