“Cat Lady” on PRX
About Cat Lady
I had struggled for a year, trying to write a piece about my mother, about myself, about what I observed to be an awkward, even incompatible relationship between the roles of artist and mother, about a child’s inheritance of his parents’ pain and desire. I had a long and unfocused essay, which I put aside.
A few months later Holly Hughes invited me to participate in a night of readings that would all be pet-themed. Did I have anything that would fit? I, barely legal, was excited and intimidated by others she told me were on the bill– Eileen Myles, Kate Bornstein– artists who were much older and more accomplished than I. Yes, I said, I have something. I read over and threw out that previous manuscript and sat down to write a short poem about my mother… and cats! Three days later I had overstayed my welcome in various diners across New York City and had a twenty-minute short story.
The piece went over quite well and Holly encouraged me to stage it, which I eventually did. As a theater piece it’s been performed, under Elizabeth Gimbel’s direction, in cities across the country and in Europe as well.
While I began in the autobiographical, the characters and events in “Cat Lady” are decidedly abstracted and fictionalized. My actual mother speaks in more dulcet tones and, as she herself points out, would never feed the cats Whiskas.
This was recorded in a studio at The University of Michigan’s Duderstadt Center with Katherine Weider and Stephanie Rowden. I edited it with Garageband.
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