Play explores ‘sandwich’ generation

ENCINITAS — Moira Keefe, like the late Erma Bombeck, has distinguished herself as one of America’s great humorists by chronicling the mundane challenges of a suburban housewife.
Her play, “My Year of Living Anxiously,” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. March 12 at the Encinitas Library. It is presented free of charge through a partnership between the city of Encinitas Commission for the Arts and the Encinitas Theatre Consortium.
Keefe’s production was originally staged as a one-woman show in January at the San Diego Repertory Theatre and in Missoula and Whitefish, Mont.
The storyline explores the pressures of the “sandwich generation,” who are torn between caring for their aging parents and hormonal teenagers.
Keefe was the seventh of nine children growing up in a Catholic family in Long Island, N.Y. She raised two daughters: Rakaia aka Rocky, 16, is a junior at the San Dieguito Academy. Brianna aka Scoop, 23, is in the Peace Corps serving in the Dominican Republic.
She weaves generational perspectives on real-life events in the play while revealing her growing respect for her parents.
“In 1975 I read my dad’s diary,” she said. “I was a pain in the ass. I juxtaposed his feelings raising me with my own experience with my daughters.”
Lowell Gaspar, a local emergency room physician and actor, plays Keefe’s father. Eva Barnes, a UCSD voice and speech professor, portrays her mother.
After earning an associate degree from the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts in Santa Maria, Calif. in the early 1980s, Keefe studied psychology at the University of Montana, Missoula. It was there that she met husband Charlie Oates who was completing a Master of Fine Arts degree.
Keefe’s first monologue, “Life After Birth,” was presented in 1989 after the birth of Brianna.
“It’s a comedy about the frustration of being a mom for the first time,” she said. “When you’re pregnant everyone says motherhood is the greatest thing in the world. Afterwards, even though you love your children to death you realize this is work that is nonstop. You wonder if you’re ever going to get your life back.”  
She followed with a succession of productions: “Life Before Sex,” “Life Before the Crisis” and “The Crisis.”
Keefe wrote “Staying Married” in collaboration with Oates, who moved the family to San Diego in 1996 when joined the faculty of the UCSD theater department.
Today Keefe admits that settling in Encinitas was a difficult transition.
“When you move from the mountains of Colorado to Southern California, you have to adjust to the climate and the culture,” she said. “One thing I take advantage of is the beach. I swim in the ocean because it’s a peace that I don’t get from the mountains.”
Keefe’s work has been seen in theatres and festivals in throughout the world including the Dublin Theatre Festival, Ireland; The Wellington Fringe, New Zealand; the Victory Theatre, Los Angeles; and the Post Theatre Company, New York City.
She has received rave reviews from the Los Angeles Times, the Denver Post, the Rocky Mountain News, the Charleston, South Carolina Post & Courier and the Orlando Sentinel.
A few years ago she received critical acclaim for back-to-back performances at the North Coast Repertory and Carlsbad Village Theatre of “Life with a Teenager: I’m having a Hot Flashback” and “Life Before Sex.”
What Keefe enjoys most are the letters and e-mails from fans who identify with her experiences.
“It’s fun to make people laugh,” she said. “Sometimes I feel I am doing a service. I’m making people feel good about themselves.”
For more information, visit moirakeefe.com.

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