Home Columnists Playing Around Geraldine Aron debuts her latest at ITC

Geraldine Aron debuts her latest at ITC

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 By Mike Danahey
An elderly woman heads into a nursing home where she becomes friends with one of the staff, an immigrant.

That’s a familiar situation to many a family, here in the United States, and a scenario playwright Geraldine Aron explores in and London setting in her new work, The My Way Residential, which has its world premiere as Irish Theatre of Chicago stages the work May 17 – June 25, 2017 at The Den Theatre (Upstairs Main Stage), 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.

Aron said she the idea for the play came about 10 years ago, when she and her sisters, who both live in the United States, felt it was time to put their own mother in a senior care facility. Around the same time, she had heard a story of an African man who lost his family in an accident.

Aron was born in Galway and has lived a good deal of her adult life in Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. With a busy career of her own, when home, that’s either Cape Town or mostly London, she said.

Born in the 1950s, Aron grew up in a time when, she said, “Grandmother would sit in the kitchen. She was part of the home.” And, she added, “In Africa there are no old age homes. The elderly live with family.”

According to a release for Aron’s play, the story concerns Ella, an elderly woman from Galway, who winds up in a suburban London nursing home, where she meets Byron, a young South African who is working there.

The release states, “This pair of unloved misfits discovers that family can be chosen and freedom is for the taking...this touching and uplifting story about the choices we make, the hearts we touch and how it's never too late to live your life.”

The title of the play refers to the Paul Anka song made famous by Frank Sinatra, Aron said, while residential is a term for a senior home.
From her own experience, though, Aron learned that conditions at a good many homes, things can be appalling.

With her own mother, Aron said a Christmas tree left for her wound up disappearing shortly after being left on her room. Aron said her family contacted the police who questioned the matron (senior nurse), “but, for whatever reason, the officer wouldn’t make her open a cupboard (where family thought the nurse was hiding the tree).”

As is the case in the United States, Aron noted that elderly care in England can be prohibitively expensive.

“It would be less to stay in a decent hotel,” Aron said - and the elderly would be less prone to situations where they can be bullied by staff - staff that ofttimes is underpaid and overworked, as facility managers budget to maximize profit.

A prolific writer, Aron’s other plays include Mr McConkey's Suitcase, Zombie, Mickey Kannis Caught My Eye, Same Old Moon, Spider, The Donahue Sisters, The Stanley Parkers and Joggers. Two of her works - A Galway Girl and for Bar and Ger are past winners of Edinburgh Fringe Fest Firsts.

That noted alt-theater festival has helped shape her work, Aron said, particularly as fringe means working on small budgets and typically with small casts. Still, she said she has two plays for which she looking for producers, one with a large cast.

Her biggest hit, the one-woman show, My Brilliant Divorce, has been performed all over the world and was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2004.
The ITC staged that piece upstairs at Chief O’Neill’s in the autumn of 2015, with Barbara Figgins  playing 19 characters in addition to protagonist Angela. Figgins was the only one onstage for 80 minutes, but for a stuffed animal version of a small pet dog.

The My Way Residential Cast features ITC ensemble members Jeff Christian and Carolyn Kruse with Terry Bell, Belinda Bremner and Christine Bunuan.
The debut production of The My Way Residential is being directed by Kevin Theis. He previously oversaw those duties for the company’s productions of The Clearing, The Pagans, Drink Me and A Moon for the Misbegotten. An ITC ensemble member since 2000, Theirs also performed with the company in Dancing at Lughnasa, The Weir, The White Road and in the Jeff Award-winning ensemble of The Seafarer.

“He’s a very accommodating director,” Aron said. “That’s why I’m here, really.”

The play also is set to  have upcoming productions in Iceland and Prague, Aron said. “Czech is a very long language,” she said of what it’s like to here her words staged in Prague, where My Brilliant Divorce had a lengthy run.

Preview performances for The My Way Residential are Thursday, May 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Friday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m. Press night is  Friday, May 19 at 7:30 p.m. The regular run is Saturday, May 20 through Sunday, June 25, 2017.

Curtain times Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Preview tickets are $12 and during the regular run are $26 Thursdays and Fridays and $30 Saturdays and Sundays. Seniors and students (with ID) receive $5 off their tickets.

For more information, see www.irishtheatreofchicago.org.

 

May 2017

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