In 1982, a young Susan Wigglesworth was cast as the understudy to Amanda Plummer in the lead role in the Broadway debut of Agnes of God, John Pielmeier's drama about a young nun who gives birth and claims it was the result of a virgin conception.
"This was the first time that I had a substantial role and I got to play the part several times," says Wigglesworth, who trained at the London School of Music and Dramatic Art before landing on Broadway in her 20s.
Fast forward 33 years, two grown children, and a career in costuming later, and Wigglesworth finds herself back on stage in Agnes of God in the Studio Players' production opening this week.
Wigglesworth, who is the costume designer for UK Opera Theatre, plays Mother Miriam Ruth while her real-life daughter, Avery, plays Agnes. Like her mother before her, Avery has moved to New York in her 20s to pursue a career in theater and even founded a theater company, Cutout Theatre, with her older sister Thea.
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For director Paul Thomas, casting the mother-daughter duo was a small miracle in itself.
"If the show had taken place during any other time slot this year, they couldn't have done it," says Thomas.
Susan had a narrow window of free time between costuming demands at UK Opera Theatre, and Avery, who auditioned remotely by video, had a break between directing two shows.
They are joined by veteran actress Martha Campbell, who plays a chain-smoking psychiatrist trying to get to the bottom of Agnes' story: Was Agnes raped? Is she telling the truth? What about the stigmata on her hands?
Deep questions about faith, miracles, family and mental health are just a few of the threads woven throughout the show, questions that the cast explored together early in the rehearsal process.
"We started by discussing in our own lives the role of faith," says Thomas. "You really need to confront whatever your views are before you embrace this world view; you need to wrestle with where faith plays a role in your own life."
Interestingly, Susan and Avery do not entirely agree on some of the spiritual aspects of Agnes' experience.
"We've had some very interesting arguments," says Susan.
"The play brings up some really hefty questions and in a lot of the circumstances, I've had a very different opinion on things," says Avery. "I feel like a lot of that is a generational gap, which is interesting."
Having differences of opinion does not diminish the power of their familial bond on stage. While Avery grew up on the heels of her mother's theater endeavors, and the two performed together many times during Avery's childhood, this is the first time that they come together as adults.
They both say that working with each other has allowed them to go deeper, faster, than they could with another actor.
"It helps that we're best friends," says Avery.
"The biggest thing, especially in a play like this, is that there's so much trust," says Avery. "Having her there in the room just really helps me go to a lot of depths that I don't think I would have been able to go to necessarily."
"In reaching into the abyss of human emotion, I don't have to reach very far if I'm looking for motherly feelings toward this character," says Susan. "It's right there in my heart."