Let me take off the reporting hat and write with total bias: “My Soul Look Back and Wonder: Life Stories from Women in Recovery” was the most moving performance I’ve seen at the Kennedy Center this year.
On Monday night, 15 women of N Street Village, a homeless shelter and service provider in Northwest Washington, took the stage to perform “Life Stories” at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater. They weren’t trained actresses. Many were addicted to drugs only a year ago. But after months of rehearsals, they delivered an hour of monologues and vignettes about drug addiction and homelessness and how they plan overcome those obstacles.
I knew it would be a moving performance after sitting through a dress rehearsal last week. But I didn’t realize how powerful the vignettes would be on stage, under lights, in front of 500 people, many of whom were the family members of the actresses.
After an hour of scripted scenes—lines the women memorized (and recited beautifully!)—most of the audience members lifted their glasses to dry their eyes. I counted only a handful of people who didn’t cry at all. I was not among them. I teared up when the twin sons of Rose Shaw, one of the performers, took the microphone to say, “Mom, I’m proud of you.” They wept as they approached the stage to embrace the mother they’ve seen struggle with addiction their entire lives. Rose had told me during a conversation that she wanted to prove herself to her sons; this performance gave her the opportunity to do so.
Deb Gottesman, director of the play, said in an email: “When I went backstage before the post-show discussion. some of the women literally fell into my arms—overcome with emotion.”
The emotion shown through every scene and comment, with audience members saying, ‘I forgive you” and “Thank you for sharing our story.”