Nora and Delia Ephron

Love, Loss, and What I Wore

March 31 - April 10
Ivy Tech Waldron Auditorium

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In a Woman’s Words

Four spirited women talk theatre, clothes

By Marcela Creps 
March 27, 2016

Talk to a woman about a significant moment in her life, and chances are, she’ll be able to tell you what she was wearing.

In “Love, Loss, And What I Wore,” 16 local actresses will be joined by Indianapolis-based actress Constance Macy for a staging of the popular play that takes audience members on a walk down memory lane.

HT Love Loss

(From top left): Francesca Sobrer, Sylvia McNair (with Maybel), Mary Catherine Carmichael, and Abby Noroozi. Photo by Jeremy Hogan | The Herald-Times

 

Mary Catherine Carmichael

As interim communications director for the city of Bloomington, Mary Catherine Carmichael is excited to get a chance to find herself on stage.

“I was that girl that was in every single play I could possibly be in while I was in high school,” Carmichael said.

About five years ago, she participated in a similar group production when she had a role in “The Vagina Monologues.”

In Cardinal’s play, however, Carmichael is finding that she’s learning a lot from Randy White, Cardinal’s artistic director.

“I’ve never worked with such a professional director before, so that is a real treat. And it really makes me appreciate the art and the craft of acting,” she said. “It’s harder than it looks to really do it well.”

Familiar with previous Cardinal productions, Carmichael also feels the pressure to help the theater company continue its tradition of high-level performances.

“You’re a fool if you’re not nervous going into something like this. The potential for utter disaster looms large,” she said.

But the fact that she’s being pushed to do a good job is part of what attracted Carmichael to the part.

“If you stop challenging yourself, what fun is that? You quit growing,” she said.

The actresses are also not being paid, as that money is being donated to My Sister’s Closet, a Bloomington, nonprofit organization that provides free work attire to low-income and at-risk women who are looking for a job.

“For My Sister’s Closet to give job seekers, especially nontraditional job seekers, that extra shot of confidence by having the right outfit, it’s really a lovely thing to be a part of,” Carmichael said.

 

Sylvia McNair

For music lovers, the name Sylvia McNair may conjure up the elegance that seems to go hand in hand with an opera singer. A two-time Grammy winner and faculty member at IU’s Jacobs School of Music, McNair knows the importance of clothes.

“I cannot tell you how many years I have had people come up to me, maybe a year after they heard me sing a concert, and say, ‘Oh my gosh, that red gown you wore was so beautiful,’” McNair said.

But when she asks the person about the music performed that night, they often draw a blank.

When sharing a story with McNair about the time she complimented my shoes, she remembered the event but other details were fuzzy, but one was crystal clear.

“I remember what I wore to that event,” she said. “I can’t remember if I sang, but I remember what I wore.”

McNair is familiar with performing on stage although she admits to always being a little bit nervous even after 35 years of being a professional singer. “This is going to be very different. On one hand, it’s talking, and talking is something we do everyday. I don’t have to worry about my singing voice cracking or not doing something I ask it to do. On the other hand, I have to talk,” she said.

She also has a few of the same fears as Carmichael.

“Given the sterling reputation that Cardinal Stage has in this community and indeed in this whole part of the state, I think it’s extraordinary they are willing to take this risk and let a bunch of non-professional actors up on the stage to perform this wonderful script,” McNair said. “I don’t know what Randy was thinking. They are putting their amazing reputation on the line with us.”

Despite some nerves, McNair said White is an incredible director and has been great in helping the actresses.

“He knows how to dissect text and bring it up off the page like very few directors I’ve had the pleasure of working with,” she said.

McNair said that being with the other actresses has led them to discover that wearing black is a big theme with the play. Despite the desire to want to color their wardrobe, she, like other women, gravitate to black. Shoes, however, are a different story.

“You cannot be in a bad mood when you’re wearing red shoes. It’s impossible to be in a bad mood when you’re wearing red shoes,” she said.

 

Abby Noroozi

It’s a mystery to Abby Noroozi how she was chosen to be in “Love, Loss, and What I Wore.”

In high school, she played lead roles including Dolly in “Hello Dolly,” Marion the librarian in “The Music Man” and Alice in “You Can’t Take It With You.”

“It’s been a long time, but I used to love it,” she said.

She considered continuing to act while in college, but as with many students, she was lured away from the lights and into other interests. So when she received an email from the director about appearing in the play, she was excited but perplexed.

“That’s the funny thing. I did not personally know Randy before I was asked to do this. I have no clue. I’ve not done anything in Bloomington ever,” she said.

But the timing for the play was right. As Noroozi’s children have gotten older, she began to think about doing some acting.

She’s only had a couple of rehearsals and has had time to think about the script and White’s direction. One rehearsal ran from 6:30 to 10 p.m.

“When I got home, my brain would not stop. I was awake until like 3 in the morning. I guess I was pretty excited and stimulated and thinking about things,” she said.

For Noroozi, acting is like riding a bike. She’s again getting the feel of what it’s like to perform. She knows she’ll be nervous the day of the performance, “but I do clearly remember that feeling of when the lights come on, and you get into the performance, and I just love the feel of a live audience.”

Like the other actresses, Noroozi easily relates to the play’s theme and sees herself in many of the roles, particularly the roles that portray how a mother and daughter will argue over clothes. It’s something she’s already experiencing with her own daughter.

“She’s 8, and she definitely has her own style and she thinks I’m totally not cool,” she said.

The idea that the play is a benefit for My Sister’s Closet also resonates with Noroozi. Growing up in West Terre Haute, she remembers her grandmother gathering clothes to help job seekers she knew who were looking for work. Doing the play that benefits an organization doing the same thing pleases Noroozi.

“I think that it’s perfect,” she said.

 

Francesca Sobrer

Along with being a high school drama teacher, Francesca Sobrer has worked as an arts administrator, actress and director. With her busy life, the timing of the Cardinal play worked out great with her schedule.

“I was thrilled this came along and that Randy asked me. It’s great to be on the other side of it. I don’t have to worry about who’s turning the lights off or if the doors are locked,” she said.

Sobrer hates to think she’s a slave to her clothes, but she admits there are times she stands in front of her closet and has to remind herself that she’s merely running an errand and not dressing for the Oscars.

“Even stupid stuff, I just have to chuckle at myself that we have this attachment or that clothes are so much a part of our identity,” she said, adding that she’s all about her jeans.

Despite the all-female cast and the play’s theme, Sobrer knows there are going to be men who are dragged to the show. But she wants men to know that there are things they’ll be able to relate to in the play.

“There’s a humanness to it that I think is really important that i like,” she said.

Sobrer has her own experience with clothing and how she used it to express herself. Particularly she remembers being a high school sophomore.

“I was definitely in my heyday of rebellion,” she said. It was time for the big school dance where other teens would be wearing their best lacy, satin dress. Instead, Sobrer wore hiking boots with an Indian-print orange and black dress. She had her mother fix her long hair in braids with flowers.

“It was definitely this hard-core hippie look I was going for,” Sobrer said.

In reality, she wasn’t really the look she was trying to flaunt, but that didn’t matter. “I was not going to dress like the other girls because I’m not like the other girls.”

The play is giving Sobrer a chance to also be a part of a community effort to raise funds for My Sister’s Closet.

“One of the things I love about theater is how it can bring community together, and I think this project is doing that even more so, and that’s a great thing,” she said.