A fond farewell to “Love, Loss and What I Wore”

by | May 12, 2023 | Arts and Entertainment | 0 comments

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From the left: Jodi Altendorf, Ellie Surckla, Laura Blackwell and Storm Kennedy rehearse a scene from “Love, Loss and What I Wore.” The play opens Friday, May 12 at Albany Civic Theater. (Photo courtesy of Leigh Matthews Bock.)

After a decade with “Love, Loss and What I Wore,” Leigh Matthews Bock is just about ready to hang it up.

But not before one last go-round with the play – on the same stage, Albany Civic Theater, where she fell in love with theater, some 20 years ago.

“Love, Loss and What I Wore” is a play by Nora and Delia Ephron based on a 1995 book by Ilene Beckerman. The play, essentially a series of related monologues, centers on women’s relationships and fashion – and the interaction between the two. (Speaking of connections, there’s a remarkable link between the productions that Matthews Bock has staged in the mid-valley and the original book. We’ll get to that in a bit.)

Matthews Bock’s final production of the play opens Friday, May 12 for a two-weekend run at Albany Civic Theatre. (See the box at the end of this story for details.)

The long-running romance between Matthews Bock and “Love, Loss and What I Wore” began in 2012, when she first came across the play (“by accident”) – and loved it. “I thought it was such an interesting way to share women’s stories,” she said.

“And then when we got into the rehearsal process, it became more than I ever imagined that it could be; it was funny, and endearing and thought-provoking.”

Her first production of the play, in 2013 at the Majestic Theatre in Corvallis, sold out three performances.

“And the audience response was incredible,” she said. “I mean, people were talking during the performance, which typically you’d never want as a director, but people were relating to the show so much that they were conversing with each other.”

That audience reaction has continued every time she’s staged the show since then.

“That’s one reason why I keep going back to it: The audiences love it and connect to it.”

That, and the fact that each production is different – and new cast members help Matthews Bock herself find new aspects to the play.

But there have been constants in each production. For starters, the play’s narrator, Gingy, has been played each time by mid-valley stage veteran Jodi Altendorf.

Gingy, who’s largely based on the real-life Ilene Beckerman, is from New York – and so is Altendorf. “She’s got this understanding about who Gingy is,” Matthews Bock said. “And she’s just created this really rich character over the years.”

The other stalwart in the cast is Storm Kennedy, who has a personal connection to the book that inspired the play: For eight years in New York, Kennedy’s best friend was Ilene Beckerman’s daughter Isabelle.

“Isabelle and I did things every day together, we worked in the same restaurant, we lived in the same building,” Kennedy said. “It was just an amazing friendship and amazing family that I kind of was a part of for eight years.”

Eventually, Kennedy moved back home to Oregon. One day, Isabelle called to tell Kennedy that her mother had written a book.

A few years later, Isabelle called again: Her mother had met with the Ephrons, who were turning “Love, Loss and What I Wore” into a play. “So maybe someday you could be in it,” Isabelle told Kennedy.

A few more years went by, and one day Kennedy noticed an audition notice at the Majestic for “Love, Loss and What I Wore.”

That was 10 years ago.

Kennedy has personal knowledge about some of the stories included in the play. But not all of them: The Ephrons interviewed dozens of women as they worked on the play and wove those stories into the final version.

Kennedy said it all works: “There must be something about Gingy’s story that’s universal enough that the Ephrons were able to hang these other monologues on it and make it seem like a complete whole.”

As for Matthews Bock, bringing the production to Albany Civic Theater feels like coming home. Twenty years ago there, she played Elaine in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” a performance that kindled a long-running romance with the theater. In 2010 she directed her first show, “Mornings at Seven,” at Albany Civic.

So it feels appropriate to wrap up her long-term relationship with “Love, Loss and What I Wore” at Albany Civic.

“It feels like the right time to be done,” she said. “It’s been 10 years. I’ve done all the surrounding theaters. I’m doing it basically at the location where I fell in love with theater, so it just feels like the right time.”

If you go

What: “Love, Loss and What I Wore.”

When: May 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. A 2:30 p.m. matinee is scheduled for May 14, Mother’s Day.

Where: Albany Civic Theater, 111 W. First St., Albany.

How much: Tickets are $14 for adults, $11 for students and seniors. Click here to buy tickets.

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