By Kenneth J. Souza
ASSONET, Mass. — Actress Elizabeth Montigny thinks the Blessed Mother can provide a unique perspective on the life of Christ.
That’s why she recently created the Marian Theatre Project, resulting in two one-woman performance pieces in which she portrays Our Lady.
The first, entitled “Walking With Our Mother,” is based on Christ’s Passion and was performed at parishes for Lent and Easter earlier this year.
Now she’s bringing “Our Mother’s Call,” an Advent and Christmas-themed performance based on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, to St. Bernard’s Parish in Assonet on December 12 — the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“It had been in the works for a while, and I finally put the gas on it last year,” Montigny recently told The Anchor. “I’ve already presented both of them, so it’s been good to know what type of feedback to expect. They’ve both been well-received.”
Written by and starring Montigny, “Our Mother’s Call” was inspired by similar one-woman shows based on the lives of various saints.
“Several years ago my mom encouraged me to do something like this because we had seen several one-woman shows and she knew that I had a theater background and she suggested I present something focusing on the Blessed Mother,” Montigny said. “It’s basically looking at the life of Jesus through the eyes of Mary.”
While there have been many one-woman shows based on people like St. Faustina and Mother Teresa, Montigny admitted the notion of creating a one-woman Marian experience was a little daunting at first.
“I had seen some shows based on women saints — and I know in Scripture, the Blessed Mother doesn’t talk all that much, but when she does, it’s very meaningful,” she said. “So I took those few moments in Scripture and built upon that. I really wanted to imagine what her life was like.”
Sensing the time was right to bring Our Lady’s story to the stage, about a year ago Montigny’s work on the project began in earnest.
“It took me a while to get rolling, because I was writing the pieces as well, so it was a lot of stop and start,” she said. “Then, just last year, I really felt like I needed to do it. I thought it was a good way to bring together my theater and Spiritual side, plus with everything that’s going on in the world, I felt it was a message that people really needed to hear at this time.”
Tapping into her theatrical resources, Montigny worked with a director to shape the piece into a 20-minute stage presentation, then collaborated with seamstress and graphic designer to create a costume and logo, respectively.
“It was interesting when it came time to create the costume,” Montigny said. “I just went to a local seamstress in Fall River. I told her kind of what I was looking for and used a pattern. I think the costume is closer to what Our Lady would have worn from day-to-day. I think a lot of us imagine her as being majestic and clad in jewels, but that’s not how she lived on earth. It’s very simple and that’s the way I wanted to go with it.”
While the Lenten “Walking With Our Mother” presentation was more of a collaborative effort in terms of writing and directing, Montigny said “Our Mother’s Call” is something that she primarily “worked out on my own.”
“It’s mostly dialogue and it runs about 20 minutes,” she said. “I had set it up based on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, so we hear Mary relate those mysteries from her perspective. I address the audience as Mary in costume. It’s pretty much Scripture-based, I’m not making any huge theological statements with it. I would say it’s very meditative and helpful to people who want a little retreat during Advent.”
As the mother of three boys herself, Montigny said she was able to tap into that experience for her performance.
“I think becoming a mother is what really started me moving towards putting these pieces together,” she said. “I really think it lit a fire under me, because having the experience of being a mother to three boys — and, of course, Mary was a mother to a Son — and just knowing that incredible love that you feel that will never go away, has definitely been helpful to me when I perform. Just imagining how great Mary’s love was, knowing that this is God, is just incredible.”
Another source of inspiration for Montigny has been Pope Francis’ personal devotion and affection for Our Lady, which she witnessed firsthand during the World Meeting of Families in September.
“I was fortunate enough to go to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis, and it was a really amazing experience,” she said. “I was very moved by the pope’s devotion to Our Lady Undoer of Knots, and I got to see the shrine that was created there in Philadelphia in her honor and I was able to pray the Novena, which is quite powerful.
“Basically, I appreciate the pope’s depth of compassion and what he is also telling us about Our Lady — that she can help you bring your troubles to the Lord and help you find a way to loosen those knots and really be at peace with yourself and what’s going on.”
While Montigny has previously performed the shows in western Massachusetts, where she grew up, and in nearby Providence, R.I., the St. Bernard’s Parish event will mark her debut presentation within the Fall River Diocese.
“I went to a meeting of the Fall River chapter of the Massachusetts Citizens for Life, and that’s how I became involved with St. Bernard’s Parish in Assonet,” Montigny said. “I met a member and she told me about a group there that meets one Saturday a month and on December 12 they are going to have a presentation on Our Lady of Guadalupe and she thought I could follow that up with ‘Our Mother’s Call.’ She thought it would be a nice companion piece.”
The presentation will begin at 9 a.m. on December 12 at St. Bernard’s Parish in Assonet and is free and open to the public.
Montigny will also be returning to the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus in Providence, R.I. for a performance of “Our Mother’s Call” on December 20 beginning at 5 p.m. in Our Lady’s Chapel.
She hopes to continue presenting the two Marian Theatre Projects at parishes throughout the area well into 2016.
“Word is starting to get out now, and I hope it’s something I can bring to other churches so people can experience it,” she said.
Montigny added that “Our Mother’s Call” is an ideal way for people to better understand and appreciate all that Mary went through in those days and weeks leading up to the birth of the Messiah.
“I hope people come away from the show understanding the importance of the gift of life — that the Lord would come into the world and that Mary was open and welcoming to that idea,” she said. “I also hope people realize the sacrifices that went along with that: nothing really came easy to the Holy Family, I don’t think. From that perspective, I think we sometimes go to church and don’t see them as real people, but they were. They faced a lot of struggles — as we all do — and you can have faith and call upon them for help.”
For more information about the Marian Theatre Project, visit www.agoodremedy.com/the-marian-theatre-project.html.