PORTLAND – Portland writer Elizabeth Peavey returns to the stage for an encore of her one-woman performance “My Mother’s Clothes Are Not My Mother.”

Peavey, an essayist and educator, wrote the piece after sorting through the belongings of her mother, Shirley, following her death in May 2009. She debuted the piece in August, selling out two shows at St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland. She returns to the St. Lawrence for repeat performances at 7 p.m. Sunday and Monday.

“This is not a Hallmark special, and I am not portraying my mother as a hero,” Peavey said. “It’s honest, funny, difficult and poignant.”

Peavey is reluctant to call “My Mother’s Clothes Are Not My Mother” a play. When she was younger, she fancied herself a playwright, but her playwriting career lasted all of one play.

This is more of a memoir. She performs it in two acts, with props, talking directly to the audience in the first person. “People still like to go listen to people talk,” she said.

For Peavey, these performances do not represent a cathartic experience; she has worked through most of her grief. But she suspects her performance may provide a cathartic outlet for people in the audience. Especially among people her age — Peavey is 52 — a lot of people are experiencing the death of a parent or learning to cope with loss.


Her writing process began when she tucked herself away in Bethel for two weeks. She unloaded all of her emotions, and then distilled them into a format that made sense to her.

The result is “My Mother’s Clothes Are Not My Mother.”

The piece gets to the core of losing a parent and the process of sorting through belongings afterward. Peavey uses her mother’s possessions, including her clothes and household items, as props. “These things take on added meaning after the person is gone,” she said.

As the piece opens in January 2010, Peavey is dealing with her mom’s things. From there, she takes the audience on a journey back in time as she tells the story of her relationship with her mom, her mom’s physical decline and her eventual death.

The piece is peppered with humor, but does not gloss over the difficult aspects of the mother-daughter relationship or the emotional turmoil that Peavey experienced following her death. “I thought I was ready for this,” she confessed. “But every grief is different, and this knocked the stuffing right out of me.”

In addition to her writing career with various Maine publications, Peavey has taught public speaking at the University of Southern Maine and served as guest lecturer on creative nonfiction at University of Maine, Farmington.


Her latest book, “Glorious Slow Going: Maine Stories of Art, Friendship and Adventure,” a collaboration with Maine landscape painter Marguerite Robichaux, is due out at the end of this year.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: bkeyes@pressherald.com

Twitter: pphbkeyes


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