Cassidy Willey’s personal one-woman show comes home
What: Cassidy Willey’s “As Close As I Can”
Where: Thunder River Theatre, 67 Promenade, Carbondale
When: 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday; 6 p.m. Sunday
More info: ThunderRiverTheatre.com
In the place where Cassidy Willey lives and her parents graced, her already powerful one-woman show takes on a new meaning.
Willey’s “As Close I Can,” premiered in Denver over the summer but came back to the Thunder River Theatre last weekend to perform her personal story of overcoming grief in front of her “home audience,” many of whom knew Bob and Michele Willey.
“Thunder River is an artistic home for me and has been for a very long time,” Cassidy Willey said. “To be able to share in a theater space and have an audience as witness, an audience that I know has my back, and to lead people through an emotional experience is something that I’m really grateful for.”
The show, closing this weekend, follows Willey’s experience of losing her mother in the same year she became one. It explores the emotional spectrum of grief, joy and love through her lens.
Michele Willey passed away in 2018 after a long fight with cancer, just seven months after the birth of Cassidy’s son, Elliott. Four years before that, Bob Willey passed.
Cassidy’s parents were both members of the community. Michele was a local artist, and Bob was an educator, runner and actor.
The show takes the audience through the experience of losing parents and an ode to theater, a common thread throughout the family. Bob and Cassidy were performers, and Michele was a stage manager or would work the sound booth. The trio never collaborated at Thunder River, but they all worked there at one point or another.
Kristin Carlson serves as a script consultant and offstage voice, Renee Prince directs, and lighting and sound is designed by Sean Jeffries.
“It really is looking at a very difficult year through a lens that does not flinch but that is also able to see joy and beauty,” Carlson said.
The show began as a single scene for a women’s voices project in 2019 but grew into a full length show with the help of Carlson and Prince. It was ready for performance before COVID-19 caused delays, and it finally found its way to Carbondale last weekend.
The trio of creators said that even though the show has a certain specificity to it, audiences on the Front Range and in the Roaring Fork Valley have found their own ways to connect to it, calling the experience of loss “universal.”
But the play also has moments of lightness and laughter that can also be a point of contact for viewers.
“There’s a lot of grief in the world, and to be able to present an unflinching exploration of all the feelings that with just living our lives as human beings is a gift,” Prince said. “It’s a gift to be able to create a new play with such brilliant women, and then when you add on top of that that this is Cassidy’s story, it’s been a true honor.”
“As Close As I Can” is showing at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday and at 6 p.m. Sunday at Thunder River Theatre. Tickets and more are available through ThunderRiverTheatre.com. Audience members must wear masks and provide proof of vaccination.
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