Happy National Friendship Day: A Tribute

In the past two months I have written two short stories about a single woman looking for love.  One, specifically; the other, well, she sort of finds love by accident.  (Well, she meets a couple of dudes, we don’t know that she loves either of them.)  Neither of these stories would accomplish the wretchedly simple job of passing the Bechdel Test, a test I find important, but not as important as representing “real” women, whatever that means (see my post about Thor v The Avengers).  But neither story is about female relationships (although one could analyze the female relationships in the first story).  I tend to write about what I’m currently going through and my mind was heavily on my own hetero-romantic relationships while I was writing them.  Because those are in a constant state of flux.  I didn’t write about my female relationships because my female relationships are solid.

Today is National Friendship Day, or some such nonsense, and it’s got me thinking about my most significant friendships.  Weirdly, or not so weirdly, the older I get the more important my female friendships are to me.  I still love my boys and my life would be sad without them, but it’s my girls, if ‘importance’ were a scale, who are the most important.  There are specific women from various points in my life who have greatly impacted me and continue to be my friends despite my wildly narcissistic and transient lifestyle.  And, the beauty of these women is that they are all different.

My oldest friend is someone who has always been supportive of me.  We met in the third grade in violin class and I have valued her opinion and her esteem and her friendship very highly ever since.  We had a small period of separation in college, but managed to reconnect afterwards and are still very close.  A very confident woman, she is also confidence-inspiring.  I never feel more encouraged, more empowered, than after I speak with her.  She took me clothes shopping for a “professional” outfit when I was temping, she sends me information on writing retreats and contests, she buys me dinner a couple times a year, and a birthday present even when I want to ignore my own birthday.  Always so career driven, she has served as an inspiration in my own professional life, making me believe I can forge ahead with the notion that I am a writer and might actually get paid one day to write.  I was happy to be a part of her wedding party when she asked.  She and her husband are one of the coolest couples I’ve ever met and have never, even inadvertently, made me feel badly about being single.  Their daughter is five months old and I know they are going to be excellent parents because they’ve been practicing on me for years now.  Every time I visit with them they feed me, give me career advice, and counsel me on my most recent romantic disaster.  When their kid is a teenager they’d be wise to remember how they’ve advised me over the years.

In high school I met my Best Friend (technically, all these women are my “best friend”, after all, like Mindy Lahiri says “best friend isn’t a person, it’s a tier”, but this one is my Best Friend).  My Best Friend is a funny woman.  She’s very analytical, enjoys making lists, and loves setting “life goals” — she was the only teenager I knew with a five-year-plan.  We met in a church youth group when we were sixteen and have been friends from the moment she introduced herself to me.  I don’t really know what drew us together initially, but a desire for a certain sort of connection kept us together.  Best Friend is a friend with whom I can discuss Important Topics.  From the time we were juniors in high school, she has been the friend with whom I discuss books, articles, philosophy, current events, the political impact of music, education, careers, travel, and religious matters.  We rarely talk about boys, men, love, or sex.  It was never a subject either of us brought up in high school and we rarely bring it up now.  Only occasionally have those subjects arisen, and mostly when she’d first met her now-husband and wasn’t sure how she felt about him.  Our friendship not only passes, but defines the Bechdel Test.  Which is odd for a Best Friend relationship, one might think, in stories it’s always the best friend who the protagonist goes to for sex or love advice.  It’s an entire category of movie character, usually played by Judy Greer or Jeremy Piven.  But our friendship has never been of that sort.  In high school it was sort of a relief, because there were plenty of other girls who were happy to talk about those topics ad nauseam and nothing else.

College.  So many significant things happened to me in college.  One, I learned that I am smart.  Highly intelligent, even.  Not like Mensa intelligent, not like best-friend-from-college smart, but of above average intelligence.  I also learned how to drink alcohol, kiss boys, and to travel independently.  Sophomore year I met previously mentioned best-friend-from-college at our tiny college, in our even tinier English department.  Originally an equine major, she moved to the dark side after taking a seminar on Tolkien freshman year.  She and I wound up in almost all the same classes Sophomore year, including a Theater History class where, I feel, we really bonded.  Self-centered moron I am, I didn’t realize how close our friendship was until after the opening performance of Fahrenheit 451 when she ran up to me, gave me a huge hug, and told me how well I’d done.  Starting then our friendship deepened significantly.  We were travel buddies during our semester abroad, she was there the first time I got really drunk, the first time I got really hung up on a dude, the first time I went home with a guy.  And I was there for her when she underwent similar foolishness.  We saw each other be incredibly silly about men, and make unbelievably wise decisions about our education and work.  We are each other’s favorite theater-going friend and she is still one of the first people I will talk to about dating woes.  All the things that brought us together in college — literature, theater, writing — are still our favorite topics.  She is lovely, generous, and supportive.  I see her the least of the four women I’m writing about today and, therefore, I miss her the most.  But I am always incredibly proud of her.

The friend I’ve seen the most lately is technically my boss.  We work for a seasonal outdoor education program where staff live all together on site, and recently I’ve shared a house with my direct supervisor.  We started working together in the spring of 2014, before that we knew each other a little, mostly by sight.  That first spring we worked together, however, our knowledge of one another turned from knowing a little about each other, to knowing everything about one another.  Staff relations that season were a little tense and few came to our house (even though that’s where the food is).  The Boss and I found ourselves, many nights and weekends, the only two hanging out.  A fun, friendly, chatty woman she and I quickly opened up to each other about a whole many things.  I used to lament that I didn’t have any Sex and the City friends, no group of women with which to discuss life, dating, and sex over brunch.  Suddenly, amongst other things, I had this: a woman I regard highly to whom I could unburden myself when feeling emotional, or frustrated about anything (not just men or sex).  She is a friend who would drink whisky with me when I broke up with someone and get excited with me when I met someone new.  The twelve months I was 29 turned out to be a particularly trying twelve months.  I was getting down about all the bummed out things that happened, sure nothing good happened that year.  But then I remembered the new friendship I’d developed with my housemate and colleague.  If there has ever been a bright spot, it has been her.  I am certain I would not have struggled through certain things as well as I did if it weren’t for her friendship.  I am happy she is there when I need her and I am more than happy to be there when she needs me.

The Girl Scout Law commands that one tries her best to “be a sister to every Girl Scout”.  Growing up with three older sisters, Girl Scout sisters, and, once I started school, a number of girl friends, I’ve always felt that line applies to all girls, all women, I chance to meet.  Sometimes those relationships don’t last, but others remain strong even when far apart.  That isn’t to say the latter is “better”, or “more real” than the former.  As Cher Horowitz says “all my friends [are] really good in different ways.”  I love all my friends for those things that make them good.  These four women, in particular, are friends whom I am exceptionally lucky to have because my life would be significantly different without them.

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The Very Real Conversation That Occurs Between Brain and Uterus Every Month by Me, Rebecca

I am turning this into a two-woman play. Watch out, World! Menstruation is coming to a stage near you!

Maybe.

Possibly.

Many years in the future, probably.

LiteraryBex

Brain Plushie available at IHeartGuts.com

The Very Real Conversation That Occurs Between Brain and Uterus Every Month

Most days the two organs don’t speak to one another, though they are actually very close friends. One is too busy managing the rest of the body that it just doesn’t have time to chat. The other is often too busy socializing with the various other bits that want the same things in life that she wants. She and these others agree Brain sometimes needs reminders of what’s what and, as she is the loudest of them, they have elected Uterus their spokesorgan.

Although, sometimes, I suspect Uterus is merely Vagina’s puppet.

  • Five days before menstruation

Uterus:

Heeeeeeyyy!!!! Brain! Guess what’s coming!

Brain:

I’m in the middle of something important, Uterus. I’m going to have to get back to you.

  • Four days before menstruation

Uterus:

Heeeeeeeyyy!!! Brain! Guess what’s coming!

Brain:

Uterus, I’m…

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The play’s the thing!

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The play's the thing!

Plays, musicals, skits, pantomimes, drama, all are used time and time again to tell a story, share a message, and educate the masses about one thing or another. Churches have been using drama for centuries to tell bible stories and morality tales. A tradition that has not died, but fallen out of fashion. Except around Christmas, and sometimes Easter.

The Christmas Eve pageant was always something we children looked forward to every year at my church growing up. Two lucky girls got to play angels in the third grade, four or five fourth graders got to look forward to being shepherds, three special fifth and sixth graders were wise men, and a boy and a girl from the seventh and eighth grade Sunday School class could be Mary and Joseph. We did the same tableau every year until I was in the fourth grade. (You have no idea how excited I was to be angel that last year.) After that we did a few really cheesy musical plays that called for rudimentary dance numbers, costumes, and lines.

I’ve always sort of missed the traditional tableau pageant. My favorite Christmas book will forever be The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (I’m bummed I’ll never get to play Gladys Herdman); I even sort of like the movie with Major “Hotlips” Houlihan and the chick from The Craft. I love a simple Christmas pageant, with a simple formula, and a simple story. But the musical plays have their place and their purpose.

The performers’ intentions must be considered when choosing what sort of production to put on.  A simple tableau is great for the church family to contemplate what happened the night Jesus was born and the miracle of His birth and the reason He came to us in the first place, but it doesn’t necessarily do much for a person who doesn’t know what’s so important.  If the performers are looking to educate people about the birth of Christ, then a cheesy, musical performance that details the message in the simplest of terms as a Scrooge-like character learns about the ‘true meaning of Christmas’ is the way to go.

My parents’ church this year put together a production of ‘A Time For Christmas’.  We went to the final performance the other night and it was cute.  Bearing in mind it was an amateur, church production, my expectations for quality were not high.  The musical numbers and the singers were mostly excellent (something these people do well), but the rest of it was a little less dazzling.  The story itself was a bit much, a Christmas Carol ripoff, that follows workaholic Bill who is prepared to spend Christmas alone, working, his dad having split when he was young and his mother long passed, no siblings to speak of, or, apparently aunts, uncles, or grandparents.  A colleague, Mary, is the only person he even remotely cares about and she puts up with his petulance due to a naive, Luke Skywalkerish believe that there is still good in him… somewhere.  A single mother, whose exhusband is already married to someone new, Mary tries very hard to not let her frustrations weigh her down, or affect her daughter, especially around the holiday; and even though she knows it’s a long shot, she holds out hope for Bill and invites him over for Christmas.

Bill’s heart is mostly cold, however, and while he’s flattered Mary would invite him, he is determined to stay home and get his work done.  That is, until some obscure Christmas Spirit, who styles himself Bartholomew, appears in Bill’s dreams and takes him on an historical tour of Christmas celebrations.  You can figure out what happens next.

The play was cute.  I’m always slightly startled at how beautifully the man playing Bill can sing.  In his real life, he’s so nice and unassuming, but he really has the potential for greatness.  If only he knew what to do with his hands while on stage.  ‘Bill’ is certainly the biggest role in the play, followed closely by ‘Bartholomew’.  That man was unexpectedly good, except no one seems to ever have taught him how to cheat to the audience and his accent vacillated between a bad Dickens character and Ringo Starr.  And he too had some errant gesticulations.  But unexpectedly impressive was his performance all the same.

Despite the accents I would have nixed, some scenes I would have reblocked, missing acting exercises and character development on the part of the actor, a few poor lighting choices, and a couple of periods that kept the audience in the dark for a little bit too long, the play, I would say, was a rousing success.  (Remember: it’s being put on in a church sanctuary that used to be a basketball court.)  It was definitely cute, the children were enthusiastic, only one line was obviously (and hilariously) blundered, but the message was clear, and people responded to it.  The show ain’t hittin’ the road, but that was never the intention.

Unfortunately, some of my friends know me a little too well and were wondering what my critical mind must have been thinking, but I know better than to expect the quality of the performance to be high; and, I don’t think it matters.  In this production of ‘A Time For Christmas’, quality isn’t important, what’s truly important is heart.  And this production was overflowing.

I’ve started drafting a “musical”?

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It all started by me listening to music by this woman: Emilie Autumn.  She’s got some great rock opera-y, angry girl music that ties together some very delightful themes and genres and styles.  I quite like it.  But I started thinking about how to incorporate her music into a play about “crazy” girls in an institution, except none of them are actually “crazy” and the men in charge of the facility are simply abusing their power and have been for years.  Until the girls, with the help of a couple of new doctors, decide to rise up and claim their freedom.

It’s a work in progress.

But I’ve lovingly named the girls The Burlesque Girls and I want them to be corseted (except when their in hospital johnnies) and made up – much like Miss Autumn in the above picture – for the entire show.

Like Alicia Banit in that Showcase episode of Dance Academy:

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That costume is both ridiculous and wonderful; and that’s what I want for my Burlesque Girls.  But I want them to be unique.  I want their Burlesque Costume to reflect why they are in Arkham.  One of them will be wrapped in ribbons because of that Ingrid Michaelson song.  Not sure about the rest yet.  Michelle might just be in red and black since she’s our hero and is the driving force behind the rebellion.  We need her to be fierce, a little scary, and passionate as anything.

I think I really need to get around to writing this now.  At least an outline.

Acting.

I have this dream:  I’m playing Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing with the American Shakespeare Center at the Blackfriars Theater in Staunton, VA.  We get to the scene at the party when Beatrice declares that she’ll have none of men.  It is suggested to her that she might prefer a clean shaven man over a man with facial hair.  When that bit comes, I want so much for there to be a clean shaven man sitting on one of the stools on stage so I can walk over to him, touch his face and declare: “And what should I do with him?  Dress him in my apparel and make him my waiting gentlewoman?”  Poor sap… it would be amazing.

Playing Beatrice (fucking dream role!) anywhere would be amazing.

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“Photograph 51” by Anna Ziegler directed by Daniel Gidron at Central Square Theater

Last Saturday night my best friend and I spent the evening at the theater.  We saw this play on it’s second to last performance.  It was truly magical.  If you follow the link above you can read my rambling review/response to it that I wrote (sleepy) between midnight and 3am Sunday morning.