When Sonny Fox and June August lost their husbands almost five years ago, little did they know that a chance meeting at a bereavement group would lead to a therapeutic collaboration on a musical about love, loss and recovery.
"Life Begins Again" premieres Nov. 6 at the Crescenta-Cañada Family YMCA and is directed by Gary Campbell. The production explores the story of two men and two women who form relationships and friendships and participate in new activities in an effort to rebuild their lives after losing a spouse.
Frustrated that there weren't any solid learning tools designed to prepare them for widowhood, Fox and August joined forces in an effort to help themselves and others reinvent their lives.
"We wanted to write about our process and getting through it and doing something that would help others, and try to find the commonalities, because there are parallels between all kinds of loss, whether it's a child, a parent or even if you crack up your car," August said.
Fox, who lost her husband unexpectedly, felt the difficulty head on when he died.
"Nobody knows how to deal with a widow," she said. "People don't know how to speak to us when this happens. I have a feeling sometimes when they called, they were glad I wasn't home, because it's very uncomfortable for people, and it was uncomfortable for me, too."
August, a lyricist and composer, and Fox, a real estate agent who has dabbled with a literary career and published two children's books, initially began writing poems nine months after meeting each other at the group, but their backgrounds in the arts eventually trickled into the creative process. After several readings and encouragement from friends, the duo shaped the musical into what it is today.
While "Life Begins Again" deals with loss, don't count on it to be depressing, Fox said. The characters go through a transformation that deals with many aspects of regular life, but the musical does contain subject matter that might not be suitable for young children or those who have experienced a recent loss.
"They start to question their sexuality, to question their ability to do things they took for granted before. They took relationships for granted; they took their social lives for granted," she said.
Rhonda Dillon of Glendale, who is performing in the musical, sees more to it than loss.
"It's clever and funny and poignant," she said. "It's about loss, but it's almost moving on from that and living."
Dillon, who performed in "Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway for three years, is excited to be working with a cast of fellow actors again and hopes the audience takes away a symbolic message from the musical.
"Death is a part of life, but it doesn't have to be the end of our lives," she said.
While Fox and August are hoping that audiences leave feeling hopeful, their work together has led to their own lives beginning again.
"If I come away with anything, I come away with a friendship and collaboration that will last a lifetime," Fox said.
August's outlook is just as bright.
"I had a wonderful life before, and I'm hoping to have a wonderful life in the future," she said.
What: "Life Begins Again"
When: 1 p.m. Nov. 6
Where: Crescenta-Cañada Family YMC, 1930 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge
Rating: Not for young children or those who recently have experienced a loss
Reservations: Nancy Turney, email@example.com