• Lindy Hughes Pfeil

The Show Must Go On

Updated: Oct 8

No one warned me about motherhood.


My convent education was useless. When I graduated from high school, I wasn’t even clear on how many ovaries I had. And my own mother made it all seem so easy: seen through our teenage eyes, my sister and I practically raised ourselves. A few meals every now and then, and a ride here and there. How hard could it be?


Lindy and her mother in Durban, South Africa, in her Morris Minor in 1964.
Me and my mother in 1964.

My first inkling that it wouldn’t be all plain sailing was when I was expecting my son. My mother told me that while she would obviously love this baby – her first grandchild – she had no intention of ever looking after him.


“I’m done with all that,” she said, before lighting another John Player Special.


I have now been a mother for more than three decades. And I still have no idea what I’m doing. Luckily, I discovered there are others out there, also confused by the whole mothering thing. So, we did what mothers do: created a little family built on the solid foundations of dysfunction, confusion, tears, and laughter. We call ourselves Mothers on Ink. Mostly because we started out as a writing group. But also because it’s a slightly more socially acceptable name than Mothers on Ativan.


We started writing together online during COVID. It seems like yesterday. And also 100 years ago. Much has happened during this time. To all of us. And to the world.


One of us (who shall remain nameless) decided we should apply to perform at the Fringe. The Vancouver Fringe Festival is BC’s biggest theatre festival. It started as an alternative theatre experience in 1985 and takes place every September (except during pandemics) at different venues around the city. It’s billed as Theatre for Everyone.


It was February when she-who-shall-not-be-named made the suggestion. I was in South Africa at the time and fall in Vancouver seemed just far enough into the future to make it seem like a good idea. We all said yes, partly because we all have a hard time saying no. But also because we secretly hoped the lottery system would not be in our favour.


The way the Fringe works, is that you send in your performance proposal, the genre and intended audience, and then you wait to see what happens. You do not need to be a professional performer – a professional anything. You simply need an idea – and the chutzpah to execute it on stage in front of strangers (something we didn’t think too much about when we sent in the application.)


On May 6, we watched – from our little individual screens at home – the lottery system at work. Executive Director, Cory Philley, opened the evening at The Liberty Distillery, with staff, friends, partners, and board members all waiting for the official line up to be revealed.


There had been 145 submissions. Of those, 63 had made it into the hat – in this instance, a large see-through Perspex box. Only 28 names would be pulled. Our chances were slim. Which suited us just fine thank you very much.


Two board members did the lottery honours. With each additional name announced, I breathed a little sigh of relief. One by one, 15 bright orange squares of paper were pulled from the box, unfolded, read aloud. Not us. Not us. Not us. And then, number 16. Us.


It happened so quickly. So uneventfully. As if it wasn’t a big deal at all. As if the six of us – moms from the suburbs – had not just been given the most spectacular gift: a stage from which to share our stories.


For a while we pretended not to be terrified. But that only lasted so long. Then we panicked. We called an in-person meeting. In Eagle Harbour. It was the first time some of us had met in real life. It turns out Zoom is useless when it comes to accurately depicting height. Or fantastic hair. There was a lot of “Oh, wow! Look at you!” moments. Not much work got done.


Karen, Lindy Pfeil, Alli, Elizabeth, Jennifer & Fran at Eagle Harbour Beach.
Mothers On Ink met at Eagle Harbour Beach in real life.

There were forms to be completed. Many forms. And because we are not professional performers, there are things we didn’t have. Like headshots. And a media kit. Promotional material. Then came the tech sheet. And we were floored. So many words we didn’t understand. Like crossover. Suspension. (Who would be suspended? And why?) Teardowns. Blackouts. Words that made us wonder what on earth we’d gotten ourselves into. Motherhood all over again.


Thankfully, the Fringe staff are rather helpful. And quite lovely. And so, the show goes on. Mother Tongues explores the language and voices of who we come from and the lasting impact of both having and being a mother. Heart-wrenching, funny, and raw, these stories flip the myth of the Good Mother. There is no complicated lighting. No glitzy scenery. No mood music. No fancy gimmicks. Just a naked stage. Six women. And true stories. Life.


Thank you to everyone who came to The Fringe. Thank you for your fabulous reviews and the 'mother' stories you have shared with us. For additional showtimes, locations, and tickets, visit MothersOnInk.com.

*This article was originally published in the September 2022 edition of The Beacon Newspaper.

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