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The Beacon Herald

Finding humour in the trickiest of subjects
LAURA CUDWORTH, Stratford Beacon Herald

After delivering her first child, Alison Wearing felt her only choices were to go on medication or go to Mexico.

She chose Mexico.

Wearing had what most call postpartum depression but what she calls postpartum illumination, and it's the subject of her one-woman show called "Giving into Light: A Journey Through Motherhood, (Near) Madness & Mexico."

"It's a very funny show. My favourite way to write is with a really strong humourous pen at my side," she said.

Wearing will be performing "Giving into Light" May 19 and a second show called "Confessions of a Fairy's Daughter: The (Colourful) Story of Growing Up With a Gay Father" on May 17 as part of the SpringWorks Festival at Factory 163.

The SpringWorks Festival, a fringe-style festival celebrating excellence in the arts runs from May 14-20.

Wearing is a writer. That's the way she's always seen herself. She wrote a 600-page book weaving the story of her childhood with a gay father around her postpartum experiences with her son. She sent it to her publisher and was told there were two stories in the book and that she should separate them.

"I was pretty devastated it took years of work to weave them together," she recalled.

About a year earlier she was giving a reading and a man approached her afterward and asked if she did any theatre. The answer was no. She's a writer.

When she got to Mexico she looked up English expat Stuart Cox, who happened to be a trained Shakespearean actor. He extricated the mother, madness and Mexico aspect of the story and helped her whittle it down. And then he helped her stage it.

"I don't like to call it a show about motherhood. I lose every man. Some of the most moving responses have been from men. It's been a pleasant and sometimes puzzling surprise," Wearing said.

Having said that, the sleep deprivation scene seems to strike a chord with most parents.

The autobiographical approach to her postpartum experience is the approach she takes to her childhood and growing up with a gay and initially closeted father in Peterborough in the 1970s and '80s.

"It was like hiding a pink elephant behind my back for 10 years. On the other side, it was incredibly rich and wonderful. It was difficult and liberating at the same time."

For her seventh birthday her mother was away - a rare occurrence - and her father was delighted with the prospect of planning a little girl's birthday party. He asked Wearing what she wanted to serve and told him hotdogs, coleslaw and chocolate cake with Cool Whip.

Her father served gruyere souffle, waxed beans in tarragon butter and creme brulee.

"When he did come out of the closet it shouldn't have been a surprise," Wearing said. "But we didn't have the vocabulary back then."

He came out when she was 12 and moved to Toronto.

"When he came out of the closet he flung the door off its hinges. He was so relieved to be who he was."

When she would visit her father and his partner in Toronto and then return home she'd invent stories about where she'd been and what she'd done. It was the early '80s and there was "no good news about being gay."

"I learned a lot of the techniques of storytelling out of desperation."

Those storytelling techniques have served her well. Her first book, "Honeymoon in Purdah", was an international success. Since then, Wearing has come to acknowledge she's more than a writer.

When she saw a review describing her as "actor, playwright and dancer" she was surprised.

"I didn't know I was any of those things," she said.

When she first arrived in Mexico she was "troubled" but also "felt as though the blinders had been lifted off."

What was supposed to be a one-month stay with her new son and partner turned into an eight-year stay in the small village.

"When we arrived I realized there was an entirely different way of living still available. The very things I was craving I found there - a connection with women of all walks of life."

For example, at the market women would reach out to hold her son so she could do her shopping, she said. They would just stop what they were doing to help.

Her son is now 12 and works as her audio technician.

Wearing and her family moved to Stratford in September.

For more information about SpringWorks, go to