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Mari Geasair, director of Eleemosynary
Mari Geasair, director of Eleemosynary
by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Eleemosynary
February 18 - March 15
Stone Soup Theatre


Mari Geasair has always wanted to live in the northwest, so she moved here last year, leaving theater connections and network back in Denver. Geasair has brought half of her company, Cheshire Cat Theatre Company, leaving behind co-founder Bernie Cardell. The company just produced a trio of Jeffrey Hatcher one-acts that opened last month to good reviews, and Cardell came here to direct it.

Cheshire Cat Theatre Company was founded to focus on the needs of two audiences in particular, professional women and the Gay community. Why those two audiences? "Probably because I'm a professional woman and he's Gay," Mari laughs. "We wanted to find scripts that would speak to those audiences, not mainstream musicals or avante garde unscripted stuff. Fascinating stories that met the creative needs of these two audiences, and keep their juices flowing.

"Professional women want to see strong women characters, where women are doing something other than just bouncing off men. Every play you used to read had seven men and two [peripheral] women. Even now, it's hard to find scripts with enough interesting, strong, evocative characters when you look at the talent pool. You're looking at 50 talented women for every talented man. Professional women are saying, 'if we're paying a lot of money to see theater, we want to see ourselves. More than just being girlfriends and mothers.' Not feminist themes, just stories with interesting women."

Cardell and Geasair met in a theater acting class and, following that, were cast as husband and wife three times in different plays. Geasair suggests, "There is a comic energy we have together. Then we produced a play, and even though we approach things from very different angles, we aim at the same target. Like a radio station, we're both tuned in to the same signal." Cardell is thinking about relocating to Seattle, as well, but is a little more entrenched in Denver than Geasair was.

Geasair has always also worked with other companies as an actor and director and is directing Eleemosynary at Stone Soup Theater (February 19-March 15). Also through Stone Soup, Geasair met Corey McDaniel, a well-established director/teacher in Seattle, who happens also to share her creative vision, and calls him "her new Bernie" (he's also Gay). She's even thinking about having him join her company.

Geasair says, about Eleemosynary, "So many people know about and love Eleemosynary. That's fascinating to me, because when I ask people what they love, they pick a different strain of what captivates them so much." The play is a look at three generations of fascinating, fully described women: a young woman who loves words and enters spelling bees (where she learned to spell eleemosynary and know its meaning, "charitable"), her feminist mother, and irascible and strong-willed grandmother. Lee Blessing, a nationally treasured playwright with many Broadway plays under his belt, was able to capture women's feelings and desires beautifully (even though male).

Geasair was able to make the move to Seattle, "since I help small businesses, coaching marketing for service professionals and entrepreneurs in their first three to five years of business, often by phone, and have clients all over the country. Marketing for small theaters is my 'service' work, helping them publicize themselves."

Geasair tells why she thinks this play is pertinent at this time. "I like that it's a story of redemption and that's a story that we need to be telling ourselves a lot. I think it's easy to get caught in doom and gloom and what I should have done differently, and forget that even when we're doing horribly, a better message is coming through. The better part of ourselves is still coming through even when we might not know it. Grandma [in the play] says, 'we're all sending messages out in a bottle,' and Echo says, 'we all, in our own way, completely eleemosynary.' These three women are crying to love each other and it backfires all the time, and yet somehow their passion and the fact that they just keep trying, at the end is enough. It's important to remember that if we just keep trying, sometimes that is enough. We don't have to be perfect, we just have to stay in the game." For more information, go to www.stonesouptheatre.com or call 800-838-3006 or go to www.brownpapertickets.com.

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