Being a mother at 15 is hard for many reasons, not the least of which is the potential for public shaming. But, that does not diminish the bond a mother has for her daughter.
That was the message behind a song written by Gary Weimberg and sung at a gathering last week by 17-year-old Anika Avelino, an up and coming singer in Port Townsend.
“I just imagine the fear because I don’t feel I am responsible enough to take care of myself and I can’t imagine how much responsibility I would need to assume as a mother,” Avelino said. “And all the public scrutiny on top of that must be super heartbreaking.”
Such bonds between mothers and daughters will be explored this month as Catherine Ryan and Weimberg - Emmy-award winning filmmakers - conduct a five-week residency in Port Townsend developing a musical for the stage with the help of local residents.
Based on their ABC award-winning documentary, “The Story of Mothers and Daughters,” which aired in 1997, they plan to collaborate with local musicians, songwriters, singers, readers and critics to write and perform songs with Broadway in mind.
“It has stayed in our minds for 20 years,” Weimberg said. “These women just always sounded like song lyrics. Now, they are turning into them. If Taylor Swift wants to write one of the songs, we are open to that.”
The musical, with 35 songs, will portray the life-journey of 30 mothers and daughters, each in her own way illustrating the bond in all its profound, poignant and painful complexity.
Weimberg has scored the template for the music, but encourages participants to add and change the lyrics during the upcoming sessions.
“The broader plan is that other people will come on board with music,” he said. “I am the starting point right now, and my biggest job is to fire myself and get better composers and better writers.”
The point is to tell these stories in a truthful and accessible manner, Weimberg said.
“Speech is one truth, but song is another.”
The process isn’t to create a Hallmark card story, Ryan said.
“It really is much more about what it takes and about the pain. It really is trying to be truthful and universal.”
Ryan said she is excited to work with local talent.
“When the opportunity came to come up to Port Townsend and spend a month it seemed like a perfect way to get engaged with people in the community, to develop the libretto further.”
Nominated for eight Emmys, and winning two, the filmmaking duo have also worked in the industry as sound editors on big budget features such as Return of the Jedi and Godfather III.
The Los Angeles couple was in Port Townsend for the 2018 Port Townsend Film Festival for a screening of their film, “My Love Affair with the Brain: The Life and Science of Dr. Marian Diamond.”
They began work recently with Jeff Roy, one of 13 pianists in a group that meets informally in Port Townsend, and have reached out to singers and musicians through area churches.
In a quick turnaround, a performance will be held at noon on May 5 at the Rose Theatre, with a reading of the libretto and songs in progress.
Film Fellow program
The Port Townsend Film Festival’s Film Fellow program, now in its fifth year, has granted residencies to filmmakers with diverse projects.
“We give filmmakers this time to do whatever they want - to edit film, write screenplays, find a musical score, work on marketing,” said Janette Force, Port Townsend Film Festival executive director.
“The fellowship is based on demonstrable merit, so if a filmmaker needs to wander into coffee shops, stare at the bay, and mull things over that’s an acceptable use of the residency.”
Creative work is different than any other endeavor, artists often don’t know what’s going to emerge or what surprising form it will take, Force said.
“When Catherine and Gary revealed they would use the time to write a musical, I was surprised and delighted. The collected stories for ‘Mothers and Daughters’ is perfect. Based on my own relationship with my mom, I can imagine the lyrics that might come out of this.”
Weimberg and Ryan will document the entire process on film to be screened sometime in the future, they said.