, left, and Mary Kay Kelleher star in the two-woman play "'night Mother."
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was gearing up for a change.
She was retiring from her job as an administrator at Norwich's Reliance House, which provides serivces for people experiencing mental health, addiction, and developmental disabilities.
was preparing to move from her
Norwich home down to Florida.
But there was something to do before she
- who has been involved with local theater, through Chelsea Players - was talking with her friend Mary Kay Kelleher about doing a drama. (They had previously been involved in several comedies together.)
says, "My two loves are what I
do as a living, which is work at a mental health agency, and as an avocation, I
"For both Mary Kay and I
, not in our immediate families, but suicide has touched our lives," Hastings
"Not only, obviously, in my job but also in people we know.
have a girlfriend whose daughter committed suicide from longtime depression.
It's just so devastating."
While there is growing public awareness of mental health issues, Hastings
says suicide remains more of a taboo topic.
"We don't know what to say to someone whose child has killed themselves.
What do you say to them? 'You did the best you can?' They must be thinking, 'Well, then I
guess it wasn't good enough,' you know?
There's an awful lot of guilt left behind for the survivors," she
Hastings, who was born and raised in Norwich, has worked for 20 years at Reliance House.
She oversees programs that serve people with developmental disabilities as well as mental health issues.
describes the role she
plays in "'night Mother" as a quirky individual.
The character, now in her
60s, was married at age 15.
doesn't know a lot.
not a worldly woman. ... She's
doing the best she
can with what she
And now the character is trying to prevent her
daughter from killing herself.
says of the play, "It's sad, but it's so real. ... It's just about people and what we go through in life and the secrets (the characters) have."