Semi-autobiographical musical explores grief, queer family dynamics

June 14, 2022 | Ryan Feyre
rfeyre@thereminder.com

EASTHAMPTON – Francesca Hansen-DiBello, a multi-talented playwriter, actor, musician and director from Providence, RI, is releasing a semi-autobiographical musical based on her own life growing up and being raised by two moms.

The production, which is titled “Blood & Water, a love story,” is set to premiere at 7 p.m. on June 17 at CitySpace in Old Town Hall in Easthampton.

In an interview with Reminder Publishing, Hansen-DiBello said the play is about four family women – two moms and two daughters – and the love and grief that springs in life after one of the moms passes. “The ripples of illness and subsequent death affect each family member in distinct and occasionally opposing ways, pushing and pulling the family apart and then together again,” reads the synopsis.

Hansen-DiBello said she was initially inspired to start writing this play after the death of one of her mothers from cancer. “I grew up in a two-mom family,” said Hansen-DiBello. “[Family] was always a big part of my identity and the way that I talked.”

Once she lost one of her moms to cancer, however, Hansen-DiBello said the experience changed the way she felt about herself. She wanted to express these feelings through her playwriting, which is something she began pursuing, at the time of her mom’s passing.

“[The experience] became something that I wanted to explore and talk about in a different way,” said Hansen-DiBello. “One of my friends said, ‘You obviously need to write about your family.’”

According to Hansen-DiBello, her entry into theater was through acting, which she has been doing virtually her entire life. She is also a singer and has some music released on streaming services, but she did not start writing music until after college.

“I actually went to school for acting,” said Hansen-DiBello. “And actually, my mom died during the last week before graduation, and I just couldn’t act for a long time. When you’re acting, you have to be in your body and open, and I just wasn’t in a place where I could do that.”

As an artist, however, Hansen-DiBello had to find an alternate route for expressing her feelings of love and grief, which eventually came through music and playwriting.

Before settling into the Pioneer Valley, Hansen-DiBello was born and raised in Providence with her two moms. “My family was the first family in Rhode Island for the two mothers to adopt each other’s children,” said Hansen-DiBello. “I had a lot of curiosity from my peers about what that was like, but to me it was difficult to answer that question because it was so normal.”

Hansen-DiBello added that her mothers shaped the way she approached this story, whether through their political activism or just their loving tendencies. “I wanted to use the story as a way to teach people that it’s healthy, it’s normal, and it’s as loving as any other family,” she added. “The play is very much about grief, but it’s also about the weight of love and what it means to love someone so much that you do feel that grief when you miss them.”

According to Hansen-DiBello, there have been a lot of iterations of the play over the last six years, but she is happy where the musical is at now. Outside of writing the play, Hansen-DiBello is also a producer and acting in it. The play will run for six performances between June 17 and 26. Tickets are available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/blood-water-a-love-story-tickets-326717951187.

The play will be released under ViewPoint Theatre, a new local theater company committed to stories that “encourage [people] to reconsider [their] views and assumptions.” It was founded by Hansen-DiBello and producer and actor Shevaun Keogh-Walker in 2022. “Using a lens of love, discord, and humor, Viewpoint Theatre’s mission is to engage with community members and demonstrate the power of love and chosen family in overcoming tragedy,” reads their mission. Hansen-DiBello said they have many projects on the horizon, and “Blood & Water” is the first project released under the company.

For this play in particular, ViewPoint is currently fundraising a Kickstarter to compensate the individuals working on the production, as well as to cover production and rehearsal costs. To support the project, visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bloodandwater22/blood-and-water-a-love-story.

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