The good thing about not having much work on my book is it frees me up for other things. The housework is always done, for example. I've been cooking and baking a lot the past year. I've turned into a regular Betty Crocker! Or maybe Betty Draper is more apt- she was closer to going completely crazy. On the not-making-me-crazy side of things, though, I got to do a show recently. I haven't been on stage in such a long time! Well, it's probably only been a year, really, but it feels like forever. I did a monologue for the Bay Street Theatre's production of A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer (MMRP). They decided to shake things up this February and do that instead of The Vagina Monologues, which they've done the last few years.The show was put together by the same playwright, Eve Ensler, in 2008 or 2009, I think. Like The Vagina Monologues, performances of A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer are done to raise money for The V-Day Foundation and to support a local charity, in our case, the Rape Crisis Center. Ensler only wrote one of the monologues this time around, called "Fur is Back". For the rest, she solicited literary donations from various authors and playwrights that troupes can select from when putting the show together. Here's a picture of the theatre bedecked with the lovely poster Morgan Daniels drew for our production:
MMRP is not like a regular play, so the production was very loosely organized. We had 4 women directing a few actresses apiece and a total of 14 performers. JinHi Rand directed me in the monologue "In Memory of Imette," by Periel Aschenbrand. JinHi said she chose that piece and wanted to work with me specifically because she thinks I'm good. Maybe that's true, but I also suspect she just felt sorry for me because I've had no luck getting cast in anything lately. Well, this beggar will not be choosy!
"In Memory of Imette" is about the murder of Imette St. Guillen. I originally wasn't sure if the monologue was referencing a real event or not, so I had to look it up. I found plenty of information and, luckily, news broadcasts so I could hear how to pronounce her name correctly. She was killed in 2008, I think, in New York City. She was only 25 and attending John Jay University for her Master's Degree. She went bar-hopping with a friend one night, they parted ways, and Imette was never seen alive again. Her brutalized body was found by the side of the Belt Parkway later on.
So... yeah, I got the heavy-hearted downer monologue. The tone of the show overall is pretty heavy. Not that there were no laughs to be had, there were even a few snicker-worthy lines in my segment, but it's just very different from The Vagina Monologues. That one has some weighty material, but it's a celebratory piece at its heart. MMRP is specifically about rape and violence toward women and it's kind of hard to put an optimistic spin on that. Not putting a happy face on that problem is, in fact, the point. One night, I think it was before we went onstage for our second performance, Sheila (an actress and one of the directors) asked the group one by one to give the reason they had chosen to do this show. Out of us 14 women, I was surprised when more than half expressed a connection to the material because "something bad" had happened to themselves or a woman they knew. It was chilling to hear. It also illustrated another point of the show: abuse is not something that only happens to those women or other women. Those women are all around you and often very close to you. I must confess I was well into my 20s before it dawned on me that not having been raped, harassed, molested, or beaten put me into some kind of minority among my female peers. I felt kind of sheepish and stupid admitting to the rest of my MMRP co-stars that I was there simply because I hadn't been on stage in a while.
As is typical with non-musical dramatic material in community theatre, we had a hard time attracting an audience. My usual standard of success is when the audience outnumbers the cast, which it looked like we just managed on opening night. They were a quiet crowd too. I hate that. I hate an audience that gives you no feedback whatsoever. It's like performing to a sentient wall that you're pretty sure thinks you're an idiot. Our Saturday night audience, though, was AWESOME! It was the biggest crowd we had during our three-night run, though by no means standing room only. They actually clapped between each woman's performance and they weren't afraid to laugh at the funny bits. During Kenya's "Black Vaginas" monologue, which she delivered every night with evangelistic energy, I thought for sure she was about to get a chorus of "Amen!" and "Preach it!" from the crowd. A few people I could see from my chair looked real close to it. Sunday's audience seemed a little timid, much like the first night, but oh well. We wrapped up the show, raised some money for the Rape Crisis Center, and I was proud of my work. Also happy to have finally done something at the Bay Street Theatre.
I see so many good shows there. I hope I get to be in more. It looks like they've only got two more non-musicals planned for this season: Speech and Debate and The Santaland Diaries. Guess we'll see how my schedule looks then. If I'm working too hard to do a play, I wouldn't complain.