One-woman play explores mother-daughter relationship over time

By: Madeline Doman – Staff Writer

“The God Box” began as a book meant to share the inspirational experience between a mother and daughter’s relationship over time. It was later turned into a one-woman play starring author Mary Lou Quinlan, and she’ll bring her talents to the University of Dayton Monday and Tuesday.

“The God Box” tells the story of Quinlan’s hopeful discovery of her mother’s note-filled boxes after she passed away, leaving her family mourning. These “God Boxes” were filled with little handwritten notes expressing thoughts of happiness, worry and the innermost emotions Quinlan’s mother felt throughout her life. Through reading the notes, Quinlan grows as a person and becomes the woman she was meant to be.

“When my mom died, I was so close to her, I found myself telling myself and others about her, keeping her in the world,” Quinlan said. “Just to work through my own loss, I needed to write a personal book to share.”

After becoming a New York Times best-seller, “The God Box” was turned into a critically acclaimed one-woman play, titled “The God Box: A Daughter’s Story.” Directed by Martha Wollner of New York City’s Labyrinth Theater Company and performed solely by Quinlan, the play captures the essence of her book while creating a visual representation of the story.

“I haven’t acted since college,” Quinlan said. “I needed to put this on stage where my mom’s humor comes to life. All of us carry love, loss, memory and go someplace to let it be free. I love the personal connection theater gives you.”

Describing the difference between the two, Quinlan said, “The book is a keepsake memoir. The play is about a daughter’s struggle growing up with someone you love and being the person she’s meant to be without her. It is the struggle to let go from an adult woman’s perspective.”

The UD performance of “The God Box: A Daughter’s Story,” is a benefit for the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop endowment, raising money to keep the workshop affordable for writers.

“The idea of supporting this concept is very important,” Quinlan said. “My mother loved [Erma Bombeck,] read her column out loud and identified with Erma.”

During her visit to UD, Quinlan and her director Wollner will also speak to theater and communication students.

Proceeds from performances of “The God Box, A Daughter’s Story” have raised more than $250,000 for charities supporting cancer and hospice care, education and community causes. More information is available on

Tickets are $15-$50, and group rates are available. For tickets, visit, call 927-229-2545 or visit the box office. Located on the first floor of Kennedy Union, the box office is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Parking is available in lots B and C.

Ten free tickets are currently available for students. For more information, contact Teri Rizvi at

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