For years, Jenifer Eklund Maxson has written, appeared in or directed plays about other people’s lives.
Now, she has created and stars in a one-woman musical about her own. “Coming of Age” will be performed on Saturday, September 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church, an encore performance from her successful first show in April.
Ms. Maxson describes it as the story of a woman who grew up in the vanguard of the baby boom generation, with “one foot in the world of ‘Father Knows Best’ and the other in the land of Betty Friedan.” In other words, a woman who experienced all of the confusion, opportunity, joy and pain that defined coming of age in the 1960s.
Ms. Maxson, known to most Islanders as Jenifer Corwin, married Thomas Maxson in June. The sister of James Eklund, she has lived on Shelter Island for 31 years, having gradually made the transition from “summer kid” to permanent resident. She taught English at the Shelter Island School for 17 years, retiring in 2012.
Although a teacher by trade, her love of the theater runs deep.
“Theater is so immediate, so present,” she said, adding with her characteristic wit, “I think one reason I love it is that I can do it.” But more seriously, she said, she worries that “technology has reduced our face-to-face immediacy.”
Ms. Maxson began dabbling in theater in high school and then as a student at Hofstra University. Before beginning her teaching career, she founded the Shelter Island Drama Club and subsequently directed more than 25 school plays and musicals over two decades. She also introduced the school to the Young Playwrights Program at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor and was a coordinating teacher for the program for many years. Over the years she wrote for and performed with the Shelter Island Players and a Greenport drama group she founded. Known as the Wild Time Players, it was popular on the East End in the 1990s.
She appeared locally in “Belle of Amherst,” William Luce’s one-woman play about Emily Dickenson, and “Love Loss and What I Wore,” a play by Nora and Delia Ephron.
Noting that she will sing some of her favorite songs in the show, Ms. Maxson says, “It will be about me but others will no doubt see themselves in it as well.” In some ways her story is a familiar one: A college student who left to marry and have children (two daughters), a divorcee, a single working mother who returned to school to further her career, all the while fulfilling a passion for another life — as a woman of the theater.
With role models like Lily Tomlin and Elaine Stritch as inspirations, Ms. Maxson’s one-woman show reflects on her life and her generation from the relative comfort of a newly married retiree with grown daughters and three young grandchildren.
The show will be followed by dessert and coffee. Tickets are $25 and can be obtained by calling the church office at 749-0805. Proceeds will benefit Island charities.