This blog is being co-authored by my partner in grime, Jeanne Murphy. Jeanne and I met as board members of the Westport Center for the Arts in Kansas City, Missouri. She is half-Irish and half-Polish, raised a Catholic, including 16 years of Catholic schools. (Yes, 16 years.) She is a theatre artist, which means she’s done everything in the theatre. When I met her, she was participating in WCA’s “live staged readings” of A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.
The day I first met her, we were both at a board of directors meeting. She left the room and we all promptly elected her to the board. (She’ll never do that again….) She has a sardonic, sarcastic sense of humor, which makes her my kind of friend.
Jeanne had these incredible dreams of what WCA could be. During our time on the WCA board, she empowered people in the arts world like nobody I’ve met. She created links with various KCMO library branches, set up Kids Team Up For Art, with Stan and Deanna, expanded the “live staged readings” to Readers Theatre, many of which used scripts she created. She inspired the board to enter programs into the Kansas City Fringe Festival, which actually won our house one time. She was (still is) brilliant at making friends and acquaintances in the arts. She guided the theatre projects to inclusivity, with scripts about Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, MLK and Malcolm X, and satire, such as “A Prairie Village Home Companion.”
True story: WCA’s last Fringe Festival entry was a play about immigration, called “ANONYMOUS.” It was written by an honor student of one of her teaching colleagues. The young woman was an illegal immigrant, and interviewed several other immigrants from around the world who had settled in the KC area, then wrote a play for her honors project. It was harrowing, but the cast was amazing and included was a young actor, Vi Nhan Tran, an immigrant from Viet Nam. Over beers, Vi, one of the actors, Valerie, our stage manage, and Jeanne hatched a plan for Vi to write his family’s immigration story, with music (he’s a gifted actor, playwright and musician). It took us over a year of planning and development, but we produced Vi’s play, The Butcher’s Son, and it was a hit. He is still developing it, but it has been seen in Chicago and he took it to western Kansas, where his family settled. It is so cool to have been in on the ground floor of this incredible storytelling.
Jeanne likes books, as do I. (She is the one who introduced me to Carl Hiaasen, God love her.) She is also crafty, and made stuffed toys for the Hallmark line, back when they did that. One of the most fun crafts that she and I did was to create a crèche out of little plastic cowboys, Indians, dragons, and other outlandish creatures.
That was just the beginning for Jeanne. She has since made a “Resurrection Cake” and a dinosaur crèche with her cohort, Greg. (She has never gotten over 16 years of parochial school.…)
Jeanne tells me like it is. One time, we were driving along in KCMO and I was really thirsty and told her so. She asked if I wanted to get an iced tea at a place nearby and I said, “No, I DESPISE orange pekoe tea.” She promptly told me I was a “pain in the ass.”
Jeanne is my only friend who has gone actually shopping with me (except for Katy, who went hat shopping with me a million years ago). We hit all of the thrift shops until they would go out of business. Jeanne would buy shoes, then decide she didn’t like them, and I got them! My favorite store was and is, Half-Price Books. If you’re a book lover, you know what I mean.
I miss being around Jeanne and she hardly ever calls me. I think she must be busy or something….
My dear Pam,
Thank you for shading me with guilt. A cradle Catholic takes to guilt as a duck takes to water. That is how we identify each other.
A mild correction here regarding tea: Her key phrase here was, “I cannot ABIIIIIDE orange pekoe tea.” The pain in the ass part is accurate. But we did drive a mile to a trendy café where she ordered iced tea, which was delivered shortly. I had only one question: What kind of tea is this? Reply: Orange pekoe. [This is true, unfortunately.]
The Readers Theatre programs always involved an adventure. The Readers Theatre rendition of Tom Sawyer was quite an event. It was the first time we had lighting (provided by the stalwart “Moose”), first show in summer – and as we sat down to watch the barely rehearsed (but very good) cast, it started to rain outside. Our fellow board member Bobby commented, “I hope the electricity doesn’t go out.”
We laughed – and then the electricity went out. The actors read the scripts with their cell phone flashlights and a loyal audience stayed with it.
Henceforth almost every endeavor concluded with, “That really didn’t work out like we planned it.”
That was the secret to our conservative success. Readers Theatre needs nothing but some music stands for the scripts, adequate lighting of one or two standing figures and one rehearsal with performers completely unfazed by oddness and inconvenience.
And a good partner in crime with whom honesty can be shared. Our by-word became, “Little old ladies get away with murder.”
Both Pam and I are binge readers, by the way. My latest fixations are the Martin Beck Police stories from Sweden by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (10 total) and the Vera Standhope Mysteries by Ann Cleeves (8 so far). It has been hard to gather all of them – but Thriftbooks has come through for me. Check them out!
Oh! We should really tell you about when we thought we burned a building down. Talk about a guilt reflex!
By the way, please be aware that after moving 600 miles away, Pam joined two choirs, became an officer in a Needlework Guild and something else. What was that again? [I think she means the part where I say, “I’m not really a joiner….”]
So this concludes the first episode of the Pam & Jeanne Show. God help us all….
P.S. Here are pictures of the dinosaur creche: