Susan R. Rose has had a storied career:
In 1984, fresh out of college, she became the youngest producer on Broadway when she mounted "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and was nominated for a Tony. She went on to produce plays by Athol Fugard, David Rabe and Larry Shue, among others.
She has also had a prolific career producing movies for television.
But it is her role as a mother that she cherishes the most. And it led her to conceive and organize, with her creative partner, the late Joan Stein, "Motherhood Out Loud," a series of monologues by an impressive list of playwrights. Invisible Theatre opens its season with the play next week.
"I loved being a mom and my daughter and I were very close," says Rose in an interview from her Long Island summer home.
"I wanted to reach out to great writers I knew who were moms."
With the "Vagina Monologues," a series of monologues on the same subject delivered on a bare set with just stools for the actors, as their template, Rose and Stein got to work. That was about five years ago.
Thanks to the connections the two women had, accomplished writers quickly signed on. Among the 14 co-authors: Beth Henley ("Crimes of the Heart,") Lisa Loomer ("The Waiting Room"), Marco Pennette ("Desperate Housewives"), Theresa Rebeck ("NYP Blue") and Luanne Rice ("The Silver Boat" is among her 29 novels).
"We reached out to our favorite writers not knowing what the (play) would be, just knowing these writers would probably want to tell their story," says Rice.
Of course, nothing is ever easy.
Though writers - too many as it turned out, and some men, as well - were quick to jump onto the project, Stein and Rose had to pick pieces that were diverse enough to make a series of different stories, which range from birthing to parenting a parent. Then there were rewrites. And then workshops - no easy feat since the writers were scattered across the country. Workshops happened about twice a year on both coasts.
Finally, two years ago, it had its premiere at the Hartford (Conn.) Stage. Its West Coast premier was at the Geffen Playhouse (Los Angeles) early last year, and it hit off-Broadway last autumn. In the process, many changes were made, including the "Vagina Monologues" template, which was tossed in favor of a staged set and full production.
It was at the Geffen that Invisible Theatre's Susan Claassen first saw the play, then called "In Mother Words."
"It just spoke to me, all the stories grabbed my heart," said Claassen, who is directing the IT production.
"… I loved that it had so many divergent voices, and that it wasn't the same old take on mothering. It can be rough and raw and a multitude of emotions."
Claassen, who rarely is without nerve, marched up to the playwrights after the production and told them about this little theater in Tucson that would love to mount their play.
Rose and Stein liked that idea.
"I love them all," Claassen says of the 19 monologues.
"Each day, another comes up as a fav."
And, of course, to stage works by such an illustrious list of writers is a pretty big deal.
"In any given season, to produce one of these playwrights would be a godsend," she says. "But to produce all in a season-opening play - it's a privilege."
If you go
• What: Invisible Theatre's production of "Motherhood Out Loud."
• Playwrights: Conceived by Susan R. Rose and Joan Stein; written by Leslie Ayvazian, Brooke Berman, David Cale, Jessica Goldberg, Beth Henley, Lameece Issaq, Claire LaZebnik, Lisa Loomer, Michele Lowe, Marco Pennette,Theresa Rebeck, Luanne Rice, Annie Weisman and Cheryl L. West.
• When: Preview 7:30 p.m. Tuesday; opening 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Regular performances are 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 23.
• Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
• Tickets: $18 preview; regular performances $28. All available tickets are half price one-half hour before curtain.
• Reservations/information: 882-9721 or invisibletheatre.com
• Running time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.
• Cast: Lori Hunt, David Johnston, Susan Kovitz and Barbea Williams.