Wednesday, April 13, 2016

CRONES MEET DYKES -- Finally! (plus Update)

UPDATE OF LAST BLOG:  Finally got Stephanie's great photos of our performance at the University, on Friday, March 18:

A New Scene:  Coming out to Mom as Greek Tragedy
Sit-Com Mom Tormenting Her (rather overgrown) Baby Butch daughter

Audience -- Woman in Foreground is Translating the Show from English into Mexican Sign Language for her Deaf Friend


On Sunday, March 20, we arrived at Punto Gozadera, an eight-month old feminist women's center/cafe/art gallery in downtown Mexico City.   It was in a great and funky space next to a big church:

Punto Gozadera describes itself as a "cultural restaurant for feminist encounters."  I'm still not quite sure what the name means.  Mariana in Oaxaca said it has to do with multiple orgasms, and these women are extremely upfront and in your face about the power of their sexuality. 

Here's the stage where we would perform that evening:

And just in case you can't read the banner in the back:

The place was filled with young dykes and feminists....

On the card tables, for sale, political and sexual images:

I mean, these young women are very clear that they love their bodies and are NOT in any way ashamed:

Lots of posters for events at La Gozadera that we wished we'd attended:
And us...

Carolyn and I felt like we'd found our own sweet spot, with good vegetarian food!

Everywhere on the walls beautiful political posters:

This poster was very disturbing:
I'm not sure if this refers to an actual murder disguised as a suicide, or actual suicides where women were driven to such despair by the patriarchy that they killed themselves.  With all the crosses, the artist is talking about many deaths.  

To Carolyn and me, it was exciting to see this deep, vibrant feminist response in Mexico.  Not that so many of the same things don't go on in the U.S.  But there's a different level of threat and oppression in Mexico.  Women have been sentenced to prison for 30 years for the crime of having an abortion.  And then there's the disappearance of all those women in Ciudad Juarez.   

Carolyn and I, as older women, didn't experience any of the street harassment by men that young women often endure.  But Carolyn told me that twice, when she was out walking, older men who were chatting blocked the sidewalk.  Even though her bad knee forced her to walk with a cane, these men glared at her and refused to move aside.  She felt, at that moment, their contempt for her as a woman.  They WOULD NOT make way for her!  

But in general, we found Mexicans overwhelmingly kind and considerate.

This poster, so simple, moved me deeply:

Finally, we got our backdrop up.  Of course we needed a photo of the woman, Libertad, with the word "Libertad" on our backdrop:

And then it was time for the audience to arrive! Would they show up?  This was a concern at ALL our performances, but especially the ones around Easter vacation.  Supposedly, everyone LEFT Mexico City for Holy Week, as it's called. Carolyn worried much more about audience numbers than me, since she had done all the work to get the bookings and do the publicity.  In fact, the whole Mexico adventure was her idea and her work.  I was just happy to be along for the ride.  

But it turned out the place was PACKED!  They were a wild crowd, hooting and hollering from the beginning.  

Again, as at the University, there were almost no native English speakers.  So that meant that we had to be big and physical in our acting.  Here's a moment from the "Coming-Out Transformations" that shows Minerva narrating in Spanish while we're frozen in position, waiting for her to say "Back to the scene!" in English, before we go on:
The response to us was overwhelming.   These young Mexican women loved them some Crackpot Crones!  During the Horror Movie Coming-Out, where I transform into a lesbian werewolf -- the only scene we performed in Spanish -- they were howling along with me from the very beginning.  We've never gotten that reaction before.  

And, because La Gozadera is also a cafe, everyone hung out afterwards and chatted.  People were not just enthusiastic.  They were GRATEFUL.  It was a response that reminded us of the 70s with Lilith Theater, and the early 80s with DOS LESBOS, when we had the feeling we were doing something that was NEEDED.  "You have to come back!"  "You have to come to Guadalajara!"  "You have to bring your show to Spain!"  

A few photos of the after-show gang:

Of course there has to be a gay male ally!

This audience confirmed for us that we were doing something important by bringing our theater to Mexico.  For both of us, what started out as an adventure turned into something else on that night.  We know we're going back -- after we learn some more Spanish and translate more of our show!  We have since heard from Minerva that some recent incidents of violence and harassment of women have inspired the feminists to organize demonstrations across the country on April 24!  Wish we could be there in solidarity.


Monday, April 4, 2016


So sorry no bloggie for so long.  I don't know why I procrastinate because I really do ENJOY doing it immensely and SO love people's responses.  But there it is.  Plus we were working and then we were sick and then we were working and then we were exhausted.  But still.  

Now in San Miguel de Allende.  4 am.  Carolyn and I have landed in the honeypot, after a stay at a rather scruffy but warm-hearted hotel in Mexico City.  We are living in luxury with Carolyn's old friend Emerson, who has spent the last year bringing back to life an abandoned complex filled with rubble into gorgeous tiled and brightly-painted life.  My croney and I each have our OWN spacious one-bedroom apartment. It's nice to have a little break from each other after twin beds in a hotel room.  

I've got laryngitis and a performance in two days, so I guess won't be talking much.  It's kinda nice to be forced to be silent.  I never have to figure out what to say!  Except, when we arrived last night I felt compelled to rasp out "This is spectacular!" multiple times as Emerson showed us around her beautiful home and the apartments and the courtyard and the patios and the roof and the….  People in San Miguel live in spacious digs.  I'm now sitting at the table in my own rather large kitchen/living room, listening to crickets and distant roosters and dogs.  

The ceiling above me is a work of art.

So.  Mexico City.  Theater.  Performances. 

Our first performance was Friday, March 18 at the Autonomous University of Mexico City.  We met Minerva Valenzuela there, a flamboyant cabaret performer who Carolyn had wisely hired to do the narration, the day before to rehearse.  Isn't Minerva a fantastic and unique name?!  Unfortunately, it's so unique, I have a very hard time remembering it.  The only way I can do that is by thinking of Minnie Mouse   Since there is absolutely no resemblance between Minerva and Minnie, except the first three letters of their names, I feel guilty, even traitorous, associating this witty fiery woman with the Nancy Reagan of the Disney universe.  But one does what one must.  

Minerva, a lifelong Mexico City resident, informed us that Autonomous University of Mexico City, whose campus looked like a very down-at-the-heels high school, is a very special place.  It's relatively new and an educational experiment where the students are all chosen by lottery!  UAMC is a very creative and political college.  Political posters are all over the place -- including about The 43, the busload of college students who were murdered -- still with no explanation.  We saw so many posters about this in Oaxaca too.

While we were rehearsing, a folk song concert took place in the courtyard outside the theater.  We were sorry we couldn't attend.   And as we were leaving rehearsal, a student dance troupe moved in to rehearse.  They were going to be taking original work to a festival.  So the Autonomous has a lot going on.  

But would anyone come to our performance at Friday 5 pm on the beginning of Easter Vacation?  And, just as important, would people understand our show?  This was the our first performance for an audience that would have no native English speakers.  

This was in one of those caverous old-fashioned school auditoriums with a stage high above the audience. We had a huge stage, of which we used only part.  We hung Judy's beautiful backdrop on the red velvet curtain.


We had a wonderful technician, Gabino, working with us.  Whatever we needed, he found or created.  His wife, Stephanie, came along to help run the sound.

Here's Carolyn, Minerva, Gabino and Stephanie during the tech.

Then it was time for a break for subsidized lunch!  Mexicans don't eat lunch until 2 pm.  The UAMC had a great hearty lunch for 10 pesos.  That's about 60 cents!

As you can see from the photo, Minerva is a woman of strong opinion, happy to educate us about life in Mexico for women, from a feminist perspective.  How Carolyn found two such different fabulous women to narrate our show, I don't know.  

For the performance, Carolyn and I knew that, because of the space and because at least some and perhaps a lot of the audience would not understand English, we had to GO BIG!  When you're touring, you're always adjusting your performance to the space.  If you're too big for the space, then the audience pulls back from you.  No chance of being too big on that vast stage!

So we did have a decent sized audience -- about 100? -- in that huge space, and we so ENJOYED being BIG!  We realized there was so much comedy in our show that we were missing by being too restrained.  Also, one of the wonderful things about touring is that you get deeper and deeper into your show.  There's something about changing up your surroundings all the time that stimulates your creativity, your understanding.  

We had rehearsed the show with Velina Brown before we left San Francisco.  Velina's one of the SF Mime Troupe stars.  She also directed our last Christmas show.

Sorry about the photo.   Had to grab it from the internet.  Yes, she's very beautiful.  And graceful. Her hands…. Fun to watch when she directs us.  Velina takes our writing more seriously than than we ourselves take it and asks us questions that no one else does.  Startling, irritating questions that you really don't feel need an answer the first time you hear them.  When she worked with me on HICK before I went to Baltimore, she asked me, "Who is Hick talking to?"  Me:  "I don't know, but nobody's ever asked that so nobody cares about it."  Velina never demands that you answer her question.  She just gently persists.  Finally, I decided Hick was telling her story to her imaginary friend, and that was a helpful image for me. 

With The Crackpot Crones, she asked us, concerning Rosa in RED HANKY GRANNIES, about two octogenarian activists in a nursing home,  "Why DOES Rosa turn against political action?"  We've been doing the scene for years now, and no one ever asked!  So why bother thinking about it now!  "Yes, but why does Rosa…"  Always so gentle, never challenging.  And then we realized we had to answer Velina's question, because she would never stop asking because she was truly puzzled.  And we decided that Rosa had recently been involved with some young activists who treated her dismissively because of her age, which deeply hurt her.  So now Rosa tells Emma her painful story, and the whole scene goes to a new level and has a new issue.  Exciting.  Oh, by the way, for those who have seen the Grannies before, we've switched parts.  I have NO idea why Carolyn would prefer radical Emma to sensitive, lady-like troubled Rosa, but she seems quite happy with the change too.

Velina also pointed out to Carolyn the import of the moment in EVE IN THERAPY when Eve offers the apple to Lilith.  And Velina's direction bore its full fruit on that big stage before the red velvet curtain.  Carolyn told me after the performance that she finally GOT in a deep way what a truly revolutionary act it was.  Exciting.  Thank you, Velina, for all your probing, questioning work with us.  

Unfortunately, Stephanie took lots of photos of Carolyn and me performing which I somehow could not download.  But here's our sassy narrator.  As you can see, we continued with our tradition of working with Mexican women who looked like us.

The audience was VERY responsive.  The show worked with a Spanish-speaking audience!  That was a pretty damn fantastic moment for us.  AFterwards, I talked to some of the audience members.  There was a young deaf woman in the front row who had come with her friend, a sign language interpreter, who translated the whole show for her.  The interpreter said it was the first time she had ever translated a play in progress --- let alone translating from English into SPANISH sign language!  To me, it was so moving that they had both made this effort to come and hear what The Crackpot Crones had to say.  That was a big.

Coming up:  The Crackpot Crones Meet the Young Radical Dykes of Mexico City. But, before that, a few random Mexico City photos:

For some reason, I had a very strong desire to see an obscure Diego Rivera mural  -- ANY obscure Rivera mural --  and took a taxi to a water pumping station in the middle of a giant dusty area of Chapultapec Park to see Rivera's murals about water.  I had the taxi wait for me, which cost a LOT but it was worth it.  Just a couple of views of the tank that the city's water used to flow through.  I've got dozens of photos.  That man did such beautiful work.  

A taste of the renowned Anthropological Museum.  It would take a week to even begin to absorb it all:

And an exhibit in a tiny museum on La Lucha Libre, Mexican wrestling, a huge phenom.  Of COURSE there are lady wrestlers:

Next blog: Trotsky's house.  Forget about Freda's house.  It was too crowded.

Tha…tha…that's all, folks!