THE VERSION MARY
Our latest show, CRONES FOR THE HOLIDAYS, plays at at Stage Werx in San Francisco through December 30. We do sketch comedy and improv from a lesbian, feminist and generally subversive viewpoint. What better subject to subvert in a Christmas show than the actual birth of Jesus? Perhaps the most interesting part of our show, and the part that was the hardest to create, is “The Version Mary.”
Carolyn Myers, my croney, and I both felt driven to reshape the myth of the Virgin Mary -- but in very different ways. Neither of us believe that a woman was impregnated by a god, and gave birth to a baby who founded a religion. Everyone is aware of this myth. But it’s almost never explored theatrically in a subversive way. Some of our friends were shocked by the project. Although they were non-believers, they felt uncomfortable with anyone messing with the Virgin Mary. Oh, goody!
My interest was in a real human being whose actions to save herself had given rise to the myth of the “immaculate conception.” I imagined a young girl who invented a fantastical story to explain her otherwise disastrous pregnancy. How could Mary have convinced everyone around her that she had never had sex with anyone when she was PREGNANT?
Carolyn, on the other hand, is a devotee of the Goddess. She considers the Virgin Mary a powerful manifestation of the Goddess that has been co-opted by Catholicism -- as she wrote, “the face of compassion pasted on a brutal regime.” Carolyn wanted to reclaim Mary as the Goddess of Loving-Kindness.
And then there was Pussy Riot, the Russian punk band who occupied the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow ten months ago, singing a song asking the Virgin Mary’s help to get rid of Vladimir Putin, who is fast making himself dictator-for-life in Russia. “Virgin Mary, become a feminist! Virgin Mary, put Putin away!” was the chorus of their radical song. Three of these amazing young women were sentenced to prison in Siberia for their flamboyant protest. We two Crones wanted to honor their courage.
How to combine these three visions? Carolyn volunteered to write the damn thing, and she struggled mightily. First, it was a solo for Mary. Then we added a young pregnant girl in the Soviet Union in 1962. Mary became a Russian icon that comes to life. One scene became two -- the second in Russia in 2012, to allow for Pussy Riot. Carolyn brought in version after version -- or Virgin after Virgin, you might say. She gave up in frustration. So I wrote a Virgin, which still wasn’t right. Carolyn took the scene back. I was having trouble playing the young girl, so we switched roles and now I’m the Virgin Mary -- and loving it.
In the end, a scene we worried would never work has become one of the strongest parts of the show. And the Pussy Riot theme demanded a multi-media extravaganza that these two Luddite C rones could never have imagined. To see the results of our mighty labors, come see CRONES FOR THE HOLIDAYS.