Julia de Sotto
Pühapäev, 03 Veebruar 2013 12:12
Estonian Life No. 5 2013
Next Sunday, February 10, is a rare chance to catch I Remember Mama, a satisfying slice of life play written and performed by Toronto actress Julia De Sotto as an emotional tribute to the trinity of women whose wisdom and passion have shaped her life beyond measure.
De Sotto's mother, Violetta (Viu) Ostmann, said good-bye to her family and fled Estonia at the age of 21 as the clouds of World War II gathered. She travelled alone, first to Germany and later Canada.
Despite the hardship, Ostmann would take care to pass only hope onto her daughter, "We were young, Julia, we could do anything. It wasn't so bad."
Ostmann found work at the beautiful Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta's Rocky Mountains. She also found love and married a handsome Italian coworker who shared her passion for music and drama, a love they passed on to their daughter. Ostmann spent part of her honeymoon in her new mother-in-law's, famously known as Nonna, kitchen learning mandatory lessons about how to cook for her husband.
Nonna's story of survival is no less powerful. Raised in poverty as one of 13 children, married at age 15, she journeyed to Canada after World War 1 with classic dreams of opportunity. Unable to read or write, Nonna staked her claim in the kitchen. "What else was there?" asks De Sotto who was partly raised by her Italian grandmother while her parents worked in Banff. Food and cooking are beloved themes in De Sotto's life, on stage and off.
An optimist in her own way, Nonna shared her strength and practical wisdom with her grandaughter, "When doing housework, sing!"
Yet De Sotto pulls no punches as she celebrates the truly bittersweet qualities of life. She courageously re-enacts her Scottish mother-in-law's fated demise from the West Nile Virus and her dying moments in the play's 'cross over scene' which her family finds difficult to watch. The audience chuckles at De Sotto's tales of trying to curry favour with the woman who hid a huge heart behind a stern and frugal exterior.
De Sotto's play reminds us to celebrate the unsung heroes in our lives who raised us and became part of us. One comes away reminded that there are no unimportant lives or unimportant people. Life is a gift which De Sotto clearly celebrates with tales of family, food and cherished legacies.
Viu Ostmann, now 92 and in the early grips of Alzheimer's, sits in the audience awaiting her daughter's performance and chirps, "This play is about me!" De Sotto's husband, Rob, quietly reminds the loveable former diva-homemaker that the play is not just about her.
De Sotto's "fiery" daughter, Katrina, is a young woman whose passion for food has taken her to France as a chef.
Chatting about the play, De Sotto says, "It's almost like Katrina is another Nonna." Her voice trails off and she smiles as the cycle of life comes full circle.
I Remember Mama shows at 2 pm on Sunday February 10, 2013, at Tartu College, 310 Bloor Street West. Tickets to One-Woman Play Celebrates the Bittersweet Cycle of Life at lulubelleproductions.ca.Linda Ambos