AmySimon

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 (http://www.womensmuseumca.org/). 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 FromTheVault.org series. She is also a regular guest on the Nicole Sandler Show Radioornot.com. Amy plays California Pioneer Maude Younger in California Women Win The Vote, the documentary/film produced by Wild West Women, Inc. (www.wildwestwomen.org). 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.

Mar 262010
 

Amy is brought in by Pacifica Radio Archives (http://fromthevaultradio.org)  to comment, contextualize and make relevant these three recently unearthed Women’s History Radio Dramas recorded in 1959.


So I’m in The Dance Store, with my about to be bat-mitzvahed daughter, setting up her mitzvah project (mitzvah is a good deed).  Her project is gathering used dance items for the less fortunate (HER idea).  So my cell phone rings.  It’s Donna, my producer and friend and from KPFK Pacifica Radio where I host Motherhood Unplugged, a radio show I do sometimes.  She says “Amy, I have a few questions for you and if you answer them correctly, there’s a prize”.  “OK”, I say, feeling proud of my daughter and up for a challenge.  She continues; “I’m here with Mark Torres from the station’s archives (Pacifica Radio has an incredible archive) and he wants to know if you know who Lucretia Mott it?”  “Are you kidding?  And I go off on a cool Quaker, ordained minister, huge influence on Elizabeth Cady Stanton Lucretia Mott rant.  “How about Angelina Grimke?”  “Of course!” I respond.  I LOVE Angelina Grimke – and go off on another rant about how she and her sister Sarah were these ballsy Southern Women who stood up to slavery, were turned out of their hometown and on and on until she interrupts me with “how about Margaret Fuller?” Margaret Fuller, Woman In The Nineteenth Century is the seminal feminist – she cuts me off and the next thing I know I am asked to come in and work on this project called American Woman, Fact And Fiction, a fourteen part radio theater series written and performed in 1959.  They needed someone – an expert – to put it all into context and make it relevant.  Hello!!!!  This baby’s got my name all over it!  In I go, cds I get, listen I do and wow!!!  Check it out.  REAL theater on the radio, profiling LOTSA my gals!!  I got six, thirty-minute programs, coupled to make three shows.  They are labeled:  Anne Hutchinson Colonial Women the first show, Lucretia Mott and Feminist In Early 1800s is the second show and Margaret Fuller (written as Feller) and Suffrage is the third show all airing on Pacifica Radio Archives.   (In Los Angeles it airs weekly on Thursday nights at 11PM)  I had a blast (and spent A LOT OF TIME) working on this.  Written by a woman – Virginia Maynard in 1959, narration by a man and so very 1950s in tone and presentation, the plays within – and there are all sorts of re-enactments with lots of really good voice actors  – are really something!  It IS theater on the radio and I LOVED IT.

So take a listen.  It’s cool.

From the Vault: The American Woman, Part 1

From the Vault: The American Woman, Part 2

From the Vault:  The American Woman, Part 3

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Mar 242010
 

Gloria Steinem & Amy Simon

Oh Gloria!  Gorgeous, glorious warrior Gloria.

She is….SO lovely, SO gracious, SO cool and SO warm, petite and strong.  Oh Gloria.

Yes.  I met Gloria Steinem.

I went to a fundraiser in Beverly Hills for WRRAP – Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Program, a really wonderful, really important organization – www.WRRAP.ORG – an organization Gloria has worked with for years.

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So there we were in a beautiful, spacious and oh so tastefully decorated Beverly Hills home, donated for the evening for this fabulous and worthy cause.  There was wine, there was shrimp, there was the news truck – and there was Gloria. I only had eyes for Gloria.  I had a physical reaction to being that close to such an icon.  My heart started racing, I lost my appetite entirely, and I did what I always do when I get really nervous or excited.  I made bad jokes.  Luckily, my memory was affected because I don’t remember what I said.  I only remember what I heard, which was Judith, who works with WRRAP and is a friend of mine say “go and meet Gloria”.  My face flushed and I literally started to tremble.  I was there with my friend Wendy, Wendy Hammers (formerly Wendy Kamenoff), fabulous female and stand up comic who also works with WRRAP and has hosted many of their fundraisers.  So off we go, we get in line to meet Gloria who was being courted if you will be everyone.  We patiently waited for our turn  and when we were introduced Gloria looked me right in the eye and put her hand on my arm, seemingly really pleased to meet ME!  Then Wendy told her about a fundraiser years and years ago in New York City at Caroline’s Comedy Club that she had hosted with Gloria and Gloria totally remembered the evening saying “oh yes, that was for The Revolution Party” or something to do with revolution.  I only heard Revolution and immediately thought of the newspaper Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony ran for years back in the eighteen hundreds so I interject with “oh was that named after the newspaper Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony started”?  She just looked at me confused, and said, “what do you mean”.  And as the words left my mouth I realized I was subconsciously or unconsciously showing off my knowledge of women’s history and I stumbled around a bit explaining myself until finally she saved me saying “yes well we just needed a revolution” and I of course mumbled something stupid about how we still do.  Then I shut up and stepped back to let others bask in her Gloriasness and had a big glass of wine.  But I remained – and remain – absolutely high from the meeting.

It was so wonderful being in a space with so many dedicated and socially conscious people.  After a while, Joyce Schorr, WRRAP’s President and the other Board Member made a few speeches, reminding us all why we were there, extolling Gloria’s many virtues and relating some stories and recent statistics of the seriousness of the situation of women’s reproductive rights.  A story was told (and forgive me the details might be a bit off) about how long ago Gloria ended up on a panel or commission of some sort when Roe V. Wade was passed and it was a bunch of men, a bunch of nuns, and Gloria.

Finally, Gloria spoke (see and hear her glorious speech here) starting out with the fact that she was celebrating her seventy-fifth birthday and had just returned from San Francisco where she was asked if she was ready to pass the torch.  So Gloria says, “that is a very patriarchal view.  There is not one torch.  WE ALL have a torch and we all can light our own way.”

Oh My God.

She went on telling stories about African and Indian Women, reproductive rights, choice, choice, choice, Feminist architecture, and saying more and more brilliant things such as “feminism is memory” and charming and inspiring the hell out of everyone.  There was a Q&A after and I put my two cents in about how I am raising two daughters who would never consider being female as a drawback of any kind, mentioned Victoria Woodhull and then asked her about the ERA.  Not looking so good according to Gloria.  And after she spoke, we all lined up to pay homage to her and she is so accessible and gracious and present.  Women had books they brought for her to sign (Darn!  I didn’t think to bring mine) but WRRAP had loads of the January Issue of MS. Magazine on hand so she signed mine.  When it was my turn, I told her about She’s History! And the play I am writing about Frances Wright (“you and I are probably the only two in the room who know who she is” I say and she nods), Ernestine Rose, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Victoria Woodhull.  She says “All of them in one play”?  I nod.  Then she told me there were two Broadway musicals about Victoria Woodhull that never got off the ground.  I am stunned.   I had no idea.   I have since researched and of course she was right.  There were actually loads of scripts about her that never happened.  One of them had Madonna attached and apparently Tom Cruise bought the rights of another for his then wife Nicole Kidman.  That was a nice gesture on Tom’s part. So back to Gloria with whom I “chat” a bit more about Victoria Woodhull and like everyone else, I end up gushing about what an influence she has been on me and blah blah blah.  She continues smiling graciously, and once again, I step back and allow the rest of her fans to enjoy her Gloriasness.

So.  That’s my fabulous Gloria story.  I have a picture, a signed magazine cover and the memory of an evening I will never ever forget.  And I hold in my heart the knowledge that I touched greatness and greatness touched me.  And I hold a torch.  Gloria’s torch that I intend to use to light my way.

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Mar 052010
 

By Amy Simon

It’s Women’s History Month 2010! Yay!  Another month to call attention to the gals.

March 2010.   Hmm.  Let’s see.  How are we gals doing?  Well, we have Sarah Palin out there doing stand up and shoppin’ for a reality show. She is just breakin’ all the rules.  Gosh, I remember when she first came on the scene.  I was intrigued, curious and hopeful, as I always am about a new woman on the scene.  Then she got everyone all charged up with her (speechwriter’s) lipstick jokes and I became (and remain) terrified that she’ll end up on a poster next to Eleanor Roosevelt.  God Forbid.

We’ve got Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric and Candy Crowley anchoring big news shows.  Good.  Sonia got in, Hillary’s keepin’ the  peace and Obama’s got lotsa gals doing big jobs.

And Maria Shriver’s October Women’s Conference was just da bomb, with everyone from Eve Ensler to Richard Branson addressing all the challenges we women face, especially in light of the big news that for the first time more than fifty percent of American workers  – PAID American workers that is – are female.

But.  The kids still know a lot more about Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan than they do about Abigail Adams and Lucretia Mott.

MY daughter is turning thirteen.  Becoming a woman and all.  We’re Jewish and having the big B.M. (bat-mitzvah – bar for a boy). It’s a beautiful important right of passage.  She has been studying and preparing for years!   I am so proud of her.  And I can’t help but notice how she stuck it out  – when she was tired or frustrated or just not in the mood – but she didn’t quit.  Did ya hear that Sarah Palin?  She didn’t quit.  Maybe someday she’ll grow up and be the president.  She is learning now about how the right choice is the hard choice and how when you make a commitment – be it to do your chores or learn your Torah portion, you keep it.  I wanted to quit several times.  I wanted to quit reminding her of her responsibilities and I wanted to quit schlepping her every Sunday morning since she was four years old and then Tuesday afternoons and then Tuesday AND Thursday for tutoring.  But like a lot of good woman (and jews) I suffered through it – though never silently.  That’s just not my style.

Anyhoo, I like being a role model for my girls.  I’m a divorced working mother.  I don’t know.  Maybe if some big book agent came at me waving a big fat check I could be persuaded to quit my job and go off and write about all the neat and not so neat stuff that happened to me in the last year.  Of course, my children would probably think it’s OK to quit too, ‘cause ya know it’s not what ya say it’s what you do right?  I have a sixteen-year-old daughter as well who really has her nose to the grindstone taking all those A.P. (Advanced Placement) courses for college.  I admire her as much as I admire her sister.  Ya see, high school has been really hard on her.  It’s really hard anyway but then all this icky stuff happened with her dad and he split and she kinda dropped the academic ball a bit and she had to grow up a little faster than she should have.

I look at my daughters and think about how Victoria Woodhull (the first woman to run for President in 1872) was just fifteen years old when she tried to escape a horrible slave driving religiously fanatic abusive father and mother by marrying, only to learn she married an abusive philandering drunk.  She learned that when she had her first baby at sixteen.  Sixteen.  But she didn’t quit or run off.  Nope.  She hung in there.  Being a women’s history freak has given me the most wonderful appreciation of my daughters.  As my sixteen year old prepares for college I think about all the gals who couldn’t go to college.  Their parents wouldn’t let them.  The school wouldn’t admit them.  Society wouldn’t allow them.  So they fought.  Hell, Lucy Stone saved for nine years until she had enough to go to Oberlin – the ONLY College open to the gals ‘cause when she asked her dad he said, “what is the girl crazy”?  She was thirty years old when she finally got in. She hung in there and became the first gal to debate in public and she was arrested for not paying her taxes (she said “well if I can’t vote I won’t pay taxes!”) and of course founded the Woman’s Journal and kept her name when she was married – oh I could go on an on.  SHE – like so many of the gals I just mentioned was a real maverick. And Elizabeth Blackwell – America’s first female doctor – well she only got in to Geneva College on a prank. The all-male student body voted yes thinking it was a joke.  And Belva Lockwood – the second women to run for President and the first woman to practice in front of the Supreme Court – well she went though hell every time she tried to get an education.  She fought to get admitted to College, then to Law School, then to get her degree issued after she earned it (they didn’t wanna give it to her!) then to practice in front of the Supreme Court.  She had to fight for every single solitary thing she got.  But she didn’t quit.  Nope.  She stuck it out. “Stick–to– it-iveness” is what they called it when I was growing up.  Perseverance.  Look it up Sarah.

Now I have issues with organized religion with its history of sexism (see Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s The Woman’s Bible), but a big fat tenet of the Bat and Bar Mitzvah ceremony is “whoever teaches their child teaches not only their child, but also their child’s child and so on to the end of generations. They are motivated to make a difference, to pursue peace and justice, and have the tools to succeed.”  Yeah, this is right out of the “My Bar/Bat Mitzvah” Booklet given to us by our Temple. I LOVE my Temple.  It is very feminized if you will.  Our head Rabbi is a woman, the temple President is a woman, and there are loads of women runnin’ the place doing amazing things, role modeling and inspiring my girls. I love it!  Social justice, giving back, being part of the community, helping those in need  – this is what my children have been learning all these years at my Temple. The same things Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. and Victoria Woodhull and all the gals fought for and sacrificed for.  I love the kind of women my daughters have grown up around and been exposed to.  The kind of women who – for the most part – say what they mean and mean what they say. Who are hard working, terribly decent and highly principled with a social conscience. These are the kind of women my daughters have been taught and encouraged to be; by me, the school, the community and all those mavericks I keep talking about – the ones that never gave up or backed down.  Ever.

My daughter is about to become a woman.  She can do many things.  But for some reason she cannot tell a joke.  Not everyone can.

I’m glad Sarah Palin can.  I just wish she could handle being the butt of so many.  And, she should only be the kind of woman my daughters are turning into.

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