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After winning at the high school level and then NY Regional, Schuyler competed in Troy, NY for the New York State title and won. As a result, Schuyler will represent NY at the 2014 National Poetry Out Load Competition in Washington DC. The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation have partnered with U.S. state arts agencies to support Poetry Out Loud, a contest that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. It is a national competition that begins in High Schools and thousands of students around the country.
Theresa McDermott has chased her “ideal” life as an urban-dwelling, punk(ish) singer-songwriter to the very end of its possible existence. She is broke, options have run out and she happens to have a few kids she is raising on her own since their dad split a year ago. Facing eviction and nowhere to go, Theresa packs up her children and what is left of her life and moves back to the small rural town, childhood home and parents she deliberately ran from a decade ago. Her parents’ mutual misery and depressingly gloomy lives where a “downer” she felt had no place in her fun city life. Yet from the moment Theresa drives back up her old driveway, it is clear that there have been some major changes. Her parents, armed with a plethora of hobbies, a hot tub and a new philosophy, are not exactly the old folks she left behind. Theresa needs a job, her parents need their space and a painful family history needs some closure.
Delightful is the word to best sum up Theresa is a Mother. The film is an absolute delight. It takes an age old story and real life experiences and makes them uniquely Theresa’s own, while incorporating an air of awkwardness that makes the experience a little too close for comfort at times for the viewer. Awkward, random hilarious situation after situation ensues in Theresa but it’s never over the top and it never detracts from the seriousness of the film. The family dynamics and the entirely too common but yet still odd situation of having to live with ones’ parents again are perfectly explored here, showing us harsh truths, the unadulterated love of family and the uncomfortable bordering on funny moments that occur within families.
C. Fraser Press is more than terrific as Theresa, the struggling mother trying to keep it all together while giving up on her dreams to help her family. Her performance never wavers and is strong throughout, not to mention hysterically funny at times. She is also able to reach into the depths of the emotional pool to bring out the sadness and frustration a mother in her position experiences. The child actors involved here were quite good as well with Schulyer Press being the standout as an almost teen who is shy and a loner and struggling to find herself. Also featured are Edie McClurg (who is wonderful as always, I’m quite the fan of hers) and Richard Poe as Theresa’s parents.
Between the remarkable script and phenomenal ensemble, Theresa is a Mother is a dramedy I highly recommend. It’s both funny and touching and will make you pause to give thought about your own family interactions. This is one to definitely add to your “Must See” list. I should probably also mention that Theresa has won over 12 awards on the festival circuit ranging from Best Director to Best Ensemble. Seriously, don’t just take my word for it – go check out the film’s website and see everything they’ve done and are up too and to learn more about the cast and crew. You can also “like” them on Facebook! So go check them out!
- Misty Lane
Rogue Cinema LINK
Single motherhood is an exercise in chaos — especially when you have a lot of growing up to do yourself. Such is the driving theme of the new comedy ‘Theresa Is a Mother.’ It is a family-centric film in more ways than one: Writer and lead actress C. Fraser Press co-directed the film with her husband Darren Press, and their three daughters also co-star. The result of this clan collaboration is a funny and moving portrait of a flawed but well-meaning parent trying to better herself and, as best she can, control the familial pandemonium around her.
Theresa, a forty-something aspiring musician with more heart than talent, has no money or partner. Facing eviction, she moves with her three young daughters – Maggie (Schuyler Press), Tuesday (Maeve Press), and Penelope (Amaya Press) – into her parents’ middle-of-nowhere rural house for the summer, hoping she will figure out what to do with her life.
From her financial failings to her inability to corral her kids, Theresa has some deep flaws as a mom. Press effectively portrays Theresa as a neurotic, well-meaning screw-up trying like hell to bond more with her kids — and to set a better example for them. “Parents are idiots,” Theresa concludes at one point. But as she repeatedly makes clear, that does not prevent them from caring, or trying to do better.
To its great advantage, “Theresa” emphasizes humor, character dynamics, and unfolding layers of emotion ahead of plot. Many of its scenes play out long after the plot beats have been conveyed. Humor and character interactions are allowed room to grow and breathe, amping up until scenes hit heights of supreme ridiculousness. In one scene, an out-of-sorts Theresa wanders around the perimeter of her car after being pulled over, stretching out the scene length as a police officer yells at her to get back in. She finally does, but not before getting her foot stuck in an abandoned guitar.
The film also teems with bizarre running jokes – for instance, a recurring TV cooking show starring clerically garbed African American TV chefs who sing food-themed gospel music while preparing dishes such as the “Holy Trinity three bean salad.” On the surface, some of these scenes do not seem to advance plot or character development. But they add to the film’s themes of searching for control in a world where things are anything but neat, easy or logical.
The three Press children bring impressive performances to the proceedings – especially the eldest, Schuyler, whose Maggie emanates a magnetic, odd-duck intelligence. She is obsessed with old showtunes and wears strange costumes to school, causing other kids to laugh and whisper. Much of the time, she seems off in her own head. She is somehow a child and an old soul all at once. It is a nuanced performance, and a promising film debut.
Indeed, none of the film’s characters are clichéd types. Take Jerry (Robert Turano), a seemingly uptight bank official who denies Theresa a job. Later, Jerry confronts Theresa when he thinks that Maggie has been stealing yard work jobs from his thirteen-year-old son, Seth (Matthew Gumley), by accepting lower wages. (In reality, it was Theresa herself who was stealing the work. Naturally, she does not correct him.) Just as the scene seems poised for a tense confrontation, Jerry expresses a grudging respect for “Maggie’s” ruthless capitalism, and amiably suggests that Seth and Maggie work as a team in the future. He even asks Theresa to write a song for Seth to sing at his upcoming Bar Mitzvah. The film’s characters rarely behave as expected, lending them three-dimensionality.
While it may be an old theme, “Theresa” articulately illustrates how the flaws of parents seep into the DNA of their children. Cloris (Edie McClurg) and Roy (Richard Poe) are alternately upbeat, distant, and despondent. (Much of the latter two, we learn, has to do with a past family tragedy.) And yet they clearly love their daughter, and do their meager best to show it. Their behavior and emotions explain a lot about Theresa, from her lack of self-confidence to her parental warmth. On the surface, “Theresa Is a Mother” is loose, light, and funny. But the film possesses impressive psychological depth, probing Theresa’s neuroses and their roots.
“Theresa’s” use of music is very effective. The film shuttles between a soundtrack of abrasive rock music and a soft acoustic guitar-driven score, alternately evoking overwhelming discord and a searching melancholy.
Unfortunately, Alex Kornreich’s photography tends to be sluggish, mostly consisting of static shots. While editor Chad Smith wisely avoids an overabundance of cutting, choosing instead to let long scenes play out uninterrupted, the film still might have benefited from a livelier camera. But it is a small complaint.
In “Theresa Is a Mother,” we witness two generations of children trying to take care of yet more children, and a mother trying as best she can to break the cycle and become an adult. The film could have been a shallow comedy about wacky family dynamics. Instead it is an insightful story about how parents, through all their failings and best efforts, shape their kids.
- David Teich
The indie feature film Theresa is a Mother has been awarded the Jury Prize for BEST FEATURE FILM at the 2013 Long Island International Film Expo. This marks the 5 BEST FEATURE AWARD for the small indie film starring the Press Family – C. Fraser Press, Schuyler Iona Press, Maeve Press and Amaya Press along with Edie McClurg, Matthew Gumley, Richard Poe and Robert Turano. Schuyler Press also wrote the film’s main theme song. The entire score was based upon her original songs Summer Child and No Words. Theresa is a Mother was produced by A May Sky Picture Entertainment.
Tween phenom singer songwriter Schuyler Iona Press is presenting a workshop production of her new multimedia musical at 13thStreet Rep Theater Wednesdays and Saturdays through June 15th.
The conceit follows Ms. Press on a walking tour of New York City. Video and still photograph projections show the tour and images of the City. The video’s narrative and all songs are performed live by Ms. Press and a talented set of musicians, notably Matt Gumley on lead guitar and Annette Homann on violin.
The songs explore Ms. Press’s experiences and discoveries along the tour, on topics as varied as homeless on the subway, 9/11, and using fire hydrants to escape the heat. Ms. Press wrote all of the songs and she plays the guitar throughout. Joel Hanna and Hannah Tobias perform Irish step dance inspired choreography.
This production is a work in progress. It is a unique opportunity to witness a young artist polish her work. Ms. Press has accumulated many an accolade in her young career. One expects many more are to come.