I was very excited that a gay theater in London, Homo Promo, was going to produce a live stream performance of my solo play, Immediate Family.Peter Scott-Pressland, artistic director of the theater, had responded to the pandemic by coming up with the very fine idea of live streaming a whole series of gay plays. You'll find other plays on Homo Promo's website.
I was thrilled to have ENGLISH theater people doing the work, because I find the acting standard in that country VERY high. I mean, theater has been a part of their national identity since at least Shakespeare's time, they devote a lot of attention and money to the art -- and it shows.
I wrote Immediate Family in 1983. It is the story of Virginia at the bedside of her comatose wife, Rose. Despite the fact that they've been together for 27 years, Virginia has no legal say over Rose's medical treatment. She doesn't even have the right to stay past official visiting hours.
This is my play about the right of gay people to marry, which remained out of reach for us until 2015.
This live stream production was directed by Peter. As Virginia, Lucie Spense gives -- as Carolyn said --
An absolutely fearless performance.
I mean, this actress jumped in with both feet. The transformation of my vaguely Midwestern postal worker Virginia into a working-class English butch, was complete, without a false note.
It's not easy for me to surrender to a performance of one of my own plays. Normally I've got a stream of criticism flowing through my head: "Oh, I like how she said that line ... Damn, she should be more angry by this point ...Gee, I never thought of it that way before, but that's an interesting interpretation..."
In fact, I remember only one other performance of my own work when I was just THERE, on the edge of my seat, experiencing LIFE happening in front of me. There is no greater reward for a playwright than to see your words come to full-blooded life through the power of another person's acting. To be swept up into someone one else's vision of MY vision.... Wow. I can't thank Peter and Lucie enough.
The truth is, even though my greatest desire is that other people produce my plays --- deep down inside, I'm shocked and surprised when they actually do it! I mean, I just made the whole thing up! Don't they realize that?
WHY SHOULD ANYONE CARE ABOUT IT AT ALL?!?
My words can inspire others to bring a world to life. The world that Peter and Lucie create is so vibrant. I am humbled by their faith in my words.
TWO: The First Performance of Immediate Family
When I first performed Immediate Family in 1983, I really didn't know if anyone would buy me as a serious playwright and actress. This was my first venture into DRAHMAH! Up until then, everything I wrote was basically comic. There were serious MOMENTS, but only moments. I was very worried that people would scoff at me: "Come on, Terry, you make me laugh, but you can't pull off the heavy stuff. Stick to what you know!"
And in fact, on that first night at the National Women's Theater Festival in Santa Cruz, I really missed the audience's chuckling, chortling, giggling and guffawing. It had always assured me that I was on the right path, that the audience and I were on this journey together. THEN at the curtain call, I simply could not see the audience because the lights were in my eyes. I had no idea how they felt. It was a small theater, so there was no huge wave of applause. And THEN I went backstage to await people coming into my dressing room to tell me yay or nay -- and NOBODY CAME! Well, then I KNEW I had a big fat disaster on my hands. Obviously, people were too embarrassed to even talk to me.
FINALLY, Z Budapest swept in. She's rather magnificent (photo at right) -- the kind of woman who can pull off sweeping in. I had never met her before, but she was famous. She's the Grandmother of modern witchcraft and the founder of the Susan B. Anthony Coven. Z has devoted her life to the Goddess. She told me I had received a STANDING OVATION and the play was a huge hit! That was news to ME! I was so grateful to Z. It felt special -- destined, really -- that she was the one who had stopped my downward plunge and lifted me up to the heights. We became good friends.
After performing Immediate Family many times, I came to understand that most people (who perhaps weren't either witches OR spiritual leaders, let alone both) didn't really want to meet the actress after the show. They wanted to stay with Virginia and savor the ending. So I stopped expecting visitors to my dressing room.
Starting from such doubt, such uncertainty, Immediate Family has become my most performed play. It has been translated into Dutch, French, Flemish, Spanish and Hebrew. It was broadcast on Dutch prime time network TV. As a solo actress, I have taken it all over the world.
And now, it has burst into life in London. What a treat!
I was asked to be on an April 26 panel of lesbians who started writing in the 1970s and are still at it. The panel was presented by Old Lesbians Organizing for Change. The panel, organized by Elana Dykewomon and Jewelle Gomez, consisted of:
First row: Kitty Tsui, Elana and Jewelle
Second row: Cheryl Clarke, Irene Klepfisz, and Dorothy Allison
Third row: Your Blogmistress
I was extremely honored to join this illustrious group. I was the only writer who had solely focussed on theater (until my blog came along). We started out by each reading five minutes of our work. Then we explored questions that Elana had written. And then we took questions from the audience through Chat.
I was very excited by the quality of the women's writing and of the discussion that followed. I was thrilled to be on a panel with some of the founders of Conditions, an intense, kick-ass literary journal out of New York in the early 70s. I loved hearing stories about the early days. I treasure my old copies of Conditions.
I was a bit of an odd girl out, as all the other women were concerned with publishing poetry, short stories, essays, novels, etc. whereas I was all about producing theater. Those are different worlds. But I tried to make my sideways contribution, and Carolyn said that I succeeded.
I think there were about 180 dykes attending. I didn't send a notice to my Blog list, because OLOC requested that only lesbians be invited. They've already had an event disrupted by .... is it called Zoom Bombing? I think so. Not that a Bloggelini would ever do such a thing! But I had to respect OLOC's wishes.
Here is a link to biographies of all the panelists and lists of our publications. And remember:
Our latest one is MOMS & GRANDMOMS & MOTHER'S DAY FOR PEACE. It is really quite wonderful, and it's easy for me to say that because it's all created by Carolyn and Julia Ward Howe.
Do you know how Mother's Day began? Originally, it was a day to bring women together to work for peace, the vision of Julia Ward Howe, who wrote "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." You'll find her powerful proclamation and Carolyn's totally delightful memories of her two grandmothers in this podcast.
I've taken many Mission Rambles with Tara and her intrepid service dog, the beautiful Nella.
Tara and I met on Thanksgiving in 2015. Here's the story:
I had bought two tickets to the Hornblower yacht's Turkey Day buffet and cruise around the bay. My close ex Margo was supposed to fly down from Portland for the holiday. But she phoned me a few days before to say she'd fallen and suffered a concussion. Her doctor forbid her to get on an airplane.
What to do... what to do? The internet to the rescue! I put a notice on adyke, a lesbian community list serve, asking if anyone was interested in jspending Thanksgiving sailing around beautiful San Francisco Bay with me. I got two responses from unknown women and chose Tara as the lucky dyke.
It turned out that Tara had moved to the Bay Area two years earlier from Madison, Wisconsin, where she was the ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF A GAY THEATER!!! Talk about having a lot in common! Tara and I had a blast that day. The bay was gorgeous, the company was sublime, and the food was awful.
As you can see, the lovely Nella had not yet joined the team. Since that time, Tara and I have become close friends and the five of us (Tara & Nella & Nikki & Loulou & I) have gone on many long walks, particularly around the Mission. Tara notices things that I don't. I really appreciate that. This time we went a very short distance before encountering Lucky Alley.
I find the painting above completely mystifying. "San Francisco 2018-3000" -- Does the artist envision us all evolving into top-hat-wearing shrimp in the 982 years from when he painted this?? And what is Moin Tam? I know that MOUNT Tam is how we locals refer to Mount Tamalpais. But Moin Tam?!? If that is "Tam" obscured by Shrimp of the Future. I'm desperately scrambling for some kind of meaning. Clearly, the bay is full of sharks in 3000. Also, it's kind of a vintage Western motif, with the cow skull up top and the antique font. And why does the crustacean's top hat sport eagle feathers? I am well and truly fermished, That's Yiddish for "confused." I reserve the Yiddish word for occasions when my confusion reaches a transcendent level. An accomplished artist put this on the side of a building, where it could be blotted out at any moment. The world is an awesome thing, I'm sure you will agree. Onward down (up?) Lucky Alley!
I don't in general go for this ghoulish graffity-ish style, but I find this one exceptional.
I just love this garage door. In fact, I think this is my all-time favorite garage door. That's an extreme statement to make. A Mission Rambler sees many magnificent garage doors. But there is something special about this one. It reminds me of no other garage door. It is strange and funny and a little creepy. It is Other.
There are many stereotypically pretty women on Mission walls. But this one seems to me to be truly beautiful -- and set off so well by the barred windows on both sides of her face!
Another beautiful woman to the right. This one is clearly the portrait of a real person. Just a gorgeous painting, and with so much garbage obscuring the bottom part of it. Painful to see. But then, if you're going to get all weepy about garbage obscuring art, don't ramble down a Mission alley!
I love how Stephen Curry's body flows up the wall and down into the street. I have been to one Warriors game, in the Oracle Arena. It was my present to my niece Rose for her birthday. She's a fan and at the time was on a women's basketball team. Big spender that I am, I told her, "Buy the most expensive tickets!" She reported back that the most expensive ones were $25,000. I settled for slightly more modest seats ($150), which STILL seemed like a lot of money!
Tara finds playfulness and beauty everywhere. She's a perfect companion for a ramble, because she points out things I miss. She was tickled by the decoration of these pipes and meters on the left. I like it too.
For me, the environment was nightmarish, with all the flashing neon lights and screaming horns. I would never in a million years go to another NBA game. HOWEVER, I am very glad I went, because I saw Stephen Curry do something impossible.
Let me see if I can describe it so you can visualize it: He was kind of in the middle of the court facing the opponent's basket. He was closer to their basket than his own. He had the ball. Without looking behind him, he threw the ball backwards over his head in a huge arc, and it went directly into the hands of a teammate who was standing all alone right under the Warriors' basket, where the teammate immediately deposited the ball. How could Curry throw so accurately such a long distance over his head? I mean, it was like he ran over and placed it in his teammate's hands. I still don't get it, but I saw it with my own eyes.
Bloggelinis, that's it for today's ramble. I think it's going to take several blogs for me to capture what Tara and I saw that day. I still have some work to do on my TAXES! Yikes! Well, it's been great fun procrastinating, rambling down Lucky Alley with you. Terry
The play is being produced by Homo Promos, a gay theater in London that has been going since 1988. This year they won an international award for all the live stream Zoom productions they've done since the pandemic shut down theater as we know it.
I've toured all over the world with Immediate Family, a play about Virginia at the bedside of her comatose wife Rose. Although they've been together over 20 years, Virginia has no legal right to any say about Rose's medical treatment. The play consists simply of Virginia's monolog to the silent and still Rose, as Virginia sits by her wife's bedside, trying to figure out how to get Rose removed from the ventilator that prolongs her suffering.
Immediate Family has been produced in Pittsburgh, Billings, Montana and San Francisco when there were anti-gay initiatives on the ballot. I'm proud that my play was used to raise money and consciousness in the battle for gay rights.
The last time I performed Immediate Family was at El Mejunje, the "diversity" (ie. gay) center in Santa Clara, Cuba in 2017 (I think). I cut the play quite a bit. My friend and director in New York City, Arcadio Ruiz-Castellanos, translated it into Spanish. This was a labor of love for Arcadio, as he had left Cuba decades earlier as one of the Marielistas.
The Marielistas were people who were considered undesirable by the Cuban authorities and were told to go to Mariel Beach and get in little boats and go to the U.S. Arcadio had a successful career in Havana as an actor and director when he was called in to the police station and told to leave because he was gay. I mean, he wasn't a gay ACTIVIST. He was just GAY. He has never been back to Cuba since then, but he and his husband Ruben are one of the main economic supports of Arcadio's family.
So I printed up scripts, with the English running down the left side and the Spanish on the right side, so that people could follow the play, which I performed in English, very closely. Here are some photos from that performance:
Below are photos of me standing in front of El Mejunje and the courtyard there. It was a very nice, comfortable center with a lovely small theater.
And below is my favorite picture, which is the director of El Mejunje hugging me after the performance.
Unfortunately, I was on a group tour and we had to leave immediately after the performance, so I didn't get a chance to talk to anyone there about it.
Well, I thought I was going to be writing a very brief blog to tell you about the London performance. But everything always leads to a story with me, doesn't it?
All for now, dear Blogellinis. I must must must walk the pups and then finish my taxes (oy) and then this evening Carolyn and I are doing a podcast. The BlogMistress is very busy right now. Love, Terry