My Mother Laughs (Ma mere rit) is a performative reading of Chantal Akerman’s prose, written during her mother’s illness, shortly before her death. Similarities echo in No Home Movie which Akerman filmed in the final months of her mother’s life. My Mother Laughs is presented as an intimate portrayal of the time spent between Chantal and her mother, Nelly. Grace Carter, Paige McKinney and Ron Mason Gassaway interpret Chantal’s disarmingly direct words in the spirit of her relationship to her mother, her self, her films and how her mother and her own life were intricately entwined and over-shadowed by the Holocaust (Nelly was a survivor of Auschwitz). Grace Carter, as performer, reads as a conduit for Chantal’s “voice,” honoring her boldness, her rawness, her quietude, her wry observations and her deep well of reverence for her mother.
This performance is conceived and acted by Grace Carter with co-director Paige McKinney and sound by Ron Mason Gassaway. Portland-based Carter, McKinney and Gassaway previously worked together to produce The Yellow Wallpaper at CoHo Theater in 2016.
Grace Carter co-founded the critically acclaimed defunkt theatre in 2000 and she has been producing and directing theatre for the past 16 years, and she has produced and directed 12 short films.
Paige McKinney is an actor, director, choreographer and dancer whose focus is on new live performance works, and whose work synthesizes movement, the voice, and unexplored bodies of text.
Ron Mason Gassaway is a songwriter and composer, live performer and video artist who works with directors, writers and companies. He is a founding member of the provocative improvisational group Party Killer.
My Mother Laughs, first performed in English at The Kitchen in New York in 2013, as part of the exhibition Chantal Akerman: Maniac Shadows, is the second of Akerman’s written and performed works; her first was a reading of A Family in Brussels at Dia:Beacon in 2001. These are the only known reading performances by Akerman in the US. Zena Zezza’s production of My Mother Laughs is the first rendering by an actor, continuing the legacy of Akerman’s text and performance-based work. My Mother Laughs is an excerpt from Chantal Akerman’s confessional book, Ma mere rit, published by Mercure de France in 2013 to rave reviews. Akerman presented a dramatic reading of My Mother Laughs at The Kitchen in New York on April 11, 2013, as part of the exhibition Chantal Akerman: Maniac Shadows. Akerman’s film No Home Movie was released in 2015. Natalie Liebel Akerman died at the age of 86 in April, 2014. Chantal died October 5, 2015.
DIALOGUES is Zena Zezza’s series of performative conversations on the ideas and influences within Chantal Akerman’s work, bringing together theory, scholarship and artists’ practices with LOOKING, REALLY LOOKING! The Films of Chantal Akerman.
DIALOGUES events are presented in collaboration with Animated Arts and MFA in Visual Arts with technical support by Maxwell Brown at PNCA’s Mediatheque, 511 NW Broadway.
LOOKING, REALLY LOOKING! and DIALOGUES is co-presented by Zena Zezza and the Northwest Film Center, and is curated by Sandra Percival with Morgen Ruff.
Image credit: Chantal Akerman, My Mother Laughs
Still from video documentation of Chantal Akerman reading My Mother Laughs at The Kitchen, 2013 as part of the exhibition Chantal Akerman: Maniac Shadows.