On Tuesday, January 3rd, ArtsWest held the debut entry in its new series, FIRST LOOK with Mathew Wright. This special event gave audience members a sneak peek at Mothers and Sons ahead of its January 19th Opening Night.

Hosted by Artistic Director Mathew Wright, FIRST LOOK highlighted the history of Mothers and Sons playwright Terrence McNally and the spectacular work of our cast, Suzy Hunt, Evan Whitfield, and Jason Sanford.

Artistic Director Mathew Wright gave a heartfelt presentation on McNally and his illustrious, decades-spanning career, from And Things That Go Bump in the Night – which opened at the Royal Theatre in 1964 – to The Visit, which landed on Broadway in 2015. After the presentation, the cast of Mothers and Sons took the stage to answer questions, discuss process and inspiration, and finally to close out the evening with performances of McNally’s 1988 short play Andre’s Mother and scenes from Mothers and Sons.

McNally’s contribution to theatre has been and continues to be invaluable. Fortunately, the Dramatists Guild Fund recognized the importance of McNally’s work and filmed an incredible interview between Terrence McNally and American playwright Annie Baker as part of The Legacy Project. Below are excerpts from the interview, which reveal McNally’s own thoughts on the theatre and life as an artist.

Mothers and Sons fits perfectly into ArtsWest’s 2016-2017 season which is about navigating through one’s life, through one’s own uncharted journey, and the never-ending movement out of the past and into the future.

Below is an interview between ArtsWest’s Development Officer, Laura Owens and director of Mothers and Sons, Makaela Pollock. Hopefully it gives everyone who was unable to attend our FIRST LOOK special event a first look at our talented director and her take on the production.

In Conversation with Makaela Pollock

LO: How long have you been directing in Seattle?

MP: I have been directing in Seattle since I moved here after college in 2002. I started out by assisting some of the great directors in town: Sheila Daniels, Allison Narver, John Langs.

LO: Is there a director who has greatly affected your own style of directing? 

MP: Each mentor who I work with has influenced me—this is less about any big name and identifiable style than it is claiming a personal point of view and living up to it in each moment in the room. I have taken lessons about clear organization and actor communication from Tim Ocel, Daniel Fish, John Langs; about depth of commitment and passion from Kevin Moriarty, Amanda Dehnert, Sheila Daniels; about incisive clarity from Allison Narver, David Armstrong, Amy Morton.

LO: How many productions have you directed at ArtsWest?

MP: Mothers and Sons will be my third production at ArtsWest. My first was Really, Really (exactly a year ago), followed by the summer student production of Merrily We Roll Along.

LO: What first brought you to ArtsWest and why did you decide to continue your relationship with the company?

MP: Mat Wright, who has been a dear friend since 2011, brought me to ArtsWest—it was an incredible way to cement our artistic relationship and ended up being such a strong collaboration that I was interested in continuing to support ArtsWest as an organization and artistic home. When the opportunity to work on the Education program opened up I was thrilled. Since then I have continued to be inspired and compelled to contribute to the evocative programming and organization.

LO: What part of the process of directing Mothers and Sons are you most excited for?

MP: What thrills me the most is spending the time focusing on real human behavior with the 4 actors—there is very little that is stylized so we must immerse ourselves in true, real-time experience without hiding behind any formal elements. This requires focus and bravery.

LO: At its core, what is Mothers and Sons about and why do you think Terrence felt compelled to write the piece when he did? 

MP: If you move beyond any of the hugely important social issues (Gay rights, AIDS awareness, family structure), Mothers and Sons is tackling what it means to try to extend understanding to someone you fundamentally don’t agree with. It is a study in forgiveness and compassion. It is a call for hope in the times ahead without forgetting the past.

LO: How is Mothers and Sons relevant to our community, both locally in Seattle and across the nation?

MP: Mothers and Sons shows a new kind of normal family, where the “minority” gay men have the fulfilling, successful life. This way of treating gay life, gay marriage, and inclusive family is so vital because it does not make an “issue” of it. To continue to show the beautiful, variegated world to the mainstream in this way could not be more important at a time when our rights are again being questioned and curbed by government leadership, when we need individuals to be the champions of understanding rather than policy makers.

Make sure to be on the lookout for information on future FIRST LOOK events for Milk Like Sugar, Frozen, and Sweeney Todd. All FIRST LOOK events are free of charge and open to the general public through our online reservation system.