With performances in Rollins Studio Theatre, January 28 – February 5, Pollyanna Theatre Company presents The Thing in Grandma’s Closet. Below, Pollyanna lets us in on the story, its characters, and how we can all relate.
The Thing in Grandma’s Closet is the newest production of Long Center Resident Company Pollyanna Theatre. This play, commissioned by Pollyanna from award-winning playwright Jonathan Graham, is opening in the Rollins Studio Theatre January 27, and will be performed for both school and public audiences through February 5. Performed by some of Austin’s most talented actors, this is a play about loss memories, and celebrating our loved ones, and will be enjoyed by patrons ages 7 and older.
Ally and her younger brother Nick have recently lost their Grandmother. As they are helping to clean out her home, they find something interesting in the closet — a memory machine. The two siblings use the machine to visit moments in their grandmother’s life and discover she was much more than their kind, loving Grandma. she was a curious young girl who longed to be a scientist in the 1950’s when girls were expected to focus on their home and raising a family. Grandma Millie was a science teacher with dreams of space and adventure. She was an intuitive mother who equipped her daughter with the tolls to be independent. She was a Grandma who inspired her grandchildren to dream. While the play does have some somber moments, Johnathan Graham has managed to write a very honest and humor-filled story that will have the audience laughing far more often than tearing up.
Young audience members today may find it hard to believe that as recently as 30 years ago that it was difficult for a woman to get any sort of responsible position in a technical field like science teaching or computer programming. Ultimately, the two young siblings in Graham’s play learn that their Grandma overcame many obstacles to follow her passion for science and technology. The play is a perfect opportunity to remind ourselves how far we have come in our quest for equality among all people, yet it also provides a platform for us to ask ourselves about the distance we still need to go to reach a time when everyone has equal opportunities to pursue their dreams.
The production, directed by Judy Matetzschk-Campbell, PhD, Producing Director of Pollyanna Theatre, is performed by an ensemble of four actors: Uyen-Anh Dang as Ally, Chase Brewer as Nick, Jessica Hughes as their Mom (Meg), and Bethany Harbaugh as Grandma Millie. But perhaps one of the play’s most important characters is the Memory Machine itself (designed by Scenic Designer Chase Staggs), which is sure to delight the audience and take us all on a wild flight of imagination.
About The Thing in Grandma’s Closet, Jonathan Graham writes, “For me this play is about the interplay between grief and memory. Writing it was an act of resistance to that all-too-human tendency to not fully appreciate the complexity of those we love until they are gone. It was inspired a bit by my own mother and by my mother-in-law who are my kids’ quirky and wonderful grandmas. I was also inspired by trailblazing woman scientists like Margaret Hamilton, a 1958 graduate of Earlham College where I work. Hamilton wrote the on-board computer software for NASA’s Apollo spacecraft and basically invented ‘software engineering,’ all as a working mom in the 1960’s. Just this year she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”
This is the second play by Jonathan Graham that Pollyanna Theatre Company has produced at The Long Center. Patrons may remember Graham’s The Boy Who Loved Monsters and The Girl Who Loved Peas that was presented in the Rollins three seasons ago. Just as we find in his newest play, the protagonists in the play are a brother and sister team, giving both young girls and young boys in the audience a protagonist that provides a window into the play. Ultimately, the play’s star is the family itself and how they face struggles and differences while celebrating the unique spirit that was their Grandma Millie.
In spite of the topic of the play, patrons should not attend expecting to be saddened by this story. But they should come to the theatre ready to experience Theatre for Young Audience doing what it does best — making audiences of all ages think, feel, and laugh deeply while holding the mirror of art up to the all too human condition found inside a family unit. Pollyanna is happy that playwright Graham will be with us in Austin to see the Saturday, January 28 performance at 2:00 pm. Come along to the theatre and visit with him! Tickets for all of Pollyanna’s weekend performances are available through the Long Center Box Office. Tickets for all weekday morning performances are available at (512) 743-7966.
A Parent & Teacher Study Guide filled with information about the play is available for download on Pollyanna Theatre’s website.
Pollyanna Theatre’s The Thing In Grandma’s Closet opens in Rollins Studio Theatre January 28.