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 092012
 

If someone were outside the All Girl Immaculate Heart High School gymnasium -which doubles as an auditorium – and heard the cheers – one would assume there was a game going on.  But no.  The girls were cheering at Mary Wollstonecraft, and Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass.

It was March 1st, 2012, the first day of Women’s History Month and I was performing SHE’S HISTORY! The Most Dangerous Women in America, Then And Now… for five hundred and forty fabulous future feminists.

This was my first high school performance and what a way to start Women’s History Month!  The girls were rapt!  Rapt I tell you.  They CHEERED at our first feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft – who wrote our first feminist book – A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman – or as I like to call it Don’t Punish Me For Having Ovaries!  They loved it when I called Bella Abzug, “a great GREAT Pain In The Ass”!  They screamed with recognition at Sojourner Truth.  And they went a bit crazy when Frederick Douglass came to the SHE’S HISTORY! party.

What a joy and a surprise to get this reaction from high school students. The day before I was working on some promotional materials in my Apple Class.  My tag line is “Why do we know more about Snookie than Abigail Adams?  My trainer – a nice 30ish year old man asked, “who is Abigail Adams”? My heart sank.  The night before I was at Staples printing a photo of me and Gloria Steinem (who I got to meet again), and asked the lovely young woman helping me, “Do you know who this is?”  When she said no I said “it’s Gloria Steinem”!  She had no idea who she was.

Immaculate Heart, a private girls Catholic High School in Los Angeles, has a reputation as a rebel school.  No wonder those girls related to SHE’S HISTORY! Afterwards, several of the girls came up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed the show.  One lovely young woman gushed compliments, passionate about her desire to get “more people involved in feminism”.  I almost started crying.  Their very cool teacher Claire told me the school has a fabulous theater department (yay!) and the seniors were all taking AP History (a college prep course) and that is why so many were familiar with the women and story lines in the show. I profile, show slides, tell stories about, humanize and bring to life around 40 fabulous females – each one a rebel and each one deserving of their own show.  I am working on Victoria Woodhull’s – the first woman to run for President in 1872.  I didn’t get to perform her story for the rebels at Immaculate Heart, as I had to cut the show down to fit into their 50-minute schedule.  What a fabulous fifty minutes it was!  As Elizabeth Cady Stanton said to Susan B. Anthony – in a scene from the play –  “I am FIRED ANEW!!!”

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Feb 272012
 


Super bowl Sunday left me feeling decidedly hungry for something meaningful and substantive after being fed a steady stream of buy buy buy! The barrage of sexual sexist objectifying commercials left my fourteen-year-old daughter and I disgusted, so I was absolutely thrilled to read a review in the Los Angeles Times about the new Margaret Fuller biop The Lives of Margaret Fuller By Laura Skandera Trombley, Special to the Los Angeles Times February 5, 2012.

I loved the review and cannot wait to read the book and am always delighted to see ANY mention, coverage or acknowledgement of women’s roles, but I took issue with captioning the article First Modern Woman.  Hardly.  One could – and I do – argue that Margaret Brent (1601-1671) the thirty-seven year old never married first woman in America to demand the right to vote (was refused), attorney, property owning, savvy businesswoman to whom Lord Baltimore (Maryland’s Governor) gave the power of attorney on his deathbed – was our first modern woman.  The great Margaret Fuller is just one of the MANY modern woman before us who are unknown and unheralded.   (See Fabulous Female Facts http://sheshistory.com/site/?cat=7)

Fuller was easily one of the most brilliant minds of the nineteenth century, with an Oprah-like influence on women and men. She inspired her colleagues, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Nathaniel Hawthorne to write about HER. One cannot measure the influence she had on The Seneca Falls Convention – the first Women’s Convention – in 1848 including the drafting of the groundbreaking Declaration Of Sentiments.  And her influence on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony – the greatest unknown partnership in American Women’s History and on feminism in general, is incalculable. But women of the 1600s such as Brent and Anne Hutchinson – called “The Mother of the First Amendment” – who not only stood up to the men in charge but to The Church itself – were radical, independent and challenged authority, making them thoroughly modern women.  Fuller was not the first and not the last.

Amy Simon

Cultural Herstorian

Writer/Performer SHE’S HISTORY! The Most Dangerous Women In America, Then And Now…

(310) 308-0947

Sheshistory.com

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Feb 272012
 


A new and dear friend recently took the plunge – for the second time.  He and his new wife met in church and are very spiritual.  I planned to give him a wedding gift of “The Gift Of The Magi” – my favorite O Henry short story, which always symbolized to me what marriage is about; devotion, sacrifice, self-less ness – and – pure love.  It’s set in the early 1900s and is about a newlywed couple. He decides to sell his prized possession – his father’s watch – to buy his wife beautiful combs for her beloved hair.   She decides to cut her hair – her prized possession – and sell it to buy him a beautiful chain for his beloved watch.  This is the gift I gave my husband when I naively and ecstatically married him. 13th 1991 would have been our twentieth anniversary. He didn’t get O Henry. Another missed cue.

I entered marriage blindly.  My parents were married for over sixty years.  They went through everything and survived.  They fought, they threatened divorce, they were miserable – and happy?  They came out of the Depression and are Jewish so what is happy?   And they just hung in there.  They survived tragedy, job loss, three daughters, women’s lib, and addiction. They did marriage encounter, the enrichment program focusing on each other – which was major.  I am sure it was my mother’s idea.  It was the seventies. My father went through the twelve-step program over forty years ago when I was just in elementary school.  He had a gambling addiction but learned to deal with his feelings – which the recovery process forces you to do (and has not gambled since) so we went to the Gamblers Anonymous family program – and I learned a little about therapy.  I was thirty-seven years old when I met, fell in love with and married my “prince” and thought I was prepared to work on our marriage and never take it for granted. And of course, I thought it would be forever.

But now.  Wow.  Now of course, I see.  What I missed during that dizzying endorphin filled insanely romantic courtship.  Two months after our first date, we attended a wedding and got engaged when I caught the bouquet and he caught the garter. (He was separated from his first wife at the time).  It was a love cloud of ignorance and selective vision.  He was so smart, handsome, charming, British and Jewish.  There were signs, but I didn’t see that he was running away – from his country, his soon-to-be-ex-wife, and his debt.  I believed him when he told me that he was the victim of England’s bad economy and a horrible wife who did not understand him.   I was, like a criminal’s mother, in denial.  MY child/friend/school/government…. would – could NEVER do…. THAT!

Twenty years later, he has done it now in reverse:  Run back to his country and away from his responsibilities – and massive debt – here.

I did not realize the LEGAL implications of marriage.  Really. Of course, HE DID.  HE is a lawyer who knows how to work the system and he is masterful at it.  And the family legal system is so dysfunctional and pathetically easy to manipulate.  I did not understand that we were bound together. Legally.  And of course a year and a half after we married when I gave birth to our first daughter, and three years later to our second, my legal and financial fate was sealed.  Yes, motherhood sealed my financial legal bond with him – according to the court – at least until the children turned eighteen.

So I have thought so much about marriage since my divorce seven years ago.  I hate to watch weddings on TV and am completely conflicted about the institution itself.  Do I believe in it anymore?  I don’t know.  I have many – MANY – unhappily and apathetically married FEMALE friends who I have heard say they could walk away and be OK.  I watched and watch them work and struggle and argue and suffer and weigh the pros and cons of their marriage.  And I am jealous.  But many times I think, “I am SO GLAD I am not married!”

When I think, “I will never have that married forever, intimate, shared historic familial togetherness,” I am so sad.  Especially when I think about the future – looking through rose-colored glasses and seeing; the kids come over with the grandchildren and we all have dinner that I beautifully prepare with fresh herbs from the garden that maybe they planted in the same house they grew up in.  What a lovely fantasy.  And I am so envious at back to school night or a religious event, or a high school soccer game where I see couples that I have known for as long as I have been a mom.  I envy them their togetherness. Then I look again and I wonder:  “Are you happy?  Are you having sex?  Does that matter?  Do you resent and/or appreciate your partner?  Is it a good partnership?  Are you on the same page morally?  Have you grown apart? IS IT WORTH IT?  Do you fantasize (as I did) about leaving your marriage”?  These discontented married and mostly mothers –  woman friends – not all – but enough – are – and have been (as I was) feeling unappreciated, undervalued, lost, unsatisfied, and the BIGGIE – TRAPPED.   Trapped.  Just as Betty Freidan’s wives and mothers felt when she wrote about them in the groundbreaking The Feminine Mystique back in the sixties.   The book came out of writing a magazine article on woman’s roles based on a questionnaire she gave to her sister Smith College graduates at a fifteen-year reunion.  They were not happy.  They felt trapped.   Betty Freidan famously identified it as The problem that has no name.

Well, Victoria Woodhull – the first woman to run for President in 1872 – had MANY names for marriage. Slavery, monarchy, injurious, and the most terrible curse for which humanity now suffers entailing more misery sickness and premature death than all others combined. Ok, that was more than one name.  And she married three times!

And Frances Wright – the first woman to speak in public in 1828 (and got crucified for it) said: Marriage, where the law allows robbery and all but murder against the unhappy female, who swears away, at one and the same moment, her person, and her property, as but is too often, her peace, her honor and her life. She succumbed in her thirties to the marriage myth and married a French man who promptly took her vast fortune and daughter when they divorced.

And Julia Ward Howe – 1860s poet/writer/activist and mother of six who wrote The Battle Hymn of The Republic (for five bucks!) said… Marriage, like death, is a debt we owe to nature, and wrote in her diary that she

had never known her husband to approve of any of the activities that she herself valued. She woulda divorced him but back then would have lost her children.

As a Cultural Herstorian – I could go on.

So does marriage work?  How much do you have to give up?  IS IT WORTH IT – the compromise, sacrifice, constant negotiating?  I LOVE the idea of having a partner.  And I want one.  I am pretty sure I know what it takes and how to be – a good partner.  I was one for thirteen years.   I worked hard.  I kept my vows.  I was a good wife. I have had enough therapy, especially marriage counseling, to know that you have to take the whole package.  Figure out what you can live with, what you need – or as I think of it – pick your pain.

I am leaning toward what Katharine Hepburn said:  Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other.  Perhaps they should live next door and visit now and then. She was the daughter of a suffragist, a great actress and quite the adulteress.

So what to give my friend for a wedding gift?  Oy.  I just cannot decide between “The Gift of The Magi” or a California Pizza Kitchen Gift Certificate.

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