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Riverside Theatre presents play on parenting

BY JULIA JESSEN | SEPTEMBER 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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Megan Gogerty's great-grandmother was 16 when she started working in the kitchen of a steamboat, her baby in tow. One day, there was a fire aboard the boat, and she was forced to jump overboard, even though she couldn't swim, and dog-paddle to shore. All the while, she clutched her baby with the diaper between her teeth.

This story inspired Gogerty to write her one-woman show Feet First in the Water with a Baby in my Teeth, which will première at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Riverside Theatre, 213 N. Gilbert St.

Admission is $15 student-rush tickets, $28 for adults, $25 for over 60/under 30, $15 for youth (18 and under).

The tale of the steamboat fire serves as a metaphor for the themes of parenting in the show.

"How does anybody raise a child?" Gogerty said. "You just kind of have to go in there and wing it, figure it out."

The play looks at her experience of discovering how to be a parent, what the experience does to a person, and all of the expectations that go along with raising children.

"I was just wearing my Chuck Taylor All-Stars a minute ago," she said. "And now, it's like what? Wait, I'm responsible for this person?"

The UI theater alumna wanted to create a piece about feminism but found herself writing more about her personal journey, struggling with being a mother, which led to Feet First.

People sometimes look at theater as a stiff, formal place, she said, but she wants to get rid of that "churchy" stereotype.

"I try to make an environment that's really fun, that's really welcoming, that's really relaxed," she said. "And it's a comedy. At the end of the day, isn't that what people want to do? Just lose themselves for a couple of hours and laugh?"

The team at the Riverside Theatre has worked on productions with Gogerty in the past, and they said they have cultivated a close working relationship. Production manager Ron Clark said the theater has great faith in her.

"We know her integrity as a person," he said. "She's one of those artists who we really want to foster and support. She deserves a great career."

Clark said he particularly enjoys Gogerty's humorous style.

"She tells the truth," he said. "The truth is always funnier than what you make up."

Play director Alexis Chamow, one of Gogerty's favorite collaborators and one she has worked with many times, said she can relate to the show on personal level because she also became a mother around the same time as Gogerty.

"We kind of went through the process of discovering what that transition of not being a parent to being a parent is and how much it has to do with rearticulating your overall identity," she said.

The way that Gogerty deals with the situation in a real way rather than handling it without glossing over the tougher aspects is something Chamow said she admires about her. In addition to the honesty and humor of the play, the storytelling is something Chamow values as well.

"Storytelling is something of a lost art, and if you find a good storyteller, you should grab on and never let go," she said. "And Megan's a really, really good storyteller."


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