Staceyann Chin’s one-woman show “Motherstruck” is a powerful work of art

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Writer, poet, actress and activist Staceyann Chin has been sharing her wit and wisdom and opening her heart to audiences for nearly two decades. With her newest piece, Motherstruck, Staceyann lets us into a very intimate part of her life. Knowing she wanted to be a mother for a very long time, the openly lesbian Staceyann turned her quest to become pregnant into the very excellent new one-woman show. Even more so, the play is not only about the desire to become a mother but what motherhood actually means to Staceyann.

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Staceyann’s story begins in Jamaica, where after her mother abandoned her, her tough as nails aunt raised her. From Jamaica to Brooklyn, Staceyann’s story unfolds in vivid detail and almost lyrical movement. Director Cynthia Nixon utilizes the entire space of the theatre, giving Staceyann room to practically fly in and out of the audience, making us laugh one moment, and bringing us to tears the next. It’s a rare and beautiful thing when an audience can feel like active participants in a story, and that’s exactly what happens in Motherstruck. The entire play feels more like a conversation rather than a performance, even if Staceyann is the only one speaking.

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Staceyann’s desire to have a child is real and palpable, and even though we know that she is now the mother to an adorable little girl, Zuri, it doesn’t make the journey feel any less urgent and powerful. In the second act, the tone shifts to Staceyann’s own hopes and fears about motherhood and reconciling her own feelings about the woman who abandoned her, and the angry, punitive woman who raised her. While personal to Staceyann, many can relate to the feeling of growing up and moving on from the pain of our youth.

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Staceyann herself is a ball of energy, drawing you into her orbit with every word. She’s self-deprecating and self-aware. Hilarious one moment and deadly serious the next. It’s exactly what you hope to see in a one-woman show but rarely experience.

Motherstruck is being produced by The Culture Project, which is dedicated to socially conscious theatre, and Rosie O’Donnell. Rosie even joined Staceyann and Cynthia Nixon for a recent talkback after the show. Onstage were three fascinating and powerful queer women, which is a beautiful sight to behold. Rosie moderated the question, cracking people up as usual. When a straight-identified woman raised her hand to talk about how she related to the show, Rosie jokingly asked, “Is there a lesbian with a question?”

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Staceyann talked about survival and how books played a large role in her life. Reading the stories of bell hooks, Audre Lourde, and Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables helped her create a world of her own and gave her strength she has today. “It’s how you survive when your own life is so fucking hard,” she told the audience. “You read all these stories and imagine a way forward, a path out of it.”

Cynthia Nixon talked about how many of Staceyann’s stories went untold, or didn’t make it into the play, but were powerful and are present in the piece, even if left unsaid. Rosie jumped in to add, “Which lets us all know there will be many other shows besides Motherstruck.” We certainly hope so!

Motherstruck is playing now through January 29th at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre in NYC.

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