First Look: “The Memory of Water”

5 Sep
Alan Bailey

Alan Bailey

The fourth production of this celebratory Season 25 at the Commonweal is The Memory of Water by Shelagh Stephenson. For this production we are pleased to welcome the return of Alan Bailey to the director’s chair. Alan most recently directed The 39 Steps last season and the wildly popular Sylvia in 2011. 

In The Memory of Water, three sisters take a journey through their own memories as they tie up the affairs of their recently deceased mother. In revisiting the  past, they are forced to come to terms with the future resulting in a story that is deeply emotional, poignant, and oftentimes hilarious. 

As rehearsals have progressed, personal memories of the cast, as well as Alan himself, have risen to the surface. For this First Look into The Memory of Water, Alan gives the details of his own special memory followed by his perspective on this lovely piece of theatre. 

Thoughts on The Memory of Water:

In this age of digital interconnectedness, one thing I’ve learned is that no matter how specific a memory is —and no matter how fragmented or flawed—there are many, many people with a similar memory, a similar life experience. 

In a theatrical production, the same holds true.  The more specific a moment is, the more universal it is. 

The Memory of Water was written nearly twenty years ago by an English playwright for a London production.  And yet, it feels absolutely current to me and to the Commonweal artists who have been rehearsing this production (and, in some cases, hoping to perform this play for many years).  It is the freshness and universality of the play that has driven me to make sure this production feels like it’s happening RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. 

The water of the show’s title is the rough, inviting, unforgiving, iconic sea that encompasses the British Isles.  But are the rivers of southern Minnesota any less full of their own possibilities, their own dangers?  Are our lives any less overflowing with the energy of youth, the contentment and frustration of old age?  Of course not.  They’re all part of the same spring. 

The Memory of Water examines how memories can be frustratingly dissimilar among family members who have shared the same experiences.  But it shows, too, how we’re all connected by lives and memories that turn out to be surprisingly similar.

The Memory of Water begins previews on September 13 and opens officially on September 21. 

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