The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Riverside Theater plans to bake a mother’s love

Marqueta Senters performs during a dress rehersal for Apples in Winter at the Riverside Theatre on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. Apples in winter tells the story of a mother whose son is on death row and requested a slice of her apple pie as part of his last meal. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

The sweet, crispy scent of an apple pie in a small theater, almost welcoming an audience home with an appetizing meal. In contrast to the popular tradition of the festive dessert, one mother will mark a final goodbye with her next baking project.

Riverside Theater, 213 N. Gilbert St, will present the original play Apples in Winter beginning Friday.

With only one character, the play focuses on a mother named Miriam, who is an avid baker. Miriam’s son has been assigned from his opioid addiction. For his last meal, he has asked his mother to bake him an apple pie.

Baking in the prison, Miriam muses about raising her child and how he met his downfall for the duration of the show.

Playwright Jennifer Fawcett earned an M.F.A. in playwriting at the University of Iowa. Since then, her work has been performed in several parts of the United States. Beyond her writing, Fawcett is a cofounder of the Working Group Theater, a group based in Iowa City that collaborates with artists around the world to produce original plays.

Fawcett was influenced to compose this piece by a class she took at the university, where she learned about “bad mothers.” She has also observed the behavior of criminals and how their families are often victimized.

“I was really interested in a mother grappling that, where she’s both grieving and figuring out her own responsibility, if there is any,” Fawcett said.

The piece has received critical acclaim since its release, including winning the Smith Prize from the National New Play Network. Shortly after receiving the honor, Fawcett discovered that she was pregnant, which immediately changed her perspective on her work.

“What became intellectual became emotional, since I was becoming a mother,” Fawcett said.

Beth Wood, the show’s director, originally comes from Cleveland, where she is the associate artistic director of Cleveland Public Theater. She was invited to direct the play, and she quickly becoming enamored with the script.

“I’m really attracted to plays that are really about complex human emotion, because as human beings, we have different, 800 emotions going on at once,” Wood said. “This script really brought that to life in a really interesting way. I’m also a fan of the way the language is constructed. The way Jennifer has constructed the language and the journey are really intricate.”

Typically working with a full cast of actors, Wood was able to make new ventures while directing her first one-woman show.

“It’s such an interesting challenge as a director,” Wood said. “You can’t rely on two people communicating to find pace and change. You really have to find that within the text and also the individual’s emotional journey.”

Marquetta Senters, the actor portraying Miriam, takes full control of the stage, bringing in a light-hearted feeling inside the dark, grim prison.

“When I’m working on a project, it’s always really important to me to see how the character breathes through the actor,” Wood said. “Just the way Marquetta embodies this woman is totally different than my imagination, but in a really good way. I’ve learned so much more about this woman through watching Marquetta’s work.”

Senters admired several of Miriam’s traits while transitioning into her character.

“Miriam is a survivor,” she said. “She’s been faced with a lot of struggles in her life, and that gives her a lot of strength and a very clear viewpoint in her life. Her viewpoint is, ‘I must get from Point A to Point B, and whatever is thrown in my way, I must achieve that.’ ”

This being her fourth one-woman show, Senters shows no qualms about taking full responsibility of making the script flow.

“It’s not a foreign entity to me, which is good, because the first time you do it is a scary, scary thing,” Senters said. “You have to rely on yourself to do the work.”

While the process may seem intimidating, she said, she thrives on leading a play by herself.

“I get along with the entire cast; we never have any fights,” she said and laughed. “I like working independently, and I like the aspect of making myself do the work, which in acting, is doing the lines. It is a challenge to be completely engulfed into this character.”

Surrounded by darkness, the scenery establishes a floating kitchen, with ovens planted on the stage. Throughout the show, Miriam bakes a real pie with actual kitchen utensils and ingredients.

With no one in the production team having any baking experience, Woods reached out to her mother for advice on creating a pie.

“When I work on this play, I always think of my mother,” Wood said. “She wouldn’t bake apple pies, she would bake apple tarts, but I always imagine her in the kitchen, and I just see her making it. There’s something beautiful about this play that brings up those images of our own family rituals, and how sometimes those are happy moments, and sometimes those are sad.”

Dealing with a gray situation, Fawcett believes theater is a proper outlet for the subject matter.

“I think theater is a really effective way at looking at complicated emotional situations,” Fawcett said. “Ultimately, you’re dealing with a human who has a really complicated situation, and there isn’t an easy answer.”

When: Friday-March18, 7:30p.m., Thursday-Saturdays; 2p.m. Sundays

Where: Riverside Theater, 213 N. Gilbert

Admission: $12-$30

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About the Contributor
Sarah Stortz
Sarah Stortz, Arts Editor
Twitter: @sstortz_
Sarah Stortz is an Arts Editor at The Daily Iowan. She has been on staff since her freshman year, previously as a news reporter, digital producer, and arts reporter. She is a senior at the University of Iowa, studying journalism & mass communication with a certificate in nonprofit management and a minor in theatre arts.