When Zarah Ahmed first heard about designing the set for the play “Pearls: Motherhood Unstrung,” she wasn’t sure she wanted to get involved — she had a busy summer ahead.
But after reading about 50 pages of stories written by local mothers that would become the script, she found she could relate on several levels.
“It engulfed my mind,” said Ahmed, 18. “Some of them were really emotional. Some other stories were really funny.”
Ahmed, a recent McClintock High School graduate, was one of two Valley high school students who volunteered this summer to create the set for “Pearls,” a play that opened last week at the Arizona Women’s Theatre Company to sold-out audiences.
She and Sal Cosenza, a recent Coronado High School graduate, worked on the show’s background sets.
The play is a dramatic production of the pieces written by the students of Mothers Who Write, a writing workshop for mothers offered at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. It will run through Oct. 8.
Ahmed said she was struck by the familiarity of the stories, such as one woman’s rant about grocery shopping, or another’s about a fight with her daughter over lip gloss.
“My mom and I have had stuff like that before,” she said.
As she designed the set to reflect the stories, Ahmed also tried to incorporate underlying symbolism, such as a giant rose placed on one of the set pieces. “A rose is just a flower, but feminism is an underlying message also,” she said.
The rose also refers to one of the pieces performed in the play. Like Ahmed, many playgoers said they could relate to the stories, said producer Debra Rich Gettleman.
“I see people crying, I see people laughing,’’ she said. “They come up to me and say, ‘I get it, I get it.’ ’’ Gettleman worked with Mothers Who Write instructors Amy Silverman and Deborah Sussman Susser to transform the essays into a performance.
And with the continued success of the play, Gettleman said she could see it taking off at larger venues before more audiences.
“This kind of theater is very different for this audience,” said director Delores D’Amore Goldsmith.
“The audience is responding to it,” she said.
Unstrung” When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 8.
Where: Arizona Women’s Theatre, 7610 E. McDonald Drive, Scottsdale.
Cost: Matinees $20; Evenings $25. Discounts for groups, seniors and students.
Tickets: www.raisingarizonakids.com or (602) 620-0044.