Darren Stone Nelson was a published poet and columnist, a trained circus clown, and a lover of language. She retained that love, according to her daughter, singer-songwriter Jonatha Brooke, even as Alzheimer’s disease took its toll. Brooke recalls one morning in particular when her mother excitedly burst out with the exclamation, “You might be refrigerated for other expectations!”
“Which means nothing,” Brooke says, “but to her it was this grandiose proclamation and she was so excited to share it with me. She just loved the feel of the words in her mouth. Even when she was searching for the right words, she still relished coming up with any kind of word at all. Thank goodness her language was one of the last things that she lost.”
Brooke recounts stories like this one about the two years she spent caring for her mother in her new one-woman show, “My Mother Has 4 Noses,” which opens at People’s Light on Thursday. Brooke came to prominence in the early 1990s as part of the folk-rock duo The Story and then with her own solo albums, including “Plumb” (1995) and “10 Cent Wings” (1997). While she was forced to put her career on hold while her mother’s health deteriorated (she died in 2012), Brooke knew that the experience would eventually come through in her music in some form.
“Obviously I was going to write songs about this, because that’s what I do,” she says. “But my Mom would be the one saying, ‘This is really good stuff, Jonatha. We need to make a play out of this. We could make a lot of money.’”
“My Mother Has 4 Noses” premiered at the Warner Theatre in Torrington, Connecticut, in 2013 and Brooke later brought a concert version to World Café Live for the 2013 Fringe Festival. The full theatrical version comes to People’s Light in partnership with World Café Live and WXPN. The show, Brooke says, captures the sensation of simultaneously laughing and crying that she experienced so often while caring for her mother.
“She would crack me up all the time. I really wanted to get inside that strange, very common thing where something awful happens but there’s something incredibly funny going on at the same time and your brain just splits into this acophony. I worked really hard at balancing that tragic, comic conundrum that we all face.”
“My Mother Has 4 Noses”
People’s Light and Theatre Company
39 Conestoga Road, Malvern