Andy Warhol once observed that “dying is the most embarrassing thing that could ever happen to you because someone has got to take care of all your details. . . . You’d like to do them all yourself, but you’re dead, so you can’t.” That goes double for the emotionally taxing process of sorting the physical possessions loved ones leave behind, a process that inspired Steppenwolf ensemble member Molly Regan‘s new solo play, The Accidental Curator.
For the past two years, over berries and cheese, Robinson has held living-room rehearsals with friend and longtime collaborator Mary B. Robinson, who directs, to shape and prepare for the stage essays she began writing for events like Steppenwolf’s Writer Jams. Telling her own story and those of her family is a relatively new venture for the veteran performer, one met with encouragement from Robinson, Victory Gardens managing director Erica Daniels (formerly president of Second City Theatricals and associate artistic director at Steppenwolf), and the late Martha Lavey, Steppenwolf’s artistic director from 1995 to 2015.
“Even though I was not writing plays,” says Regan, “I was writing essays. [Martha] just said, ‘Send me everything you write.’ And she came to see it and she said, ‘Please do this here. Cut ten minutes, but do it.”
After tinkering with the piece in workshops in Chicago, New York, and Weston, Vermont, Regan says she’s ready to get her family’s story, going back 130 years, in front of real people, her relatives included.
“The best thing is when people would say to me ‘Thank you for making me feel I’m not alone,” says Regan. “Or someone would come up to me and say, ‘I’m the last in my family. What am I going to do?’ Or, ‘OK, you gave me the courage to do what I need to do here.”
The Accidental Curator 1/12-1/14: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 2 PM, Steppenwolf Theatre, 1700 Theatre, 1700 N. Halsted, 312-335-1650, steppenwolf.org, $40.