We have a couple of good friends, lesbians, who are about 10 years older than we are. So, they’re boomers, we’re x-ers, they’re dog people, we’re cat people, they’re lesbians, we’re dykes...we still get along pretty well. (oh, fine, I’m well aware that I’m not nearly butch enough to be a dyke, don’t rub it in.)
We’ve known each other for about 10 years now; Boo and, well, let’s call her "Brigid" for reasons soon to be made clear, both sing in OVMC. Her partner, whom we’ll call "Maya", is a bit more like me – introverted, but living with a big ol’ extrovert. "Maya" has recently turned 50, and the last few years have been times of upheaval in a life that's had quite a lot of it, all told. She's had two children by two different fathers, only one of whom she married. "Brigid" is her first (and I believe only) long term female partner. Several years ago she attained and began maintaining her sobriety; she has worked for many, many years as a chemical treatment counselor. We’ve watched her daughter finish high school and move on to college; we’ve seen her son grow from towheaded ten-year old little-leaguer to a gigantic, strapping, six-two high school junior and baseball player.
In the past three years, Maya's been pursuing a Master's degree in therapeutic uses of art, which has given her reason and cause to explore her own artistic impulses in new ways. She’s taken up painting and writing, while also taking on a new career as a chemical treatment instructor at the technical college, all while continuing her Master's coursework. So, big changes, big challenges. Part of her schooling led her into a playwriting class with Kim Hines, and, for her first script ever, she took on the enormously difficult task of trying to write an autobiographically-inspired play combining the themes of hers and Brigid’s struggles to become parents again, and the death of her spiritual mentor from breast cancer. I’m very supportive of her efforts, but didn’t think it likely she would be storming Broadway soon.
I had been warned before she sent me a draft to review that Boo and I are characters in this play, and I knew immediately which of the two themes we would figure in. Some years back, when the gals had exhausted significant financial resources trying to get Brigid pregnant with donor sperm, they decided to pursue other sources of sperm closer to home. From people they knew. With an abundant, and largely unnecessary, supply. Where one of the people had even been a donor previously in college and sort of knew the drill. And who only lived about 12 minutes away. I think you know where this is going.
I’m often nervous when asked to review friend’s artistic works. I mean, what if I don’t like it? What do I say? Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed. For a first work, I’m frankly amazed that she managed to compress all this personal history into a three-act play at all – hell, I’ve been rambling weekly on for almost a year now, and haven’t crammed in as much content. In reviewing, I suggested some minor thematic challenges to resolve, corrected a few grammar and spelling errors, and worked on her horrifyingly inconsistent formatting – Microsoft Word really isn’t intuitive to use, is it? Well, more job security for me, I guess. I set up five styles and she was good to go.
She managed to work it all up into three intertwining themes and stories, backlit by the notion of the triple-goddess (maiden, mother, crone). Which is nicely artistic, but what impresses me most is her ability to honestly and truthfully put forth her own maternal rage as Brigid (the eternal, yet impure, maiden) fails again and again to become pregnant no matter how desperate their efforts; and to touch again her pain and impotence when her best friend Rhea (the wise, yet foolish, crone) dies from cancer and is not reborn. Sounds incredibly dire, doesn’t it? It’s surprisingly witty and amusing. Oh, sure, there’s some devastating moments, but overall, it’s hopeful, and really very cheering about the human condition.
So, Boo and I have now been commemorated in stage characters. We are two of five significant characters in the play, and the only men – the three principal roles are Maya, Brigid, and Rhea (for this post, I’ve decided to just stick with her character names). Our characters are named Ed (that’d be me) and Tony (that’d be Boo). We’re also part of the comic relief...the scene where they ask us if we will be sperm donors turned out very cute, but honest - it more or less jibes with the way I remember the events. A bit later on our characters show up in some scenes in which we were not present, but that’s to keep the actors in the play to a reasonable number – our characters basically take the place of some folks who were there at those events in real life, but didn’t get written into the play. So fair enough. (And, because it somehow seems appropriate: neener, neener!)
Well, I read the draft about a month ago, and right about when I sent it back, she sent me an invitation to, get this! A staged reading of it! By professional actors! Directed by Kim Hines! Awesome!
That was this past Monday, which is when theaters are usually dark, and actors are available. Oh, it was cool! Reading a play is one thing, but seeing it performed? Oh, yeah. The brilliant Beth Gilleland played Maya, well-supported by Angie Haigh as Brigid and Mary Keepers as Rhea.
Ed was portrayed by Charlie Bethel. Well, I don’t think I can describe the feeling of seeing yourself portrayed by someone else whom you’ve never met. It’s kind of cool, but kind of eerie too. I could recognize what "I" had just said, but didn’t really know what "I" would say next. Or why I would be saying it "that way." Fortunately, I had every reason to be pleased: Mr. Bethel gave a restrained, gentle performance.
Which would not be the case for the actor portraying "Tony." Boo, unfortunately for him, had chorus rehearsal and has missed too many rehearsals already this season to miss anymore and still get to perform in June. So he couldn’t go. I’m thinking that may have been fortuitous for the actor who portrayed Tony.
Shall we think for a minute about what the actor had to work with as a description?
Tony: Gay male in his 30’s. Partner of Ed, flamboyant, storyteller. Originally from the south.
Gay, flamboyant, from the south...oh, surely there’s no way an actor could go wrong there, is there?
Worst southern accent since, well, just about anybody in the second act of Auntie Mame. I won’t even go into his other "choices."
Laughed! My! Ass! Off!
I’m a very bad boyfriend.