Sheryl Kaller finds her calling on Broadway
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“Although my parents raised me more liberally in the ‘70s in Valley Stream, Katharine went through the same challenges as my parents did raising children in an ever changing world,” she says. “I feel like starting with Katharine’s generation is when this world really changed a lot. A mother like Katharine having had to confront having a gay son, and having this child living through the AIDS crisis — that’s big. I remember my parents didn’t know too much about this horrible disease, and they were fearful about my own well-being.”
Kaller jokes that her own kids have deserted her, as they are now both grown (her daughter is in her junior year at Tulane, while her son is working in New York and living on the Upper West Side — much like the family in her play). Though her kids went to elementary school in Valley Stream, she primarily raised them in Bergen County, N.J. However, she kept them close to Manhattan because of the opportunities it gave her, which included seeing theater regularly. In fact, Kaller points out that Valley Stream has had a strong impact on how she approached Mothers and Sons.
“I was raised in a very liberal family, but the town wasn’t necessarily on the cusp of liberalism yet,” she says. “It helped me understand Katharine a lot better because these very loving people always thought they were doing the right thing.”
One person who definitely was far from close-minded was Kaller’s English teacher at Valley Stream South, who also directed her in the play that paved the way for Kaller’s career at the helm of theatrical pieces.
“I was acting in Bye Bye Birdie, and in my humble opinion the teacher had screwed up ‘Telephone Hour,’” she says, laughing at her chutzpah. “I told her what I thought, and asked her if I could take a hit at the number.”
Kaller wound up choreographing the entire show because of how well she did with “Telephone Hour.”