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News Archives - 2008

Engen looks at motherhood in 'I'm Telling'

JULY 18, 2008

Picture of theatre performers. How do we mother differently than our moms mothered us? How do mothers share parenting responsibilities with partners whose careers frequently take them away from home? How does our "job" as a mother change as our children grow?

Mother of two and Augsburg theatre arts professor Darcey Engen explores these questions and the "familiar, desperate edge of everyday motherhood" with her friends Maria Asp and Nanci Olesen in "I'm Telling." The play runs July 24 – 27 at the Hennepin Center for the Arts.

In 2007 Engen co-wrote and directed "The Mother Project" which was the springboard for "I'm Telling." With a grant from Augsburg, Engen set out to gather stories of motherhood from women in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. She took a group of mothers through writing exercises and then staged their work after it was polished. Asp and Olesen joined her in this stage of the project. Eventually she took the pieces to Open Eye Figure Theatre and finally reworked them again for a weekend run at Open Eye last fall.

This summer, Engen was asked to restage "The Mother Project" at Illusion Theatre as part of their Fresh Ink Series. With Asp and Olesen, Engen worked with director Lisa Channer to stage "I'm Telling." Because Engen had previously directed the performances, the experience with "I'm Telling" has been very different for her. "It's way reworked from what I originally did," she said.

The reworking began with the name of the performance. Engen said "The Mother Project" was too generic, and "I'm Telling" appeared more interesting and engaging. "We liked the double meaning of 'I'm going to tell you the real stories of my experience as a mother,' and also 'I'm going to tell on you' like a little kid would say."

Through stories of their mothers and grandmothers, "I'm Telling" explores what the women have learned about mothering. The women, who are all performers and are married to performers, also uncover the theme of being left behind by their spouses, addressing the loneliness and envy that can come with such a relationship. And finally they identify the everyday struggle of watching children grow and learning to adjust to their changing needs.

For Engen, performing is vital to her life as a professor. "A piece of artistic work created by a performer is her scholarship," she said. "It's how we interact with big ideas about the human journey."

About the performers:

Darcey Engen is a performer and an associate professor in the theatre arts department at Augsburg College. She will chair the department this fall. Engen's specialty is voice and movement.

Maria Asp captains The Neighborhood Bridges program at Children's Theatre and performs regularly with Frank Theatre. Asp performs with her husband Razz in the Baptism River Ramblers.

Nanci Olesen is an actor, writer and public radio commentator who recently hosted a pilot production called "How's the Family?" for Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media. She is the founder and host of MOMbo, a radio resource for moms.