Upon commencing college I was quickly introduced to the two books named above and the television show a few years later. Together with a number of other inputs my twenties were a wake up call about taking the reins on life. Children have very little power. The point of maturation into adulthood is about taking charge of how to live life on your own terms and not be alienated in the process.
'Women and Economics' put forth a practical Utopian view of a sisterhood who does for themselves penned by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The second by Virgina Woolf speaks for itself, advocating that without a private interior safe space, serious work of any kind is virtually impossible. 'Gilmore Girls' showed how sassy smart senior women can benefit from co-housing. These and other titles blew my mind. Seriously.
Along comes this wonderful LA premiere of a gutsy new play, Grace Mac Leod's 'Herland' which just closed at the Greenway Court Theater. The Greenway has quite its own reputation, celebrating its 20th year promoting cutting edge productions with serious playwrights and seasoned casts including newcomers. 'Herland' is evocative of my early to mid twenties, a fecund time in my life which ironically enough resonates with my life today 30 years later.
'Herland' is up to the minute on gender issues surrounding young and old alike. It is for mature audiences with something for everyone. Part of its roll out premiere was its most recent stop in Los Angeles after having played in San Diego and Chicago to enthusiastic reception.
After the performance Gladys Bautista with her supportive uncle on the left and cousins to the right.
HERLAND tells the story of Natalie, played by Gladys Bautista seen above after the performance at Greenway Court Theater (housed in an original Golden Age of Hollywood Bungalow production facility.)
Gladys is a recent high school graduate who procures an unpaid summer internship working for her elderly neighbor before starting a prestigious university out of town in the fall. Jean played masterfully played by Lisa Blake Richards is in a year of firsts mode, healing from a new grey divorce. Jean built herself a home office in the garage of the home she formerly shared with her ex-husband for four decades. A front man for a Bruce Springsteen cover band he has moved onto other pastures.
Natalie is tasked with the special project of laying the groundwork a Utopian DIY retirement home for Jean and her two best friends Louise, a pull yourself up by your bootstraps kind of person, and Terry a recent widow who is just coming out as a lesbian. Both are played by excellent veteran actors Judith Scarpone andLaura Jamesrespectively. As Terry sheds her somewhat crusty bitter skeptical self she comes back to full vivacity as she embraces her lesbianism and starts to date.
All this and more as Jean and Natalie methodically set up shop, get the other two on board and altogether roll out the strategy for consciously aging in place from headquarters in Jean’s garage. As this happens, Natalie's self discovery ripens as she finds herself more completely.
Ortiz plays Becca, to Bautista, playing Natalie's suitor.
Becca's raw sexuality and innate understanding of the machinations of the state of affairs between lovers as well as the coming out process, Ortiz has a transformative effect on Natalie. This unfolds at Becca's expense. Being with a conflicted coming out hot mess has its charms even as it takes its toll on someone more experienced with being out and what that might feel like.
Natalie's ambivalent resistance to amorous overtures awaken Becca's PTSD triggers and symptoms re-emerging from teen years hurts and awkwardness not dealt with in awhile. With James and Natalie coming out the drama closes full circle as the cycle of life plays out.
The entire cast represents women whose strength mixed with vulnerability results in transparency and lightness. The otherwise stirring subject matter at hand -prepping for the end of with - with its implicit heaviness is imbued with light of just starting out anew.
Judith Scarpone playing Louise, is poignant. She's a different kind of outsider another take on a self supporting 'Woman of Valor' who makes the most of knowing who she is even when that means she is aware and ashamed of being perceived as outclassed when she feels her needs are being poo-pooed as bouggie-woogie and body focused. Louise's self reliance born of survivor attitudes and a 'provide for thyself' motto, she manages to advocate her bottom line holding her own with the other two.
In the process of serving others from her highest self, Natalie plans the next chapter of the elder trio’s lives together in its most sustainable form power sharing capacities so that rigidity and power grabs don't ensue. This gaggle of women take each other seriously and also have a good time, allowing each other a place at the proverbial table.
HERLAND is a queer coming-of-age and coming-out-late comedy. It's about women into rock and roll, using that as a platform for growing up, growing old, and growing into their rebel selves.
Tara Fass, LMFT #35078, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, California. She treats adults and couples dealing with a broad range of issues from navigating the legacy of divorce in one's life, to the quarter life crisis and conscious aging. Together we attempt to make meaning [...]