'Mom!' the Musical Takes Best of the Fest

Audience members at Chameleon Theatre Circle's annual New Play Festival chose 'Mom!'— an irreverent, touching tribute to the trials and joys of parenthood—as the best new play in 2012.

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"Hot Mama Blues" got a warm reception in Burnsville this weekend. The song is just a small sampling from "Mom!"— a musical written by a trio of Illinois women that was voted "best" of this weekend's New Play Festival.

By sheer coincidence, the play is successor to another comedy that centers on family relationships one rung further up the matrilineal ladder: “” was named "Best of the Fest" in 2011. 

"Mom!" was one of just 11 plays that made the final cut at the fest in 2012, the 13th annual competition sponsored by Chameleon Theatre Circle. The Star Tribune's Liz Rolfsmeier called the play a "fun, heartfelt, raunchy, unflinching look at the joys and complexities of modern motherhood." Writer Judy Freed said she and her collaborators— Skokie resident Sari Miller and Randi Wolfe—first conceived of the play around a kitchen table.  

"We hoped that these were all feelings and experiences parents could relate to," said Freed, a Niles, IL resident and mother of a 15-year-old. "A lot of time, you feel out of control and crazy. It really changes how you look at yourself and how you look at people around you."

"No matter how much you prepared for it, it's bigger than you expect," Freed added. "And every time you think you have a handle on it, it changes."

On Saturday, actors did only a bare-bones rendition of four or five songs, but "Mom!" was a knockout nonetheless, said Andrew Troth, president of Chameleon.

"It really wowed the audience," Troth said. "We're delighted to have discovered it through our contest."   

Troth said it was likely that Chameleon would consider staging a full-fledged version of "Mom!"For her part, Freed said she was "thrilled," but was mum about the specifics.

"We've had interest from various places around the country," Freed said. "We'll be seeing a full production soon." 

Each year, Chameleon gets hundreds of submissions, which are vetted in three rounds. The only strict requirement is that the plays must be original works that have not yet been produced. Those selected receive a small cash prize. 

Here is a full list of this year's festival selections:

Full Length:
Jane the Plain by August Schulenburg of Astoria, New York
The Light in the Refrigerator by Laura Zlatos of Brooklyn, New York

One Act:
A Brief History of Mah Jongg by Faye Sholiton of Beachwood, Ohio
Failing Consumption by Lauren & Mark Arnest of Colorado Springs, Colorado
Io: A Sequel to Prometheus Bound by Christian Simonsen of San Francisco, California

Ten Minute:
Good Talk by James McLindon of Northampton, Massachusetts
Guess What? by Paul Lewis of Bainbridge Island, Washington
Pop by Andrea Rassler of Concord, North Carolina
Witlacks Disorder by Richard Manley of New York, New York


Mom! book by Judy Freed of Niles, Illinois; music and additional lyrics by Sari Miller of Skokie, Illinois; lyrics by Randi Wolfe of Pasadena, California

Theatre for Youth:
The Wind in the Willows by Kurt Misar and Brad Beaver of Portland, Oregon


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