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.

Jun 102011
 

A MAY ZING 2011
THREE SHOWS THREE DAYS TWO CITIES THREE VENUES
NO ROADIES

Sunday May 22nd
My Sunday morning audience:  Eighty beautifully dressed, red-hatted well-fed, fifty years and older lovely ladies of The Red Hat Society (www.redhatsociety.com). I booked this gig at Sze Chwan – a Chinese Restaurant in the Los Angeles suburb of Canoga Park before I was asked to perform two shows two days later in New York City – my hometown – at the Mama Expo (www.mamaexpo.com) on May 24th.  So.  Sunday morning, I load up the car, journey to “the valley” pull up, unload, am surrounded by a sea of red hats, set up, wait for lunch to be over, do the show (which went really well),

strike the set which includes the slide projector, speakers, costumes, props etcetera, get paid, load up and jump in the car – grab a sandwich and head home.  Unpack, re-pack for the New York shows and get it together.

MONDAY MAY 23rd
Wake up at 4:00AM – get to the airport at 6AM – for a 7:20AM flight – on which I get stuck in the middle seat.  Torture. But.  I am bringing my show to New York.  Wow.   Schlep schlep schlep the projector, speakers, laptop and few personal items that filled to the max the one carry-on bag and one personal item allowed (could not, would not, did not risk checking my bags).  The plan is to arrive at 4:00PM – go straight to the theater for tech rehearsal.  I am sharing the show night and the rehearsal with another play that follows mine, and we’re both on another show’s set.  For the uninformed, tech rehearsals are traditionally hell and this one did not disappoint.  Months of planning, negotiating and scheduling had gone into this one tech rehearsal. I had shipped my suitcase of props and costumes ahead to my friend Tom who kindly agreed to meet me at the theater with my show in a suitcase.  After my $55 cab ride from JFK, I checked in to the Excelsior hotel on West 81st Street (one street down from the apartment I had lived in for 10 years as a struggling actress!) and immediately lugged my suitcase to the Drilling Company Theater on West 78th.  Two long long flights up I enter the really sweet “intimate” theater.  It is perfect.  There’s Tom!  Yay!  There’s my suitcase with the cables and adaptors and costumes and props.  I begin setting up and spend an inordinate amount of time figuring out where the screen goes which determines where everything else on the stage goes – including me! The blessing and curse of running my own show is I am technologically empowered, do not have to train – or pay – anyone – to run the show, which includes about 100 slides.  There are lots of transitions, cues and music, which I run with my remote from the stage – it is truly a one-woman show.  After a very arduous and typically trying tech, we get the screen set up – the stage set up – am finally happy and immediately strike, pack up and schlep the TWO suitcases down the two flights of stairs and back to the hotel.  I am wiped out.  Dead.  And starving.  I need a glass of wine and some carbs.  The concierge suggests an Italian restaurant and after walking around trying to find a less swanky one, I go in and order my wine and pasta and – I am a new woman!  Back to the hotel – call home and get the girls on the phone.  They are three hours behind.  I was concerned because my 18-year-old, Rose, was working at Banana Republic and I hated my 14-year-old Ruby eating and being alone on a school night.  I have never left my girls alone for this long before and although I knew my “village” was right there – I still felt guilty.  Ahhh, the curse of the working mother.  But turns out Rose’s shift was changed and they were together. I am so relieved.

I re-organize all the suitcases for tomorrow’s double-header – the first show is at 11AM at the conference.  What is MamaExpo?

MAMA Expo & M.O.M. Conference: Modern Ambassador for Maternal Advancement. Raising Awareness the Museum Of Motherhood (M.O.M.) and Women, (M)others and Families Everywhere. Empowered by Mamapalooza & hosted by Marymount Manhattan University, New York Parks Dept.

The conference is organized by a magnificent magnet of all things mothers and marvelous – Joy Rose, the founder of Mamapalooza, (www.mamapalooza.com), and The Museum of Motherhood (www.museumofmotherhood.org). “Just get here, I’ll do the rest.” Joy told me back in January, when she asked me to bring SHE’S HISTORY! to the conference.  So there I was – a “presenter” at the three day Conference – right smack in the middle of all these really fascinating and accomplished and cool cool cool women http://www.motherhoodmuseum.org/ConferenceSchedule_11.html AND she got me an evening show the same night.  I got TWO slots at the conference.

TUESDAY MAY 24th
Wake up all excited.  SO excited.  Shower, Pilates, forced some breakfast down and grab the suitcases, a latte, a cab and am on my way to Marymount Manhattan College on East 71st Street.  It is almost 10AM and my cell rings.  It is 7:00AM in L.A. and it is the 18-year old.  “Mom?  I did not sleep – my throat hurts and I’m gonna kill the cat”.  She goes on for a while – I am not focusing as we are nearing the destination.  “Honey, I can’t talk. Gargle with salt and warm water, make the ginger lemon honey drink.   Feel better.”  I feel guilty as I pay the $10 fare.  The helpful young gals at the reception desk have my badge and conference bag and I ask them if they know who the first woman to run for President was.  As usual, no one knows – Geraldine Ferraro’s name is offered and I tell them a bit about the show and am escorted up to the room where I will be presenting.  It is a beautiful room.  There is Joy Rose and six or so other women sitting in a circle.  Their session before mine is still going on and it is the discussion of the ongoing activities and future of The Museum Of Motherhood.  “Come join us” Joy invites me and I can hardly focus on what is a really interesting conversation about the goals and identity and branding of this fabulous museum.  All I can think of is how long it will take me to set up the room. The session ends and I swing into action – setting up the projector, the laptop – the speakers… unpacking the suitcase and setting up the props and costumes.  A nice young college student helps me as does an old friend – Jessica – from my comedy days in NYC who is also in Mamapalooza.  A sociology professor from Hunter College arrives – she is a history buff and feminist and was told about the show.  I greet her.   A few other people show up and there is Joy right in the front row with her phone/camera and beautiful energy.  She introduces me; I take a deep breath and begin.  I love doing the show.  I love watching the audience become entertained and moved and engaged and surprised by all the information and stories.  When I finish, they applaud loud and long and we have a Q&A where older women (pioneers) in the audience typically tell me of the gender discrimination they faced in their lives and brag of their accomplishments and I am once again reminded of why I go to all this trouble.

But – no time for glory basking.  Must turn the room over, so while Joy gets us lunch, I unplug, strike, and pack up, all the while trying to chat with the Hunter College professor who is blown away and keeps telling me what a wonderful teacher I am and that “your performance was an example of creative teaching at its best.”   I am so moved.  We talk about Sojourner Truth (who of course is in the show) and the power of theater.  I feel like I always do after a performance of SHE’S HISTORY!   So high.  So so high.  There is no drug like post performance.

Joy returns and we sit with her conference partner – Lynne – another fabulous female and we talk about how exhausted we are and how fabulous but ambitiously planned and amazingly executed the conference turned out to be.  A beautiful colorfully dressed woman comes in and Joy introduces us.  She is Barbara Glickstein – one of the next presenters.  (Barbara is an RN, MPH, MS, Co-Director of the Center for Health, Media and Policy at Hunter College, a public health nurse, broadcast journalist and global activist).  Joy tells her about SHE’S HISTORY! and when asked which women are in my show (there are about 30) I hand her my playbill.  “Oh”, she says, perusing it.  “Lucretia Mott.  I know her great-great-great-granddaughter” and proceeds to tell me about the yardstick that Lucretia’s father – Thomas Coffin – used to measure cloth.  I am now literally hyperventilating as I ask, “does she live here?” And the next thing I know she promises to try and e-connect us.

Time to go – grab another cab back to the hotel where I return calls, check emails, and actually rest for the two hours until the next show.  I refuel with the help of Starbucks and schlep schlep over to The Drilling Company Theater.  It is 6PM.   Lug lug up the two long flights and no one is in the theater.  Yay!  I set up in silence, happy for the peace and focus.  After a bit I am joined by the owner, Hamilton Clancy, and two theater lovers bond.  Then Joy and Lynne arrive with the wine and cheese.  Sebastian – who is running the lights – arrives and we go over my opening cue.  The audience is now squeezing into the teeny tiny lobby. Space in New York City is the ultimate commodity.   It is 6:40 and I am ready. We need to open the house.   In my Bella Abzug costume, I grab the remote, which I use to run the show, and bolt for the tiny backstage room.  Shut the door.  This is the hard part now.  Waiting.  Waiting and hearing the audience milling and murmuring just on the other side of the door which I open a crack and sneak peeks as friends and family and colleagues make their way up the stairs to be greeted by Joy and Lynne who offer wine and cheese. I love a well-fed slightly buzzed audience. The energy is electric.  I am pacing in circles when I spot the framed poster on the wall.  It is a quote by Margaret Mead.  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I am immediately moved to tears. This quote closes the show.  It is a sign.  Grabbing my flip, and with an emotional commentary, I shoot the sign.

It is show time.  Joy has done the intro.  “They are all ready for you,” she says.  I enter the theater, click my remote for the first musical cue (“Que sera sera”) and here we go. The place is packed.  I do my thing and I love it.  They seem to love it too.  As I perform I spot all sorts of people.  My sister Barbara, my former acting teacher Lenore who is helping me develop the show, my friend Jimmy from Long Island who taught me how to French kiss when I was fifteen; my old boyfriend and his lovely girlfriend.

I take my bow – make my speech thanking everyone for coming and explain how I have to turn the theater over immediately to the next show.  With the help of my friend Doug, we strike my stuff and minutes later I am outside with a glass of wine enjoying my friends and sister and so so so happy.


(left to right) Robin – the lovely girlfriend of my former boyfriend Twad (yes that is his name), Twad, Doug, my sister Barbara and behind her Joe- her husband, Tom Corozza, friend Amy Stiller, ME, old friend Bob Greenberg, friend Terrie Mintz and her friend….

WEDNESDAY MAY 25th
Wake up still so so so so happy and craving pancakes.  Grab some and another cab and hightail over to the conference.  It is the last day and the only day for me to attend any sessions.  It was so hard to pick and choose but I chose Elena Skoko.  Here is the description.

Memoirs of a Singing Birth. Singer and artist Elena Skoko shares her life and discoveries on the path to motherhood that takes her from Croatia to Rome, from Rome to Bali in search of the perfect birth. Memoirs of a Singing Birth is a story of a personal quest for natural birth that ends up in a rural village in the heart of the island of Gods with the help of ‘guerrilla midwife’, Ibu Robin Lim. While giving birth, this rock ‘n’ roll woman sang! Her path to motherhood is exotic, adventurous, unusual, but also witty and deeply emotional. This is a story that will leave a trace in your heart changing your perception of birth forever, whether you’re expecting children or not. Memoirs of a Singing Birth is also a personal research of contemporary and forgotten birth practices. You will find out how the author and newborn mother succeeds to overcome the labor pains by using her voice, a practice much easier than one can imagine. The e-book describes in detail and with photos the practice of lotus birth. But most of all, this is a magic love story about a woman, a man and their child. Memoirs of a Singing Birth is published on Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/27398

She sat behind a desk in a classroom and mesmerized me with her story, her singing and especially the bit about eating placenta. She shared the session with writer/performer Anna Fishbeyn
who – like me – has a one-woman show “Sex In Mommyville”.  Here is HER description:

“Sex in Mommyville”. Anna Fishbeyn will perform an excerpt from her show, and discuss the challenges mothers face in maintaining “healthy” sex lives.  “Sex in Mommyville” is a feminist comedy-drama about a neurotic, guilt-ridden, health-conscious, sex-starved Manhattan mom trying to please her high-maintenance children, her lawyer-husband Zeus, and her Russian parents who live upstairs. Add to this mixture failed sex attempts and an article for Bitch Magazine raging against myopic, media-engendered stereotypes and double standards, and you’ve got a fearless portrayal of modern motherhood caught between Feminism and Bridalplasty! www.Sexinmommyville.com

I was SO worried when she began as she was dressed very sexy in a short skirt, fishnet stockings and high heels.  But she totally blew me and everyone else away with her brilliant take on contemporary motherhood and society’s objectifying and devaluing women. I wish I could see the WHOLE show, which she is doing in July at  Manhattan Repertory Theatre.


Anna, Elena and me

The next session was with keynote speaker Phyllis Chessler.
Author of 13 books, feminist, activist and blogger, Phyllis has been active in the women and mother’s movement her entire adult life. This is her third M.O.M. Conference

Mothers On Trial. This is the 25th anniversary edition with eight new chapters. It is still the first and only book of its kind, a book that looks at how women mothers, what happens when good enough mothers are custodially challenged – often by very violent husbands and fathers who prevail more often than not, and whose cause is often assisted by the court system itself. The book documents the heroism and connectedness of mothers, even under tortuous siege. Also this new edition includes chapters which look at legal trends (1986-2011), legal torture, a new chapter about Fathers’ Supremacists groups, an updated international custody chapter, two new chapters about court-enabled incest, a new introduction, a new resources section, and a new closing chapter interview with a leading Manhattan divorce lawyer: “What To Expect When You’re Expecting a Divorce.”

What can I say?  She was brilliant, articulate, passionate, funny, honest, angry and an adoring grandmother!  I could relate so much and felt so validated and supported, as I believe all the mothers in the room felt.  As I have learned from performing “Cheerios In My Underwear” my play about motherhood, there is something so wonderful about being a in a room with people who are going through the same struggle.


Phyllis Chessler and Me!

Maternally and culturally nourished, I went on the next – and last – session of the day.

Ali Smith: Book author, photographer

Momma Love: How the Mother Half Lives. Societies need healthy mothers in order to survive, but they rarely know how to take care of mothers’ needs properly. Momma Love looks at the varying degrees of support that women receive from partners, lawmakers, employers and each other. Photographer Ali Smith shares photographs and the very personal stories of her subjects. The mothers depicted range from famous actors to a survivor of incest who is struggling to put the shattered pieces of herself back together so that she may parent her son well. Through the anecdotal evidence revealed in these women’s stories, greater truths about the way mothers are living and are treated in western society are revealed.

I loved getting to know Ali – who – like me – spent many years in the sexist, ego-driven, male dominated often morally bankrupt music business.  She was in a band; I worked in promotion.  She gave me a signed copy of her wonderful first book “Laws of the Bandit Queens -Words To Live by from 35 of Today’s Most Revolutionary Women”.   What a cool book filled with some of the women I portray in my show and whom she interviewed including Geraldine Ferraro, Pat Schroeder and Alice Walker!  Ali showed us a presentation of her upcoming project Momma Love – about motherhood.

It all ended to soon and exhausted but totally inspired and emotionally overwhelmed – but in a good way – I hugged and kissed all the fabulous females I met and bonded with and hit the hot and crowded streets of Manhattan.

THURSDAY MAY 26th
I chilled.  I just chilled.  The whole damned day.  Ahhhhhh.

FRIDAY MAY 27th
DID YOU HEAR?  I HAD A BEER WITH LUCRETIA MOTT’S…..
Great-great-great-great-granddaughter.  I still cannot believe it. Who is Lucretia Mott?  An extremely fabulous female who has a BIG part in my show and in women’s history!  Huge!  A founding mother, famous abolitionist, ordained Quaker minister  – one of the first women in America to preach in public (Anne Hutchinson tried it in the 1600s and she – the mother of the first amendment – was literally run out of town). After a few emails, Lucretia Coffin Mott’s great-great-great-great granddaughter Marianna invited me to her home.  I was so excited I could barely speak. When I emailed asking if I could I bring her coffee, she replied:  “Too damned hot for coffee.  Bring some chips.  We’re having ale”.

Ale?  Ale? With Marianna Mott?  I am plotzing, kvelling, freaking out.  I arrive at her loft, she buzzes me up and I see a mezuzah on her door – which is a sign that a Jew lives there.  A Jew?  Lucretia Coffin Mott was a famous Quaker.  A Jewish Quaker?  Could she get any cooler? A beautiful blonde woman younger than I greets me.  I see Mott in her face.  I feel I am in the presence of royalty.  She turns out to be a gracious, warm, lovely smart, feminist mommy and total girlfriend.  I fall in love with her.  We drink the ale, we eat the chips, we get to know each other.  She shows me Lucretia’s father’s yardstick.  It is engraved Thomas Coffin with the year 1797.  I am moved to tears.  I’m such a wimp. I have never been in the presence of such an artifact.  She shows me more things, a book with letters between Lucretia and her husband James.  Some photographs and an award her teenage son (a history buff!) received.  It was The Mary Wollstonecraft Award for Excellence In History.  Mary Wollstonecraft – our first femisnits writer of also has a nice part in my show.  The whole intense trip was worth this afternoon.  An hour flies by.  We promise to keep in touch and I float away.


Marianna Mott, the Yardstick and me

Marianna Mott, The Yardstick, a picture of Lucretia, and me

I subway it to the Upper West Side where I hit Zabar’s (the greatest deli on Earth) and stock up on bread and cake. I meet my former acting teacher Lenore DeKoven, who takes me out to a real nice Upper East Side restaurant for a real nice dinner. We discuss the future of SHE’S HISTORY!  Lenore is a tough cookie with the highest of standards and has supported this project from the start.

I leave for home the next day.  Sitting in a quiet JFK Airport on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, sipping wine, I am absolutely struck with what I have accomplished.  Three shows, two days, two states, three venues, no roadies, no problems and I am still miraculously alive. This was the first time I brought a show to New York.  The first time I did not SEE a show in New York.  The first time I went to New York and did not have a pizza or knish or Chinese food.   Instead, I did a show – or two, felt more proud of myself than I can articulate and – I had a beer with a Mott.

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Apr 052011
 

“I truly believe the Soldiers of the Bulldog Brigade would be truly

enlightened by your performance.”

So began an email I received on March 10th – and thought was a joke – until I called Sgt. Rena Key, who sent it and who runs the Equal Opportunity Program for The Bulldog Brigade at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.  She plans events to honor holidays and ethnic backgrounds of the soldiers to create and foster diversity and inclusion on the base.  So she hired me to perform my solo show SHE’S HISTORY! The Most Dangerous Women In America, Then and Now….for the Women’s History Month Observance.  What an honor!

Everyone keeps asking how she found me.  It is a bit unexpected – a Women’s History Show on a military base. … I am registered with the National Women’s History Project (www.nwhp.org) and she found me on their website.

She only gave me two weeks’ notice, and being a Cultural HERstorian, March – (Women’s History Month) is my busiest time.  I am right in the middle of a four-week performance run and both of my daughters have their birthdays in March. Yes, I made my own history – and my oldest was turning 18.  A biggie.   I hate to leave them on their own during the school week. I had not taken the show on the road yet.  But of course I said yes.  And the thought of me – a loud-mouthed left-winged liberal Jewish Feminist on a military base in mostly right wing, Republican conservative Texas was just irresistible.  So, after many emails with the sergeant, it was decided.  I would perform at 10:30AM on Thursday March 24th.  The audience consisted of active duty soldiers – male and female – 18 to 50.  The event also would be open to the community and would include a Fabric Of Women’s History fashion show – yes a fashion show – and a drill by the female soldiers of The Bulldog Brigade.

Arriving in El Paso from Los Angeles for a 10:30AM show required flying in the day before, with a connection through Phoenix.  How will I manage traveling with a slide projector, speakers, laptop, costumes, props and a few personal items without checking anything in?  Cannot risk the airlines losing my show!  I will put the costumes and props and my personal things in one small rolling suitcase and my projector and laptop with my purse in the carry-on.  It will be a challenge.

In the middle of all this of course are the birthdays and my almost-18-year-old is holding her breath daily waiting to hear from colleges.  My house is bursting at the seams with expectations, anticipation, activities and those ever-present hormones, which I cannot seem to dodge.  Tuesday night we celebrate my daughter’s birthday.  She is now legal, can vote, sign for herself and is officially an adult.  We order chicken soup and potato pancakes (her favorite) for dinner and watch “Dancing With the Stars.”  She is happy.  I am all packed and ready to go in the morning.  My just turned 14-year-old is disappointed to learn I will only be gone for one night.  Hmmm.   The morning comes and my 14-year-old tries to go to school wearing an inappropriate (sexy) shirt that I have already taken away from her, and she had the audacity – and stupidity – to retrieve it.   When I order her to “take it off and leave it in my room,” she goes ballistic, banging on my closed bedroom door and yelling — resulting in her being grounded for the weekend.  Ahhh, motherhood.  She skulks off to school and I am off to the airport with my show-in-a-suitcase, praying that I will be allowed on without checking my bags.

Schlep schlep schlep, lug lug lug – this is the travel theme for me.  I hold my breath at the entrance to the jet way – will the agent let me and my very full second carry on item containing my slide projector and laptop – crucial show elements – aboard?  I am sweating, heart racing….I get through.  Ahhhhhhh.

The flight to Phoenix is fine – but I accidentally spill my water in my bag housing my slide projector!  Panic-stricken, I mop up what I can and pray for technological intervention.  SHE’S HISTORY! is a multi-media show with about 88 slides of many of the fabulous females.  I make the connection in Phoenix to El Paso, and the plane is a teeny tiny cigar plane on which my very full show-in-a-suitcase will not fit.  I have to leave it at the bottom of the jet way and am promised it will be there when I arrive in El Paso.

Seated in a teeny tiny windowless window seat that does not go back,  I talk myself out of a claustrophobia attack.  It’s only a 50-minute flight. I have traveled to London from Los Angeles for 13 hours with two toddlers (which inspired the title of my first play: Cheerios In My Underwear).  But it was in first class.  Oh – those were the days…actually I would rather do this than that as on the other end of THAT trip was horrible jet lag for days with toddlers, icky English weather and the prison that was my mother-in-law’s flat, which she ran with anal retentive intensity. On the other end of this was a performance of my show for active-duty soldiers.  As I eat my squished peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I contemplate the sudden turn of events in my life and again thank my deadbeat ex-husband.  If he hadn’t left, I wouldn’t be doing this.  I work on the school program I am creating about the 1800s, and barely get started when we begin our descent.

My show-in-a suitcase and I DO arrive safely and intact at El Paso.  Everywhere I look I see military – the governor’s welcoming announcement over the airport public address invites us to stop all soldiers we see and thank them.  I will.

I roll my oh so heavy and awkward show-in-a-suitcase and carry on containing my slide projector, laptop, etcetera out of the airport and there she is!  I was not expecting fatigues – but she is a soldier. The sergeant I have been talking for two weeks.  We hug, she takes my bags and we get in the car and proceed to the base, which she said was five minutes away but actually is more like twenty.   She is my tour guide to military life, explaining the quarters, barracks, buildings, lingo. I have never been on a base, and it is starkly barren and dull and sterile and male.  Oh so male.  She casually mentions that she is shipping out to Afghanistan in September.

I wanted to check out the performing space – to see how I would set up the show.  We arrive at our final destination.  The dining hall – or as they call it – the defect.  Yes, I am performing in the dining hall.  There is a beautiful theatre on the base but……

I am immediately intimidated by all the soldiers in their fatigues and struck by the institutionalism of it all.  I didn’t know WHAT to expect.  SO many YOUNG men and woman.  All so very friendly and curious and helpful and all calling me Ma’am.

The sergeant could not have been more accommodating, carrying my bag and offering me food from the dining hall, which smells like a yummy hot dog and reminds me of college and high school.  She is a single working mother of three and already my hero.  She volunteers to go back to the car to get my slide projector and laptop so I can have a technical run-through, for which I am very grateful.  She enlists some soldiers to help move tables and we figure out where and how, and my prayers were answered.  The slide projector turns on and all goes well.  She tells me she is expecting 50-100 people.

I am starving and exhausted but really happy that my equipment made it unscathed.  She finally drives me back to my hotel – it is now going on 8:00PM and I am fried. My daughter calls me distraught.  She has been rejected from another college.  She wants to chat and wants me to comfort her.  I cannot.  I feel guilty.  The sergeant and I discuss motherhood and the challenges our ovaries have presented us.  We have now bonded.  I get up the courage to ask her about Libya and we have a very interesting conversation.  It is fascinating for me to hear her point of view, which I expected to be pro-war.  We agree she will pick me up at 8:30AM for the 10:30AM show and promises a stop at Starbucks on the way.

I check in – a nice Radisson and cannot remember the last time I was alone in a hotel.  I am exhausted, excited and elated to learn there is a nice little restaurant right there at the hotel.  I unload my stuff – grab my script, leave my phone in the room and go to the restaurant, where I immediately order a well-deserved $8 glass of Chardonnay.  Three sips later I am tipsy and looking forward to my enchiladas, which do not disappoint.  I devour my meal while working on my script and go for a nice walk around the hotel after dinner.  A pool!  Two pools – one indoor and a hot tub! Oh!  Did not bring my bathing suit.

Back to the room; check on the girls – my elder at work – she got a part-time job (at my insistence) at the Banana Republic at the mall, which is less than a mile away – walking distance.  She tells me she got a ride there and back as there was a MAJOR rainstorm.  The petulant 14-year-old is tight lipped but home safe and sound.   I take a long hot bath in a very short tub, and pass out with a 6:30AM alarm set.

Two seconds later it is 6:30AM.  Well actually 5:30AM, with the time change.  I am dragging my ass but still do my Pilates, shower, run some lines, watch the news that is mostly about Elizabeth Taylor passing away and pack up.  I am a nervous wreck as I order breakfast and wait for the sergeant.  She is late, which gives me time to print out my boarding pass for the after-show flight, and finally we are off to the base.

The doors are locked – all sorts of security on the base – I noticed when I left the building the doors would automatically lock.  The sergeant is bummed and begins banging on the door.  We get in and begin setting up and it is like any other show, busy, chaotic and exciting.  The sergeant is very much in charge and starts the rehearsal.  The program includes a “Fabric of Women’s History” fashion show with six female civilian volunteer models.  Ahhh, a fashion show.  Why is it that we as a culture cannot seem to have a serious conversation about women without attire creeping in?  One volunteer model flaked, so the sergeant takes her place, changing out of her fatigues into a beautiful colonial cream-colored belle of the ball costume.  She is sexy and feminine. The costumes, donated by the Old Fort Bliss Museum are fabulous and authentic.

This is part of the narrative that the sergeant crafted with the help of the National Women’s History Project:

We are here today to honor, celebrate, and relive some of the historical and present day contributions of women. We are reminded of their courage in their struggle to change the hearts and minds of people around the world. As stated by the national women’s project – although women’s history is intertwined with the history shared with men, several factors – social, religious, economic, and biological –have worked to create a unique sphere of women’s history. The stories of women’s achievements are integral to the fabric of our history.  Today, let’s take a glimpse of Women’s strength through fabric. (SOLDIERS IN VINTAGE ATTIRE WALK OUT AND DO MODEL STANCES AS NARRATOR READS THE FOLLOWING): Designer Katherine Hamnett once said, “Clothes create a wordless means of communication that we all understand.” Today the soldiers of the Bulldog Brigade will exemplify women’s tenacity, courage, and creativity throughout the centuries- displaying fashion of women’s clothing truly a tremendous source of strength. Let’s give a round of applause to the Southern belles, the flapper dresses, the wide leg bell bottoms, the 1920’s, 40’s, 50’s 60’s, 70’s and clothing associated with those who uphold the supreme law of the land- our Supreme Court judges.

I am moved by the sincerity of it all and to my surprise, really enjoy the fashion show.  Then it’s time for The Soldier’s Creed.  Several female soldiers in full army fatigue carrying rifles file in and re-enact some sort of drill that is very loud and scary to me. One at a time, they shout out   “I AM A UNITED STATES SOLDIER! I WILL NEVER LEAVE MY POST” and similar sayings.  It is all so foreign to me. I am a military virgin after all.  It is very serious and aggressive.  They are trained to fight.  That is very clear.  But they are so young and innocent under all that artillery. I cannot believe I am here.

“Where is the audience?” I ask the sergeant, as we are five minutes from show time and the only people there are a few soldiers and those participating in the show.  The sergeant is embarrassed.  The turnout is not what she expected.  A few people file in and the show begins.  I am introduced and I perform.  All goes well despite the failure of my body mike — I am a trained theatre professional and I project. The whole time I was performing, I was acutely aware of my audience.  The show is chock full of true stories of incredibly courageous women  – real fighters – who faced obstacles, beat down barriers and struggled so much at great personal sacrifice.  As I looked into the faces of these military women, I could not help but wonder what kind of challenges they experience daily as females in the military.  I always feel an enormous responsibility to the women I portray and talk about when I do the show.  I was absolutely struck by the meaningfulness of this performance for this audience.  More soldiers filled the dining hall, and when I finish and take my bow – I get a standing ovation.  I am very touched.  Then – the sergeant takes the mike and proceeds to have a plaque presentation.  I was shocked and moved to tears when she presented a plaque to me.

3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team

1st Armored Division

Certificate of Appreciation

Is Awarded to

Amy Simon

SHE’S HISTORY!!!!

For your diligence and loyalty displayed through your willing support of the 3rd IBCT, 1st AD Women’s History Month Observance

on 24 March 2011.

Wow.   It is such an honor.  After the show, several soldiers and other audience members approach me, praising my performance.  The education program manager of the museum who donated the costumes was amazed.  “That was incredible!  Do you have a video of the show?  I would run it at the museum.”  I don’t, I tell her, but you can bet I hope to eventually.  A teenager approaches me.  She looks to be about 15 and as she starts speaking her voice is hoarse and raspy and she is a bit shaky.  “I am sick”, she said – so I step back.  “But I am so glad I came,” she whispers.   Then her mouth starts quivering.  “When I grow up, I want to be the president.”  She starts crying.  I have affected her.  I have inspired her.  I do a whole thing in the show about Victoria Woodhull, the first woman who, in 1872, ran for president (that no one knows about, of course).  “Well, you can be the President,” I hear myself say, my voice cracking with emotion.   She has affected and inspired me. “You can absolutely be the president.  What is your name and how old are you?”  She is 16 and I can’t remember her name.  “All you need is courage and the will,” I tell her.  “Please go to my website and contact me and I will send you some books.”  I wanted to hug her.

I strike my set and costumes and pack everything up and and on my way out more soldiers congratulate me and tell me how much they enjoyed the show.  A female soldier in fatigues catches me at the exit and tells me how much she loved the show, and then she said: “Ya know, last month was Black History Month and we were all expected to go to the event,” which she explains was given high priority, was held in the theater and apparently very well attended by all sorts of brass.  “And here it is Women’s History Month and you’re performing in the Defect.”  She was pissed.  Yup.  Well, I am not surprised.  The military is not known for its appreciation of women.  And I now have seen it and felt it firsthand.

I meet the sergeant outside – it is 1:00PM and we are off to the airport for my 3:00PM flight.  I am filled with post-show adrenaline and very proud and honored.  She is upset about the low turnout and the fact that none of the higher ups attended.  But – she is having a birthday party for her four-year-old daughter and has to rush home.  Duty calls.

I get to the airport, lugging and schlepping my even heavier bag as my plaque is made of stone and weighs about 15 pounds.  But it is my new treasured possession.   I just get through the long slow security line when some guy behind me mouths off about the screening process and they shut the whole thing down.  We all have to wait while this guy gets the full treatment, a very public body search – complete with the “junk touching” that even I could feel.  Whooof.  Never mouth off in an airport security line.  I am upset about this obviously inappropriate mis-use of power and how it unnecessarily inconvenienced so many, but I am still high from the show and I know there is a cold beer and a taco waiting for me once we are allowed through.

I am so happy and relieved and I get on the teeny tiny cigar plane, reliving the show, get to Phoenix with its two-hour layover, but I don’t care.  I try to nap but am over excited so get a latte and plan on working but – as luck would have it – my 5:00PM flight is delayed.  For three hours.  I am quite sick of schlepping my bags and of airports and traveling in general….finally arrive back in Los Angeles at 10:30PM to a monsoon rainstorm.  Exhausted but happy, I carefully drive home, pull in to my driveway at 11:30PM, see the backyard lights NOT ON as I instructed – just an open invitation to the burglars I keep telling my girls.  Oy.  Unload the car and hear “mom is that you”?  My 18-year-old wakes up.  “Yes honey, I am unloading – go back to sleep.”  I place my prized plaque prominently on the dining room table.  The house smells of wet dog.  We have a cat.  I’m concerned. Kiss my sleeping daughters, take a hot shower, cuddle my cat and go to sleep.  I did it.  I entertained the troops.  I can’t believe it.  I drift off thinking about the emotional 16-year-old who wants to be president.  I would have done the whole thing just for her.

Sergeant Rena Key, another soldier and Amy Simon

Officer Williams, the highest-ranking female Officer on the base

A very nice soldier who was our technical helper. Didn’t get his name.

A lovely community volunteer singing The National Anthem.

The Plaque!

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Jan 132011
 

“The Joy – The Oy – Of Motherhood”.

Amy Simon

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men AND WOMEN are created equal”.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (and Lucretia Mott) Declaration of Sentiments First Women’s Convention 1848 Seneca Falls, New York

“When you’re at work, you think of the children you’ve left at home.  When you’re at home, you think of the work you’ve left unfinished.  Such a struggle is unleashed within yourself, your heart is rent”.

Golda Meir, Israel’s First Female Prime Minister 1948

“Any woman who understands the problems of running a home is that much nearer to understanding the problems of running a country”.

Margaret Thatcher – First Female Prime Minster of England 1980s

“The real obstacle to equality is not the vote but the division of lifestyles between men and women…”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton – 1800s

“Oh, if only you were born a boy”.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s father, Judge Daniel Cady  1826

“Female Suffrage causes a sexual state of war”.

Wendell Phillips 1850s Abolitionist – 1850s

I come before you to declare that my sex are entitled to the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Victoria Woodhull – Mother and The First Woman To Run For President in 1872

“…women had to be organized to gain an equal share of political power if they were to improve their economic and social status”.

Congresswoman Bella Abzug 1970s

“Government sponsored childcare is a communistic subversion of the traditional family.”

President Nixon vetoing Bella Abzug and Shirley Chilshom’s  Childcare Act of 1971

“A wife in the workforce threatens the very structure of family life itself”.

Ronald Reagan 1980s

“The Price Of Motherhood, Why The Most Important Job In The World Is Still The Least Valued”  2001

Anne Crittenden – (who is a New York Times Reporter and Pulitzer Prize Nominee) after leaving the “paid” workforce to become a mother, wrote this book in response to being asked at a dinner party – “Didn’t you used to be Anne Crittenden?”

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