Amy Simon is a mother, actress, playwright, improviser, published writer, producer, and self-proclaimed Cultural Herstorian. She has been acting in and producing theater for most of her adult life. Her first play Cheerios In My Underwear (And Other True Tales Of Motherhood) holds the record as the longest running solo show in Los Angeles. SHE’S HISTORY! plays in theaters, schools, libraries, military bases, museums, for conferences, women’s groups, fundraisers, political and social justice organizations and retirement communities. SHE”S HISTORY! is fiscally sponsored by the Women’s Museum of California ( Always interested in hearing and presenting what women have to say, Amy directed, co-produced and performed in Los Angeles with GAL-O-RAMA and OVARYACTION at The Improv, The Laugh Factory and The Upfront Comedy Theatre. As the creative force and co-producer behind HEROINE ADDICTS, the four-year hit all-girl variety show, Amy worked with and was inspired by many of the most talented female writer/performers in Los Angeles (including Jane Lynch) at Hollywood’s bang Studio. She created and produced Motherhood Unplugged and Moms Who Write, a mom written and performed story and music salon and stage show (to benefit Beyond Shelter) with LA Parent Magazine and Mamapalooza (Moms In The Arts). It inaugurated and is featured on Los Angeles’s KPFK Radio’s Pacifica Performance Showcase. Working as a consultant on the 2008 launch of the Broad Stage Theater in Santa Monica, Amy performed a variety of duties, including stage-managing the thirteen member cast of American Voices: Spirit of the Revolution, Stephanie Glass Solomon’s original play based on The Federalist Papers, directed by and starring Dustin Hoffman, a truly wonderful man, whom she assisted. As the cast understudy she actually got to play Abigail Adams going in for Annette Bening in dress rehearsal. A frequent guest on local and national radio, Amy was a guest commentator for American Woman In Fact And Fiction, a three part series that aired on Pacifica Radio Archives series. She is also a regular guest on the Nicole Sandler Show Amy plays California Pioneer Maude Younger in California Women Win The Vote, the documentary/film produced by Wild West Women, Inc. ( Her work in the classroom, as an educational specialist teaching improvisation and theater games inspired her to create a curriculum related interactive presentation of SHE’S HISTORY! for Middle School. As a “Herstorical” humorist, Amy writes, blogs, performs and entertains on the radio, online, and onstage furthering her mission to turn the world on to all the fabulous females no one knows anything about. She is a single mother of two glorious and "challenging" teenage daughters who can tell you all about the first woman to run for President.

Sep 052010


How Do We Create Hope Out Of Hopelessness?

That is one of my lines in the Rosh Hashana service that I have been asked to participate in.  Such an honor.  And as I read over the text my Cantor sent me, this line jumped right out at me.  Because I –like many I assume, feel so hopeless so often.  These are really tough times for so many of us.  It is so easy to slide into that hopeless hell.

I am not very religious – never have been.  My liberal, opinionated New York City born and raised Eastern European descended worked in factories and dress shops took in boarders during the depression Lower East side living high school educated independent thinking smart talented parents – had all sorts of problems with the Temple when we moved from Queens to Long Island and after one year of Hebrew School I quit and my parents let me.  We were “Holiday Jews” – celebrated the holidays but did not go to Temple although of course my only brother DID have a bar mitzvah.  Anyhoo, I am sorry to say now that I always took being Jewish for granted.

Until recently.

My appreciation of my Temple and my Heritage my Spiritualism really kicked in when icky things happened to me and to my family (divorce, job loss, illness) and there they were; an entire community of caring people – right there.  Then my mother died and the Rabbi came to my house to lead a service.  SHE CAME TO MY HOUSE – like a doctor!  I still can’t get over it.  I’ll NEVER get over it.  I can still hear her sweet comforting voice ringing in my living room.  It is like a huge hug whenever I think about it.

I so love my “Repair The World” Temple, which my ex-husband found about fourteen years ago when we were a brand new family.  I remember how he said in his then charming now annoying British accent, “Dahling, you’ll love it – it is all run my women”. A Conservative (male) Rabbi had married us.   I had let my husband call the religious shots since he was the religious one and the night before our wedding we were part of a service in which my husband was called up on the Bema, HIS father was called up on the Bema – and me?  Nope.  I was not called up.  I had no role.  I ended up in the bathroom crying.  Another reminder of why I did not like religion and another missed clue as to what my marriage would be like.  But he DID find this wonderful Temple and I will always be grateful for that.

So when they asked me to “act” in the Rosh Hashanah service – me on that Bema – me who cannot read or understand Hebrew – I was and am beyond honored. I still can’t believe I am a part of such a fabulous progressive inclusive Temple and have been asked – two years in a row – to participate in the service.  I am a professional stage actress so it made sense to ask me.  Many “professionals” in our Temple are asked to participate in all sorts of things.  I was “Bubbe In The Kitchen” making latkes for the Hanukkah Show two years ago and acted in a play about Rosh Hashana three years ago and I have performed parts of my show that I wrote “Cheerios In My Underwear” during the arts festival.   When asked – I do anything my Temple asks.

My cantor sent me the script to read given to him by a cantorial colleague and here is the first paragraph.

Once upon a time in Ramatayim, there was a man with two wives, Hannah, and Peninah. Peninah had children, many of them, running around making mischief.  But Hannah could have none.  Peninah would torture Peninah constantly, until she cried so much she couldn’t even eat. Her husband Elkanah loved her dearly, and tried to cheer her up, but there was nothing he could do.  For her life had no meaning.  For her, all she could feel was her own barrenness.

Uh oh.  Her life had no meaning because she could not have children?  Now Amy, I told myself – let’s not overanalyze this but of course I have always had and still have a problem with sexism in religion. I am, after all, a Cultural Herstorian – yup – you read it right – and I could write and talk for hours about how – as my heroine Elizabeth Cady Stanton said in her alienating and shocking 1895 The Woman’s Bible, A Classic Feminist Perspective “religion holds women down”.  Yes it certainly did back then.  Of course it is waaaay better now – but religious sexism still absolutely exists and I was always worried about my daughters’ religious education, which is filled with sexist (and oh so gory) stories.  And when I first went to my Rabbi to discuss my feelings about this, she of course said immediately – “yes, question everything.  That is what we Jews do”.  And she proceeded to explain and interpret and generally set me straight.  I knew then and know now that my daughters were and are in terrific non-sexist spiritually guiding community oriented beautiful hands.  And then I read the rest of the text.

(I am Reader #1).

READER  #2: Once upon a time in a city very close by to where we sit today, there was a man with a blackberry, a pager, and a bluetooth.  David worked seven days a week, pursuing his job with fury and passion.  He also had a family, who saw him at meals, a soccer game here and

there, and the occasional family vacation.  But no matter what he did, he could not conquer time. There was never enough time.  So he ate with the bluetooth stuck on his ear, and he sat at soccer games frantically typing on those tiny blackberry keys.  And he slept with the pager by his side.

Nothing else mattered.  But meanwhile, he was unhappy, and he couldn’t figure out why.

READER 1: How do we create hope out of hopelessness?

READER 2: How do we learn faith when things seem meaningless?

READER 1: So Hannah prayed:

READER 2: Out of her deep pain, she silently swayed.  Her lips moving, as if she were drunk, Hannah asked: God on high, if you will just see the pain I am in, if you remember me, if you grant me a son, I will dedicate him to You for life.

READER 1: And in that moment, she forever altered the meaning of prayer.  Her faith opened her to the possibilities of life, and so the story ends well.  God granted her a son.

READER 1: And David knew Hannah’s story, and he decided to give it a try.  God, we  haven’t talked much.  But…my life is out of control. If you just help me…If you just help me… give me more time.  Help me find meaning in these things I do.  Help me find my way back to my family.

READER 2: And so in that moment, he altered forever the meaning of his life.  His faith opened him to the possibilities of life, and so the story ends well.  He found that he could put the blackberry down and still get the work he needed done.  He could take off the bluetooth and somehow his world did not fall apart.  His life did not change radically, but he discovered

something new that day, all because he dared to ask for it.

OK.  So.  My feminist perspective kicked right in when I read….

if you grant me a son.

And then…

God granted her a son.

Hmmm.  So I called the Cantor and said “can I change it to a child instead of a son”? And he said. “sure”.

And that is why I love my Temple.

A zillion years ago – or yesterday – “my people” or “all people” struggled with the same issues.  And on Friday nights when I thumb through the Torah during services, which I have come to love, I find these passages that so speak to me.  I find understanding and inspiration and comfort – and the biggie – hope. How do we create hope out of hopelessness?  Well, I guess everyone finds it – if they are lucky – their own way.  For me – I have started to pray.  What could it hurt?

Sep 052010

What were we born to do? How shall we do it?

Great Thinker, Journalist, Teacher, Book Reviewer, First Woman Allowed To Use The Library at Harvard

Like Mary Wollstonecraft, Frances Wright, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and countless others – Sarah Margaret Fuller believed that women were intellectually equal to men and spent her life discoursing and conversing on this subject, which was still a radical idea in the 1800s. She had an Oprah-like influence on women and men of her day and is remembered as one of the most brilliant minds of the nineteenth century.  Ignorance is bliss left her decidedly unblissful.  Like many women, financial need inspired her trail-blazing career.   When she was twenty-five, her father died, and his estate was taken over by her uncles leaving Sarah feeling humiliated, helpless and financially dependent – women could not own property then.  Her seminal book Woman In The Nineteenth Century began as “conversations” designed to encourage women in self-expression and independent thinking” and were held – just for women – in private homes eventually becoming so popular that she began charging money thus making a living.

Her influence on feminism is incalculable.

She was SO educated – by the age of three and a half she could read and write – by four and half she could do math, and by the age of five she learned Latin and taught herself many more languages. Some of her influences were her teacher/father, George Sand – the famous scandalous cross dressing, sexually flouting rule breaking French novelist, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Nathaniel Hawthorne who both wrote about HER.  Feminist, trailblazer and the first gal allowed to use Harvard’s Library (the school did not admit women until the 1940s and only let them into the dorms in 1972!).  And, like Anne Hutchinson, Margaret Fuller died so ironically and tragically. Fuller became politically involved in the European Revolution and was a foreign correspondent  – the first of her sex – another trail she blazed, She was returning to America from Europe with her new husband and infant with a manuscript ready about the history of the Roman Revolution.  The boat sank – just off Fire Island.

Aug 112010

June Gloom 2010

It’s 9PM.  I am sipping wine, in my newly and finally cleaned and organized backyard, trying to shake off weariness, depression, sadness.

It is June 2010.  The Gulf of Mexico has been ecologically raped. The oil is gushing.  The American people have been screwed again.  Big time. Natalie Holloway’s suspected killer is finally behind bars and a second grader in Oregon has gone missing from INSIDE of his school.   My lovely seventeen year old daughter has just returned from a full school day called EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES where the school stages a car crash caused by drunken drivers and enacts all that goes along with the events.  Students play themselves in the real situation, replete with blood and screams.  The whole community participates.  I am talkin’ fire and police departments – Jaws of Life – it’s intense.  Tomorrow they will stage a memorial using the real parents of the real kids who have “died” and bring in real parents of real kids who HAVE died from drunken driving.  It is SO effective and she is SO affected and so grateful for her life, her choices – me. I knew she’d be freaked out so I made her guacamole (her favorite) and let her watch TV.   I picked her up with her thirteen-year-old sister who got to see the crumpled crashed car prominently displayed on the school’s front lawn.  I was dropping off my thirteen year old at temple for her last religious school class of the year.  I even baked cupcakes for the year-end party.  There was a holocaust film being shown and the parents were invited but I couldn’t face it.

The thirteen year old’s best friend came to our house after school until the party.  I drive them there on Tuesdays and her parents’ bring them home – a good carpool.  The friend had no homework and was playing computer games on her phone, inadvertently distracting my child who HAD homework AND chores (which she never wanted to do).  When I had to bring this focus issue to my child’s attention, my child became a bit rude and disrespectful towards me, so I brought the friend home suddenly (she lives around the corner).  She said no one was home but she was fine for the ninety minutes until I picked her up for the class party so I did some food shopping and when I returned home there was an email from the mom saying her daughter was locked out and I left before she got in and she would never leave MY daughter before seeing her in.  I am so embarrassed. (Her dad came home and let her in) I’d never done that before.  I never took off before seeing the child get in the house.  Never.  I am losing it.   I have turned into one of those single, totally overwhelmed harried moms I used to feel sorry for when I was married and my only jobs, which I struggled with but excelled at, were raising my girls and running the house.  And I still felt overwhelmed,  But. I didn’t have to provide, and do everything like I do now.

I think about how overwhelmed can feel different as I sip my wine while the oil gushes into the Gulf and the search party continues for the lost Oregon boy.

I thought again of the mom who chastised me – and rightly so – for leaving her child before she got in.  There are two of you, I always think, and only one of her.  She – the mom who chastised me, is seemingly happily married and they appear to have the kind of partnership necessary for successful parenting and family life.  The kind of partnership I always assumed I would have.

There is one of her and two of you.  There are two of them and one of me.

It has been six years since my husband announced he was leaving and I discovered his secret life, gambling addiction and financial rape of our family.

Five years since the divorce was final.

Four years since he got fired.

Two years since he OD’d and tried to kill himself.

A year and a half since he moved to another country.

Seven months since my mother died.

And the oil keeps gushing.

He – who has more issues than the Mid East – is far away and although he tortures me regularly with emails and demands and refuses to acknowledge his responsibilities, it is still better that he is away.

I should be happy.  My girls are thriving, healthy, kind, smart, beautiful, talented, traumatized yes by what happened but I have managed to kept them in our house and in their school and I do take pretty good care of them.

Someday they will get it.

I am fifty-three years old and have stopped trying to get a job after four years of trying in this terrible economy.  Yes, I have stopped trying to get a job, despite an insanely out of touch (female) judge ordering me to “go to Macy’s and get a job”.  Yeah, sure – that fast track to the cycle of poverty – yeah – that’s the ticket for me!  I don’t need a job.  I need a career.  Between age discrimination, maternal profiling and my previous careers (not in retail Judge if you would look at your papers!) as an actress and years in the now decimated record business first as an administrative assistant – working for Presidents mind you – and then as a promotion and marketing manager with my OWN assistant, turns out I am not hirable, I am not marketable.  Sure my three-page resume is very impressive but still.  Granted, even I was shocked at how hard it was.  After four years of sending out hundreds of resumes – with personalized cover letters – I got approximately THREE interviews; one for a sales/marketing position as part of a cattle call – and TWO with Temp Agencies.  Can only imagine how I did on the “skills” tests.  Never heard from any of ‘em.   I could handle the humiliation if I could get hired.  The only jobs I got – and there were several – I got through networking or my own initiative, and were part-time, low paying – no benefits – led nowhere and were SO exploitive!  So.  I have created my own career.   As a Cultural Herstorian.  An Herstorical Entertainer.  Yes.  Let it sink in.  It’s good isn’t it?  And, when I am not absolutely terrified, I am absolutely thrilled and passionate and so excited and encouraged and mentored and supported  – people love it – in this endeavor.  I’m doing really well, I tell myself, for now, taking care of my girls, my home, working so diligently and so hard on my career, our security, my future.  I intend to be in control of my own financial destiny – never ending up as a drain on society.  Divorced mothers and women make up the largest poverty segment in society.  Always have.  And always will with Judges like I had.  I think of Tina Fey and how smart she is and what I heard on the last episode of her hit TV show 30 Rock – a line tossed off by Kenneth, the NBC Page who said, “I feel about as useless as a Mom’s College Degree”.  She nailed it.  So true, so pathetic. So shameful.

But I am so weary.  And enraged.  Yes I am weary AND enraged.  That’s what a great multi-tasker I am.  So weary of the news.  Of the BPs and B of A’s and the scandalous amounts of money spent on voter campaigns. So beaten down from mothering and fathering and negotiating and nurturing and worrying and dealing.   With details, and dinner, chore charts and consequences, camp forms and college apps, doctor’s appointments and education funds, bat-mitzvahs and driving lessons.   It is exhausting, keeping us healthy and insured, and just being available for the constant comfort and reassurance they so desperately and ferociously need.  “Can I have a hug”?  My lovely seventeen year old daughter, struggling and succeeding through high school – asks me that every day – sometimes every hour and I feel so guilty because sometimes I rush right through it and she feels my impatience to get on with it.  It.  Survival.  Yes surviving in a house where I spend so much time dodging hormones.   And of course, I – like most mothers, am on the receiving end of their confusion and rage and resentment and fear.  “I hate you Mom!  I hate it here!  Why can’t I have texting and a Facebook account, and my own email like all my friends” screams my blossoming and brilliant and hurting and typical thirteen year old.

Natalie Holloway’s mother would love to have my problems I tell myself and I immediately feel ashamed of my private whining and want to hug and hold my precious children tight tight tight.

I think of the gals I research and write about from the past few centuries  – with their thirteen kids and complete and total lack of rights – they didn’t even legally own their bodies –  bodies that were forced into organ crushing and breath-taking (literally) whale bone corsets.  I even resent having to wear a bra.

I look around and sip my wine as I sit in my beautiful backyard so weary and enraged but happy to have a few moments to myself – not responding or listening to anyone or anything, ignoring the girl’s who I hear inside shouting at each other, thinking about the garden I want to plant with food so I can live off the land, planning, scheming as I have been for years, how to hold on to the house, and keep them healthy and in their school.  Faith.  My necklace pendant says it.  When I have it, I can imagine and do anything, and everything I plan seems possible.  When I don’t – and this night I don’t – oh.

I probably just need a hug.

Amy Simon