Jewish Journal

Are You My Mother?

by Mike Levy

July 12, 2001 | 8:00 pm

Pamela Alster is a trooper. Her solo autobiographical show, "Note To Self: Shop Bloomingdales - Find Mother" plays Thursday nights at the Black Box Theater in Los Angeles, but a recent Thursday afternoon found the writer/actor with a deep puncture wound in her calf from a dropped glass bottle. No matter, she bandaged herself, got in her car, headed off for the theater, was promptly sideswiped by a careless driver, dealt with that and headed off for her show.

Alster knows from cuts and sideswiping. Her mother left the family when Alster was 4 years old. "To know me is to know that about me. I am a motherless daughter," she says in the show, "I am my mother's daughter."

In "Note to Self," Alster shares memories both painful and funny of growing up with an ex-Marine dad, distant stepmother, Hadassah-president grandmother and two sisters, but without knowing her mother. In one telling scene, the young Pamela latches onto an elementary school teacher. "I'm a teacher's pet and all the kids think I'm a goodie two-shoes, but I don't care.... They have mommies, I don't."

Though dad works hard to raise three daughters, there are some things dad can't do. "Instead of playing dress-up in my mom's closet, we went to my dad's construction site and learned how to hang drywall."

Finally, as a young adult, Alster tracks mom down. The woman she discovers, a bohemian American Indian in California, raises more questions than she answers.

Told in small vignettes, with Alster playing every role, the story flows from past to present with evocative musical and dancing interludes. Having embraced an involved Jewish identity, the playwright attributes her emotional performance in part to her Jewishness: "We have a heritage that demands honesty and sharing our story," she says.

"Note To Self: Shop Bloomingdales - Find Mother." $15. Thursdays, 8 p.m. through July 26. Black Box Theater, 12420 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles. For reservations or more information, call (310) 859-4641.

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