Could you imagine if there were no books, music, art, dance, film and dramatic performances? What would give our lives substance, enrichment and its colors? I think I would feel empty, as if my day-to-day existence was grounded in monotonous shades of black and white, with a linear structure.
For some people, this is what grief feels like.
In conjunction with the opening of its second play of the season, The Year of Magical Thinking, based on Joan Didion's award-winning memoir about loss and hope, Westport author Nina Sankovitch will discuss the correlation between memoir writing and emotional healing on Wednesday, June 13, 6:30 to 7:30 pm at the . Last year Nina published the popular book Tolstoy and The Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading, where she, too, addresses the death of a loved one, her beloved sister Anne-Marie, and how she regained a positive affirmation for life by reading one-book-a-day for a year.
Partnering with Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc., the Playhouse's new literary salon series, called “Books Worth Talking About!,” was created to enhance the overall experiences of its audience members. “There's a natural tie-in between those who enjoy literature and those who attend the theater,” said Associate Artistic Director David Kennedy. Ticket holders for Wednesday evening's performance are invited to attend Nina's presentation, which will be led by Tessa Smith McGovern, memoir collection editor, writing professor at Sarah Lawrence College and founder of eChook Digital Publishing.
Raised in an educated family filled with voracious readers, Tolstoy and The Purple Chair is based upon the daily book reviews Nina posted to her website www.readallday.org. She shares anecdotes about her family's life which, of course, include beautiful memories about Anne-Marie who passed away only a few months a diagnosis of cancer. She was only 46. Nina describes running away from the grieving process by filling her days with activities, which was easy to do as a mom to four young sons. However, Nina instinctively realizes she needs to slow down and let the written words, which she has always been drawn to, take over and provide much-needed healing. Before she's even half-way into her yearlong commitment, Nina reaffirms “how much beauty and wonder there is in the world.”
Reading while the children were at school, and sometimes late into the evening, Nina devoured a wide variety of books. Sitting in her comfortable and cozy purple chair for hours at a clip, Nina walked alongside her characters as they journeyed through times that were happy, sad, passionate, frightening, lonely and more. Gradually, she was filled with a sense of acceptance and peace for her own tragic circumstances. Nina writes, “Everyone assured me that I would feel better soon, that grieving was a process and I would get through it. How did they know that? How could they know that about me? I felt as if no one really understood what I was going through. But books were showing me that everyone suffers, at different times in their lives. And that yes, in fact, there were many people who knew exactly what I was going through.”
Author Joan Didion certainly did. As she grapples with the sudden death of her husband of 40 years, writer John Gregory Dunne, Joan writes in her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, “Life changes fast. Life changes in an instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.” Her only daughter Quintana Roo Dunne Michael was battling a life-threatening illness at the time of John's death. Quintana never fully recovers and, 20 months after her husband's passing, Joan buries her only child. In Blue Nights, published last fall, Joan contemplates motherhood and recalls Quintana's life.
Joan Didion will appear at the Westport Country Playhouse on Sunday, June 17 at 4:30 pm, following the 3 pm matinee performance of her play, The Year of Magical Thinking.
Other upcoming special events at the Playhouse include LGBT Night Out, for members of the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender communities and allies, on Thursday, June 14th. A pre-show cocktail party is at 6:30 pm, with light foods, drinks, music and door prizes. An 8 pm performance of The Year of Magical Thinking is included in the $35 ticket.
On Monday, June 18 at 7 pm, David Kennedy, director of the Playhouse's upcoming production of Moliere's Tartuffe, will offer a “sneak preview” of the French classic. In partnership with , of Greenwich will provide tasty hors d'oeuvres and French wine for those who attend. There is no charge.
This summer the Westport Country Playhouse is offering several opportunities to color our lives with diverse hues by allowing all five of our senses to be drawn in by the spoken words on stage, written words, exciting foods, music and new relationships. Yes, there is loss --and all of the feelings that accompany it--but there is more. Purchase your ticket to a show this season and then allow yourself to be even more enriched by the numerous tie-programs we are fortunate to have available at our hometown theater.
For more information or tickets, call the Playhouse box office at (203) 227-4177, or toll-free at 1-888-927-7529, or visit Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport. Tickets are available online 24/7 at www.westportplayhouse.org. Stay connected to the Playhouse on Facebook (Westport Country Playhouse), follow on Twitter (@WCPlayhouse), view Playhouse videos on YouTube (WestportPlayhouse) or get an insider’s peek on The Playhouse Blog (www.theplayhouseblog.org).