Like manna from heaven, several projects have hit the airwaves and graced the rialto as of late featuring some incredibly strong female performances. In what can sometimes feel like crawling through a desert wasteland searching for a good role, not only to play but to watch, I was recently planning a night of theatre with friends and having to choose between The Little Foxes, War Paint, or A Doll’s House Part 2. At home later that week, I pondered ‘Ok, now that I’m all caught up on “Feud: Bette and Joan”, is the new “The Handmaid’s Tale” out yet?’ All of that, AND Edie Falco’s on her way back to TV for a hot second. (#PrayerWorks) How marvelous to see so many female driven stories enjoying such critical and commercial success. It’s not only seeing great work being done by actors I admire that inspires me. Many of these stories being told about women right now seem to have a common underlying theme connecting them. It was recognizing that theme which helped me to make a decision regarding the marvelous idea I had for my birthday this year.
As someone obsessed with Bette Davis and Jessica Lange (and on most occasions Susan Sarandon), friends will attest that I was anxiously awaiting “Feud” for almost a year. Nothing about the real life history of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford conveyed in the miniseries was new to me, nor did I find the dramatic licenses the writers took in telling the story terribly irksome. What I truly loved was the portrait Ryan Murphy painted of those two women at that stage of their lives and careers. It made one contemplate how much stronger they would have been as allies instead of enemies. I was even more enamored of the vulnerability that Lange and Sarandon brought to Crawford and Davis respectively. Lange described the series as an exploration of “ageism and sexism, and how you either survive it or you don’t.” By the time the series ended, not just actresses but many women I spoke to had enjoyed it very much. They also found themselves disappointed over how little seems to have changed since then.
Another ‘stronger together’ story I enjoyed recently was War Paint on Broadway. My weird reaction to War Paint was that I remember leaving the theatre thinking ‘Ok, I had a lovely time. But on paper alone, it really isn't that good of a show.’ And YET, there I was in the days that followed spying back on more and more moments that I enjoyed and parallels that were making me think about the bigger picture of then vs. now. Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole portrayed Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden, both of whom built cosmetic empires at the same time in the United States and went through a lot of the same struggles; discrimination, troubled marriages, heartbreak with their children (or lack thereof). They made attempts to tear each other down and almost destroyed themselves in the process. Like “Feud,” this production also asked the question, ‘How much stronger would they have been had they worked together?’ And again, audience members I’ve talked to experienced disappointment and frustration over how real and present those struggles and prejudices still are for women since the “accomplishments” of those two very incredible pioneers.
Throw Hulu's new adaptation of “The Handmaid’s Tale” into the mix, a speculative fiction depicting a dramatic and menacing takeover by ultraconservatives, and you might just flat out get pissed… and nauseous… and scared at the few moments in the miniseries that seem to be not too far off from our current reality. (Author Margaret Atwood originally published The Handmaid’s Tale in 1986, btdubs.)
So there I was at the beginning of my birthday month wide-eyed at some amazingly talented women (The Little Foxes is also a must-see) with two words at the forefront of my brain: ‘stronger together.’ The idea I had for my birthday was to take advantage of my artist-gypsy lifestyle and put it to some good use. Even living in the same city, scheduling a simple cup of coffee with one person can be difficult. And there are lots of us who have lived and worked in many different places with many different people from around the country and across the globe. I began to theorize how many people that I’ve crossed paths with would be willing to buy me a drink for my birthday if time and distance were not an issue. Assuming that I had charmed a significant number of people in my brief time on the planet, I picked a charity and sent out an S.O.S.: “I’m forgoing an actual party this year. Send my cocktail money to Planned Parenthood!”
It was hard picking just one charity. But the stories I’ve seen recently combined with what’s going on in the world today moved my heart in the direction of Planned Parenthood. PP has been there for me in the past with free exams and free birth control. They warned a dear friend of mine that she was at a higher risk for ovarian cancer making her able to be more on top of that than had she remained unaware. There are so many other women I know personally who have benefitted from PP; I could go on and on. And if certain members of my government want to tell me that getting raped or bringing a human into the world is a “pre-existing condition,” then I feel we have one of two options. 1) We Lysistrata anyone moronic enough to believe this. Or 2) We stand together. We #StandWithPP
My birthday isn’t quite here yet, but already I’ve raised over $1,000! Actually at the time I write this, the dollar amount is the same as Norma Desmond’s address in “Sunset Blvd.”, for anyone who’s a movie nerd like me. I’m overwhelmed by the people near and far who have contributed so eagerly. This birthday fundraiser has taught me two wonderful, heartwarming truths - that I’m blessed with the people I’ve met on my journey thus far, and that there really is more good in the world than bad. I’m posting my link below. When your birthday rolls around, be sure and let me know where to send your drink to.