"Oldest town, newest works" at Sandwich Arts Alliance

Staged reading of two plays

Burying a parent is one of life’s most difficult moments but what happens if you can’t decide what to do with the remains or, worse yet, if you can’t find them?

The Sandwich Arts Alliance will present staged readings of two new one-act plays from local playwrights with an unusual common theme: the ashes of a deceased loved one serve as a touchstone to exploring the relationship first between a mother and son on the one hand, and between two sisters on the other. We witness both the comic and poignant struggles of dutiful daughters as they try to do the right thing with their parents’ remains. The evening, dubbed "Ashes Two Ashes - Two Plays-One Theme", will take place at the Sandwich Public Library on Thursday, November 17th. Admission is free, although donations will be accepted.

The tandem plays, by local Cape authors Betsy Mangan and Karen McGarr Goershel, are part of a recently created Sandwich Arts Alliance project called "The Oldest Town with the Newest Works", which seeks to give new theatrical works an inaugural public presentation. The project aims to be a creative incubator where authors can give their plays a trial run before an audience, whose feedback is welcomed, and to get a sense of what works and what needs fine-tuning—a kind of Cape version of Broadway's out-of-town tryouts. "You sometimes wait a year or more to try new plays at the more established theaters," says [somebody from the email you sent me]. "Here we will give playwrights a chance to perform and hone their works."

And Then He Was Gone by Ms. McGarr Goershel takes a touching look at the tender relationship between a mother and son as they visit a tiny Scottish village to say a final good-bye to the boy's grandfather.

In Ms. Mangan's Lost and Found, the close relationship of two sisters is put to the test as their plans to rebury their mother in a Nantucket cemetery somehow go comically awry.
"I'm delighted to have been asked to direct and present new works like this November's staged reading to the public and first-time audiences," said Carol Mcmanus, a long-time director and member of the theater community on Cape Cod. "I met Betsy and Karen, the two co-writers, four years ago at a very funny play they wrote called A Leg Up, in which my daughter was a performer."

It is not by happenstance that two Sandwich-area authors have produced meditations on the same theme. Mangan and McGarr Goershel met in 2012 and worked together on A Leg Up, about a group of women in a Pilates class. The two soon discovered that they each had a unique story about an experience that many adult children have—how to deal with a parent’s ashes. They decided these recollections would make a perfect pair of companion plays, comedy and drama, and after sharing the works with family and friends they realized they had hit upon a theme that many people can relate to. mre details for this event are available at www.sandwichartsalliance.com

Betsy Mangan is a native New Yorker who retired to Mashpee with her husband and two dogs in 2012. After a 23-year career as a writer in the financial services industry, Betsy switched gears and partnered with her husband to open Woofs ‘n Whiskers, a boarding kennel for cats and dogs in Brooklyn NY in 1995. The humorous and harrowing ups and downs of owning a small business in NYC are chronicled in her book, Dogs, Demons and Me.

She recently collaborated on a play with Karen McGarr Goershel, A Leg Up, a comedy about a group of women on the Cape struggling to come to terms with their lives and their bodies. The play had three very successful readings in 2013-2014.

Betsy is also working on Susan in Paris, a memoir play based on 100 letters that her older sister wrote home to her family in Brooklyn in 1963.

Karen McGarr Goershel can be found online at www.karenmcgarr.com where you can read daily diary entries from 1989, the year she joined British Airways in London as Worldwide Cabin Crew. The diary also has a dedicated Facebook page, under Karen McGarr.

Raised in Scotland and England, Karen moved to Cape Cod in 1993. She initially worked in Boston for British Airways, before becoming a Realtor on the Cape, a career that spanned two decades.

Karen is presently transcribing more of her diaries as well as editing her memoir, Loving Lizzie. Her latest play, Magpie, is about a group of people who come together, unexpectedly, on New Year’s Eve.

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