By June Guralnick
Damn, it’s getting f*ing weird out there! Agent Orange is singing the praises of guzzling bleach, Etsy’s hawking hot COVID jewelry, and today’s headline, “Lobbyists and strip clubs fighting to get PPP Loans,” is a shoe-in for a Lifetime TV movie. Girl, I SO need a dose of your appassionato for the absurd and your demonic sweet smile - like a big carnival sign flashing “Welcome to Beverle’s Funhouse!”
Hell, no, we didn’t use Zo(o)m-bie to catch up a few weeks back, just the good ol’ fashioned phone (thank you, Mr. Bell). We exchanged our theatre ‘what’s up’ news; you finally got to see Hamilton ‘Before the Pandemic’ (B.P.) and I bitched about the fate of my new play, Little ♀. Can you believe I finally summon the chutzpah to write about my less than merry childhood and the blasted drama gets Covid Coitus Interruptus at dress (yeah, I can muster a wry smile at my play’s doomed fate).
I don’t want to go all Now Voyager on you - but your faith in and support of my work these many years have meant more than you’ll ever know.
There’s a scene in Little ♀ where three sisters (Jo, Marge and Aimee) discover the headstone of Beth, the sister they never knew they had. Aimee movingly recites El Maley Rachamin (the Jewish prayer of loss) at her sister’s grave.
At your funeral last week, when the cantor chanted El Maley Rachamim, my gut spilled out. NO, I’m sorry, I can’t follow those orderly six stages of grief, and yes, I’m still angry at you for leaving. If ever there was a time this world needed your enlightened, Theatre Shaman spirit, it’s now.
Theatre and life, Bev…such a thin line.
It would be great to hear a few of those macabre theatre tidbits you always had waiting in the wings. Maybe the one about Shakespeare performing Lady Macbeth when the boy playing the role suddenly died - or how about the permanently bolted seats at the Palace Theatre left empty for ghosts (ostensibly to spook bad actors)?
“You were intellectual – but common,” the cantor told us. For anyone who didn’t know you, that would sound like a putdown. But when I knocked on your college door for advice on how to create a neon Vegas effect on stage (with zero moolah), you took me to the five and dime for Christmas light tubing. Brilliant! Yeah, you were erudite - but you also knew how to make a purse from a sow’s ear (or a sword from a garbage can lid).
You would have gotten a kick out of the costumes, singing and stories at your funeral. But the cantor wore dayglow-green gloves and a mask, and most of us were far away, watching as they lowered your coffin into the ground. Dying during a pandemic – well – you know.
At a virtual “Theatre on Zoom” workshop I barely survived last night, you would have gone ape shit (hell, it was all I could do to not bludgeon my laptop to Microsoft Kingdom Come). Disembodied heads can never replace live theatre! It’s the blood, sweat and tears, bodies listening, laughing and crying TOGETHER, that make theatre powerful and transformational (along with the spit flying from an actor’s mouth on lines like “to be or not to be,” projecting what it means to be a human being on this crazy, spinning planet we call home).
One thing I’m glad you missed - the fifty plus page PACC Guide to Reopening Theatrical Venues I forced myself to read this morning before my head imploded.
Dozens of red, yellow and green charts blinked one message– live theatre is up shit’s creek until this virus has a vaccine. Although the image conjured in my mind of socially distanced audience members dressed in clothing fashioned from garbage bags, sporting ancient Greek tragedy masks painted on their N-95’s, is something I would pay money to see. Masque for a Pandemic, methinks?
A lot of the time now I sit at my desk, jabbing at my frozen-in-fear pen, pretending I still know what day it is - and that stupid things, like not having soft toilet paper (heh – I’ve got Crohn’s so cut me some slack) really matters. One bright spot is that my next play has become crystal clear. In 1919, during the Spanish Flu’s second wave, dissenters in San Francisco formed the Anti-Mask League and held a mass public meeting with over two thousand people. A hundred plus years later – ain’t it grand! – some folks haven’t changed. It will be two acts, each taking place during a pandemic a century apart, and death-gallows-laugh-out-loud! (There’s ‘laughter on call’ now, Bev – people are desperate for comedy.) What other response can a writer have to the insane and dangerous stupidity around us? “There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life” (Frank Zappa).
Oooooh, you’d love this – drive-in movies are popular again and they’re showing musicals! “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise” (Les Miserables). Merci bien!Better run. The wind is howling up a Tempest – prime time to stand in the street and scream without attracting the paddy wagon.
You know I love and miss you, right?
“Thou who dwellest on high, grant perfect rest beneath the sheltering wings of Thy presence, among the holy and pure who shine as the brightness of the firmament unto the soul of Beverle Bloch.” (El Maley Rachamim)
I’ll write again soon, dear Bev.
“For the story is not ended
And the play never done …” (The Fantastiks)
June Guralnick has created plays, performance projects, and large-scale community cultural projects for four decades. Her works have been performed throughout the U.S. – and beamed to the Space Station! Awards include the Silver Medal-Pinter Drama Review Prize, Second Place-Judith Royer Award for Playwriting Excellence, North Carolina Arts Council Literature Fellowship, Southern Appalachian Repertory New Plays winner, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Writing Fellows, Hambidge Center for the Arts Writer-in-Residence, and Sewanee Writers’ Conference Tennessee Williams Scholar (University of the South). This spring June looks forward to facilitating creative writing workshops for veterans through The Joel Fund as well as serving as program coordinator for the Sally Buckner Emerging Writers’ Fellowship. Her new full-length play, LITTLE ♀, will hopefully receive its postponed premiere staged reading at Burning Coal Theatre in partnership with Justice Theatre in the not too distant future. For more info, visit https://juneguralnick.com/