Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Way I Am

I missed it at the New Orleans Fringe Festival, so I caught it here.

Not that I wouldn't have loved a chance to stop by the Bridge Lounge while in NOLA, but I didn't need to go that far.

"The American Girl Project" was being presented at The Shop, that random building that sits in Plant Zero's parking lot.

And it's a hell of a lot cheaper to get there than to the Big Easy.

Last time I'd been to the Shop, it had been for a video film festival way back in 2008.

Tonight was live theater courtesy of two (what else?) American girls.

With a series of scene cards, two suitcases and a coat tree of props, Kerry and Becca took us on a whirlwind romp through women's history in an attempt to figure out what makes the American girl who she is today.

They began by hanging up photos of some of their favorite men: David Byrne, John Lennon, Poe, Groucho and Alan Alda, to name a few.

From there, PBRs were passed out to a few in the audience, but I wasn't among them.

To be fair, I probably didn't look like the beer type.

The first scene was "Silent Movie: Annie" which introduced us to Becca as Annie Oakley, putting on her red lipstick (and without a mirror - impressive) and reaching out to shake hands in the audience, including mine.

When there was shooting, Kerry held up a sign that read "bang."

It was a silent movie, after all.

Another scene was called "Dress Code: Kerry and Becca" and each described her wardrobe preferences.

I'm with Kerry, who said she prefers shorts or short skirts to show off her legs.

Next was "Dress Code: Jackie" about JFK's wife's wardrobe and, yes, a pink suit was part of it.

Then there was "The Phone Call: Dorothy" and we were introduced to our third significant woman, Dorothy Parker.

She answered the phone with, "Dorothy Parker's residence. The newly resurrected speaking."

Ah, there is nothing like DP humor ("The typewriter is glaring at me" she says about being on deadline and idea-less).

We saw "The Interview: Annie" about the sharp shooter being interviewed by Buffalo Bill Cody, insisting that she'll appeal to audiences because she's a woman.

In fact, she chooses skirts over pants to make sure she reminds people she's a woman.

I do the same, lest anyone forget.

"List of Tricks: Kerry and Becca" was brilliant - a chance for each to sing her own praises, something far too many women do far too infrequently.

And theirs were worthy of praise, to be sure.

Kerry said she could hold her liquor and start a conversation with anyone.

Becca said she could sing and dance and she was very bendy.

Honestly, "List of Tricks: Annie" didn't have anything on our girls' bag of tricks.

One of the wittiest scenes was "A Poetry Reading: Dorothy" where we heard her classic "Resume."

Razors pain you
Rivers are damp
Acids stain you
And drugs cause cramp
Guns aren't lawful
Nooses give
Gas smells awful
You might as well live

For "A Poetry Reading: Kerry and Becca" we heard a couple of poems from Kerry, including the poignant "Some Other Girl's Song," which Becca praised.

"Everyone likes sad poetry," Kerry joked.

Becca's poem, "When I was Young," came in song and plant form (she referenced rosemary, pansies and rue) as she played guitar.

We saw a scene of Annie's first shot at eight years old (she got the squirrel right between the eyes) and Jackie leading a tour of the recently redecorated White House.

What was cool was that Kerry and Becca traded off roles, so they both played Annie, Jackie and Dorothy, just at different times.

When it came time for "A Drinking Game: Dorothy," the girls began handing out PBRs in earnest and this time even non-beer drinking me was given one.

The game was that Becca was singing "Roxanne" and every time she sang the name "Roxanne," Kerry/Dorothy had to take a drink.

Every time Becca sang the words "red light," the audience had to take a drink.

"It's gonna get a little dicey at the end," Kerry warned.

Within seconds, the sound of two dozen beer cans being opened was heard.

Since I don't drink beer, I couldn't do my part but everyone else was having too much fun to notice.

By the end of the game, a drunken Dorothy poured drinks on her own head, proclaiming, "I win!"

The show finished with "A Complicated Dance" with a medley of woman-based songs seguing into each other and causing the two to dress as one character only to have to rip off the outfit and dress for another character.

At one point, the music was the Material Girl and Kerry said, perplexed, "We're not even doing Madonna!"

As it wound down, they were both on the floor and the music ended with "Once in a Lifetime" and the repeating lyric, "Same as it ever was."

So by the end of the production, without doing a formal summary or putting too much of a bow on it, we'd concluded that an American girl's life is pretty much the same as it ever was.

Seems we American women have the unique skills and determination of an Annie Oakley, the grace, culture and willingness to stand by our man like a Jackie and the pleasure-seeking, talent and self deprecation that a Dorothy did.

And some of us cloak all that in short skirts and tights, others in lace and belts and others in carpet platforms, each of us perfectly comfortable with our choices.

From this grown-up girl's perspective, that's the quintessential American girl characteristic.

To quote the inimitable Dorothy Parker:

But I shall stay the way I am
Because I do not give a damn

Same as it ever was, but better, too.

At least that's how this American girl sees it.

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