Mother’s nature

Fine Arts

- John Threlfall

Alumni solo show spotlights the ups and downs of new motherhood

From Jedi knights and gold-rush explorers to doomed puppets and romantic clowns—over the past 15 years Phoenix Theatre’s annual Spotlight on Alumni has presented a range of shows as diverse and accomplished as the graduates themselves. But this month, Phoenix is entering a world as strange and terrifying as any yet imagined: motherhood.

Just ask Theatre alumna Nicolle Nattrass, whose solo show, Mamahood: Bursting Into Light, courageously chronicles the journey of becoming a mother at age 40—complete with a rock ‘n roll soundtrack. 

“I don’t like to be bound by restrictions like ‘comedy’ or ‘drama,’” Nattrassexplains. “I really believe life is full of both, so I’ve always written to connect with the audience, using comedy to talk about more serious things.”

This is the first time Mamahood—running October 9 to 20 at the Phoenix—will be fully mounted in Victoria, following a staged reading in 2014. “I’m so glad I get to come back to my alma mater to perform this,” says Nattrass, who graduated in 1991. “UVic has been a big part of my journey as an artist and I’m constantly collaborating with other Phoenix alum, including this show’s director, TJ Dawe.”

With nine plays and a busy life as an actress, director, dramaturge, certified addiction counselor and parent, Nattrass is a great example of how arts alumni can transform life experiences into art. Indeed, with Mamahood, she’s using her own story to reach out to other moms (and dads and grandparents) and deconstruct some prevailing motherhood myths.

“Parenting is really an individual experience: the only one who can define how you’re going to be as a mother is you,” she says. “We’re told it should look like a Pampers commercial—all the right outfits, everything is good—but that excludes a lot of moms. It’s okay to not have an ideal experience every day of the week—or at all. Whether you’re a co-parent, step-parent or foster parent, it’s all about accepting your own story.”

Like so many alumni, Nattrass birthed Mamahood through her fusion of teaching and creative practice. “I was asked to teach a course on Mama Memoirs at Camosun College and I realized I hadn’t written down my own story yet,” she says. “There’s this romantic idea that we only write at perfect times—four hours with a latte at your favourite coffee shop—but the reality of motherhood is getting up at 4:30 in the morning when you’re exhausted from breastfeeding and trying to get inspired.”

Nattrass also doesn’t hesitate to talk about postpartum realities in her play, which sets it apart from straight-up comedies like Mom’s The Word. “The postpartum experience can be anything from anxiety, fear and sleep deprivation to issues surrounding the pregnancy or birth itself.”

With that in mind, she makes a point of connecting with local birth educators and support networks wherever Mamahood tours—in Victoria, she’s working with Mothering Touch Centre—and builds that into the theatrical experience. “I always do a talkback session at the end of each show, so people can not only ask me questions but also connect with resources in their community.”

The public is also invited to a free preshow lecture with English professor Sheila Rabillard on “Motherhood Out Loud,” discussing the changing face of motherhood in theatre (Friday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.).

Ultimately, Mamahood is a comedic story about her own journey . . . so far. “The core message is that motherhood is a rock ‘n roll ride,” she laughs. “My son is nine now and the ride is definitely not over! My whole journey really has been about bursting into light.”

Mamahood: Bursting into Light

October 10 – 20, 2018 at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre

(October 9 preview, $8 tickets after 5pm)

Tickets $16 - $26 at 250-721-8000 or




In this story

Keywords: theatre, alumni, gender, parenting

People: Nicolle Nattrass

Publication: The Ring

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