For the next three weekends, Kenai Performers is putting menopause center stage, and making it funny.
Written by New Zealand playwright Devon Williamson, “Menopause Made Me Do It” follows a group of women reuniting for the first time in 10 years as they grapple with the realities of aging.
“If you have gone through menopause, if you are going through menopause, if you will go through menopause or you have lived with someone who’s gone through menopause, you need to come see this play,” said Donna Shirnberg, who is producing the play and also appears as Kay in the show.
The small production features a cast of six actors, who play characters each facing unique challenges.
Terri Zopf-Schoessler, who said she has been working with the performers for more than 20 years, is playing Pamela.
Pamela is “a woman of many lists who is trying very hard to learn to slow down and enjoy life,” Zopf-Schoessler said.
She said it was easy to relate to the character because she also likes lists. “I like crossing things off.”
Lacey Jane Brewster is the Reverend Sandy, whom she described as both the respectable voice of reason and someone with some secrets, some pain, and some demons in her closet.
“She also loves her friends,” Brewster said. Sandy is “who you turn to when you know things need to get sorted out.”
Brewster said the role of Sandy appealed to her because “we as a society hold certain groups of people in high esteem. We forget that these people are human at heart.”
Sandy allows for an exploration of that dynamic, Brewster said. Great at her career, a strong voice among the group, but with something under the surface.
Nikki Stein plays Dianne, who she said is “a lady who’s a little bit crazy.”
“She is a mother of eight boys,” Stein said. “That does something to you.”
Stein said Dianne is “turning into the skid of getting older.” She uses a walker, grows out her gray hair and wears incontinence pads. “She’s very much like ‘OK, this is happening, I’m just going with it. And I think she plays it up a little.”
The role of Dianne was a great opportunity to play with comedic timing, Stein said.
“It has a lot of great comedy written into it,” she said. “I’ve noticed with a lot of her lines that if you say it a certain way, it can be pretty funny.”
Tracie Sanborn is Rachel, a travel writer.
“Intelligent and fun, she’s a little sassy,” Sanborn said. “But also sensible, she’s a good friend. She’s overcome some things in life.”
Sanborn said she agreed to be a part of the production even before knowing her role.
“I was just asked to participate, and I love this group of women,” she said. “I’ve been in a lot of plays with them in the past, and I know they’re wonderful actresses; it was a guaranteed good time.”
Bill Taylor is Sean, the only man in the show.
Sean has a lot of history with the ladies, Taylor said. In high school one of the women became pregnant with his child, and in another Williamson play, set 10 years before “Menopause Made Me Do It,” he was kidnapped by them as revenge.
Ten years later, Sean has fallen in love with one of the ladies, and lures them all together to make a play for her heart.
“And hilarity ensues,” Taylor said. “I get beat up, I get drug out of the closet, I get tied up, they gag me and blindfold me, it’s a comedy!”
Taylor said a big appeal of the role was the physicality.
“I don’t have a physical life,” he said. “I sit down and push paper on my desk and argue with people. So it’s fun to get to do stuff like this where I’m sneaking around and getting tied up and knocked unconscious.”
Taylor said he’s worked with the Kenai Performers for seven or eight years, where he has occasionally taken on other very physical roles. He said the biggest was Lord Farquaad in “Shrek,” where he spent almost all of the time on his knees, “aside from one scene where I stood up and tap danced.”
Shirnberg said Williamson “wrote this play to kind of give women a voice when they’re going through the different changes in life.”
Shirnberg said she’s actually communicated with Williamson over email and Facebook.
“We did one of his last year, “The Old Folks Are Revolting,” and he started following our Facebook page,” she said. “He’s very active in the publicity of his events.”
She chose to produce “Menopause Made Me Do It” because it’s written for an older audience.
“We tend to do things for younger audiences,” Shirnberg said. “As we all are aging we are looking for things that not only hold our interests as actors but the community’s interest as the community ages.”
Choosing the play had nothing to do with last year’s production of “The Old Folks Are Revolting,” Shirnberg said, it’s just an interesting coincidence.
The cast being almost entirely women was a major draw, “because we always have more women come out than men,” she said.
Zopf-Schoessler said the play is “just ridiculous.” The playwright wrote the script with his wife while she was going though menopause.
“If you need a laugh and if you’ve ever known anyone who’s gone through menopause, this is the play for you,” she said.
Sanborn said the play would be “very different” than what folks are used to seeing.
“I think it makes light of something that is maybe not the most glorious part of womanhood,” Brewster said.
The play is described as PG-13, because “it has a couple of swears in it.”
“It’s mostly for grown-ups,” Zopf-Schoessler said.
Taylor said he hoped the play will cheer people up.
“We’ve had so much rain lately … If it’s going to be raining, you might as well be inside and see something funny.”
“The world is what it is, and everyone needs a good laugh,” Stein said. “Even if the word menopause scares you, you shouldn’t be scared of us.”
“Come out and support your local arts and we will entertain you,” Shirnberg said.
“Menopause Made Me Do It” is directed by Shirnberg’s daughter Rheaona Shirnberg, and will be shown Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the next three weekends in the Kenai Performers’ black box theater behind Subway on Kalifornsky Beach Road.
Shows will be Sept. 16-18, Sept. 23-25, and Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays.
More information can be found at kenaiperformers.org, where tickets can also be purchased for $20.