I wrote a short novel about love and grace in our times. You can read it for free on Amazon until March 11.


Saint John the Divine in Iowa, my screenplay that won the Meryl Streep-funded Writers Lab, told the story of an Episcopal Priest fighting to balance the needs of her congregation and her gay daughter. Priest Kid tells the daughter’s story…of having a mother who’s a saint, but who loves humanity as much as she loves her. It’s about good people, about hope and politics in families, about redemption. If you want a break from hate, as I do, this is the story.

Priest Kid

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Just a Day with My Partner, Who Shall Remain Anonymous


My partner is in her room on the unmade bed with all the laundry, doing the questions for the Brene Brown course we’re taking on line. I already finished mine. That’s how things go around here. I am the type A who gets it all done yesterday. But get this…usually I would write a novel in answer to said questions, and she would write, oh, maybe three phrases. But I snuck a look at her answers and there’s at least half a page full of her cramped lefty hand writing.

I’m having a little trouble breathing. I don’t know whether to feel completely mushy and grateful or totally threatened.

Hey, no one said we were sane.

Last weekend we were out with another couple who just passed their 10 year anniversary. They asked if it gets easier (we’re hitting year 29 in June). We kind of looked at each other, and then my partner said, “No, not really.”

I made a face. I could tell she started getting nervous we’d have a fight about it when we got home, because she backtracked like nobody’s business.

“I mean, it does, but then it doesn’t,” is how she started said backtracking.

I love being married.

Except when I don’t.

It’s complicated.

But right now I love it. We lie around comparing the effects of menopause. We talk about everything from politics to why she uses the word, “pumpy” as an endearment and what that’s supposed to mean. We go to yoga and we argue about movies.

She comes up behind me and kisses my head. I mean now. She did that right now. For no reason.

We even had our friggin’ torturous mammograms on the same day.

I said, “You are my twin.” She is. Except that we look nothing alike and I’m a femme tomboy and she’s gender non-conforming and she’s Jewish and I’m an ex-Catholic pseudo Buddhist and she’s a tech nerd and I’m an edgy artist and she’s all about the details and I’m all about the big picture concepts and we do everything exactly the opposite from each other.

Outside of that…

I guess it’s just love.cropped-25th-anniversary-crazy-people.jpg

 

Obergefell v. Hodges OR Dear Jude…


I didn’t think I’d see equality in my lifetime.

Imagine that.  Thinking you’d never be equal under the law.

And now we are.  I have nothing political to say except that equality and justice are my goals, now and always.

But I do have something to say.  Does this really surprise anyone?  Maybe only me, that this is how I want to mark the day.  The personal made political, once again.

Dear Jude,

When you came back into my life in 1987, I had just gone to my first Pride Parade.  Maybe that opened the door to the gift of you.

Because there I was, coming out of the closet yet again as bi-sexual, terrified of the consequences of being out–I’d seen my mother’s closeted relationship destroyed by homophobia and had been gay bashed and sexually harassed.  So I was self-hating and ashamed…and just ignorant, the way only someone who had never fully entered the gay community could be ignorant.

And there you were, so butch that standing next to you outed me.  There you were, taking my hand gently in yours as we walked down the street in the 1980’s, so not afraid, so proud to love me.  It cracked me wide open, and if that wasn’t enough, when I said, “I’m too scared to hold your hand right now.”  You said, “Okay, just let me know when you’re ready.”

When I said, “I don’t know if I’m bi or lesbian,” you said, “Well, we know you’re not straight, and that’s good enough for me.”

The tide of gentleness coming in to hold my fear without judgment, without any demand or push that I be better, without complaint for how it must have made things harder for you…the funny thing is, it made me better.  In the truest way.  I am the queer daughter of a lesbian mother who hid what made her happy.  I have a stepmother that not one of my siblings would admit parented us.  You reached into that hurt place and told me I could be exactly who I was…and that let me look at you and see pride and what pride had to offer.

I came out to my classes, I came out at church, I spoke publicly, and that was the gift you gave me.  To stand up and claim myself and my part in our struggle.

When we got married, you came over to hold me the night before, remember?  When we got married, you talked about the challenge of our then ten year relationship in front of all our friends, and how in spite of everything, we have always been able to laugh.

There is no unequal in loving you.  There is only how grateful I am for the way you give me back to myself…and the irritation at the very same thing (yes, I’m not going to stay all sweet much longer as you well know).

Today we are equal under the law.  You always seemed to know that we deserved it.  And so I unlearned my mother’s tragedy, and learned my own freedom.

If I could marry you again today, I would.  And tomorrow, and the next day, and then next.

Thank you for being my big-hearted, passive-aggressive, neurotic, gentle, out and proud renegade

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spouse.

And no, you can’t remind me I said this the next time we argue.

I love you madly,

Me

Boyhood: A review of gender


Boyhood ImageMuch is being said about this movie.  Filmed over a 12 year period, with the intrinsic value of watching the actors grow up and/or age, ambitious as hell, and attempting to say so many things about coming of age, the meaning of life, love, abandonment, struggle.  People say when they leave the theatre that they feel that they’ve been allowed into the lives of the characters in a completely new way–as if they were friends.

I’ve seen a number of Richard Linklater’s films, and I always feel the same way about them.  I always think he’s good, and that he’s trying something different, and it interests me.  And I always feel that he skims the surface of big topics and can’t get into the strata.  I felt this way less about Boyhood, but not a lot less.  The real genius of the film was the concept–that’s always the real genius of Linklater’s films.  To conceive of filming over this period of time, to aim at saying what you can say when the audience sees change happening–the real change as well as the narrative change–that’s a kind of genius.  I just wish he’d done more with it.

I left the theatre and turned to my partner and said, “This makes me want to make a movie called Girlhood, because he just doesn’t get women’s lives at all.”  And yes, I get that it was intentionally a male-centric movie, and the women weren’t bitches–they were complicated and interesting, if not developed–but it’s the hole in the center of Linklater’s understanding that gets me.  He doesn’t understand what women’s lives are about.  Now, as I’ve said, he doesn’t get into the strata, the difficulty of need and emotion and psychology in his characters.  But even his external observation shows the need between fathers and sons.  Not mothers and sons, by the way.  I’m never sure what’s up with that.  Does this boy want anything from his mother?  Outside of stability?

So, here, in the 4th paragraph, I get to my real subject, catalyzed by the movie.  I don’t get straight people.  I particularly don’t get straight white women.  And I don’t get the romantic relationships between men and women.  I don’t get what they want from each other, outside of the biological imperative (sex and babies).

When I look at the movie Boyhood, I watch and I think that the friendships between boys, and the need for connection between fathers and sons, drive the movie.  I don’t understand what emotional need men bring to women.  Maybe to be understood?  To have that one person who gets you?  But it seems so impossible.  Straight women don’t get men.  Maybe women don’t get men.  And straight men certainly don’t get women.  They absolutely don’t get the mix of fear, hatred, powerlessness and need women bring to heterosexual relationships.

Frankly, we should all be gay.

I understand the driving need for connection that propels you toward the one other, the one person, the only one, you think, who will get you as you need to be gotten.  I understand the terrible neediness of it, and the drive to be better, to learn more, to get closer, to learn what closeness means.  It’s just that I’ve never believed that I was going to get that from a man.  Friendship, closeness, sex, yes.  That driving terrible need, enough emotional meeting to keep me in it?  I’ve stayed with my gender queer spouse for 27 years because there was always enough emotional meeting to keep me in it, and enough forgiveness and love for the neediness we both sometimes have to make it bearable.

Of course, what I know about having a gender queer partner is that a big part of her need for me is to get her gender.  It’s part of the terrible feelings of invisibility she has–I have similar feelings for different reasons.  I need to get that she’s different, that she’s standing in a different place in relationship to the world, and I need to let her know I get it because other people in her life are always letting her know they don’t get it.  Intentionally or not.  Loving her or not.

Do straight people need that?  A validation of gender?  I’m not straight, but I don’t need it the way my partner does.

I did a devised theatre piece at Endicott College with four men.  It focused on gender, on male bonding, on trying to get the right woman, on competition and love.  I watched the cast bond with each other, and if anything, I was the fulcrum, the catalyst–I was there to serve their bonding.  I love how men bond with each other and love each other.  I love how they get each other with so few words.  I love their loyalty and their brotherhood and their tenderness.  And I understand, watching male-centric movie after male-centric movie, that they are the most important to each other.  Women seem to be a much needed side issue.  And being such a close witness, I get that.  I get that women fill some need men can’t fill with each other, but that women are fundamentally outside the male experience.  And men seem to find women frightening.  Alien.  Not to my guys at Endicott, necessarily, I didn’t see that with them.  But it turns up in the canon over and over again.

So, I kind of get straight men.  I mean, I don’t get that Linklater doesn’t understand how women’s lives are dominated by the fear of male violence and the need for male attention (my life is not dominated by the 2nd, which is why I don’t get straight women).  He includes male violence in his movie, but he doesn’t enter the strata–what the fear of that violence, and also the fear of being outside male privilege (being a poor single mom versus being married to an upper middle class alcoholic in Boyhood), does to women.  That’s the situation in his movie, and he serves it up, but without any thread of continuity, without any understanding of why.  I wonder if men get that women are afraid they can’t make it without a man–can’t be safe financially or from violence.

Today I found a list on Facebook of strong female characters in literature who women all want to be.  Anne of Green Gables, Jo of Little Women, Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice.  You know what these women have in common?  They are made strong by their diminished need for male approval.  They reject the safety and protection of traditional femininity and male interest in order to determine their own destinies.

See, I’m just much too queer to even understand why someone would choose a life based on a need for male approval.  Because I never needed it that much.  If at all.  When I read those books, I knew I was one of those women.  It was relief to read about them and to see myself, because my mother and her friends lived in financial and physical fear.  (My besetting weaknesses lie in other places–self-doubt, a tendency to risk too much, an inability to settle and ground…and, okay, I have financial fear because I can’t be practical, I have to be an artist.)  All my life, I’ve watched straight white women need men to like them, to think they’re pretty, to want them, to give them attention.  And I’ve never been able to understand.  I mean, I liked the attention, and I used it to make myself feel better, but I didn’t need it.  When it was gone, I barely noticed.

I have always, however, needed one other, one somewhat female other, to give me a singular, specific attention.  I love the men in my life, but I just don’t need them in the same way.  And that makes my relationships with men such a relief.  I can relax and enjoy my male friends.  My only worry, and this has been a lifelong problem, is that sometimes they fall into wanting more from me.

So, if I was to write a film called Girlhood, what would I say?  I’d put a queer girl in the center, trying to understand what made her different.  I’d have one of her friends be raped, I’d have her mother stay with a man because of fear that she couldn’t make it on her own.  I’d have men who bonded and left women outside their bonding, and I’d have the queer girl want to be one of them.  I’d have the women bond intensely, but also betray each other and gossip.  I’d kill off at least one character, and probably more than one, because in a film of such ambition, an intimacy with death would be necessary to me–we age, but we also die.  And I’d go after that drive, that propulsion toward the one other–I’d contrast the queer girl’s drive with her straight friend’s drive.  I’d contrast their neediness and their strength, and I’d try to learn about how gender makes us different.  I would work with how a woman needs her mother, and how she needs her father, and how those needs are different.  Not the psychological difference, but the experiential difference.

And maybe, if I could find a way to fit it, I’d write about a boy and his mother.  Not what the white male canon has said.  But more about what I hear in other communities, particularly communities of color–men who love their mothers and are grateful and resentful and living in those feelings in a kind of closeness.

Life is so interesting!  There is so much to understand, so many shoes to try to slip into, so much imagination to apply.  Boyhood is a very good movie.  Conceptually, it’s great.  It just doesn’t say enough.  About what I want to learn.  And that it makes me think it is a kind of teaser.

I’m adding it to my list.  Of narratives by men that I need to answer by writing my own movie.  Or play.  Or whatever.

Which means it made an impact.

 

My Claim to Fame


Yes, everything I have ever written on this subject has been published.  Gotta hate it when your mother does something so interesting.  I mean, how am I supposed to compete?

The Kiss by Lyralen Kaye

I am sitting in the back seat dark

of the station wagon when I see

them do it, my mother leaning forward,

the fall of Sister Nancy’s veil, but even

in the dash lights their lips are visible as they

press together and hold. Their heads

tilt back and my mother’s face softens

as I have never seen it, her eyes pooling

forward, Nancy smiling. Have I ever

seen a smile? I see this and I memorize

everything—the coolness of vinyl beneath

my fingers, the shine of the dash, the station

wagon’s long tunnel. Nancy steps out and the

mother I know clicks back into place like a door

snapping home in the jamb. She calls

my name, saying, What’s the matter with you?

Aren’t you listening? Get up here! I climb

into the front seat, and hug the door away

from her. You’re awful quiet tonight, she says,

as if I have seen nothing. We both know I

am not quiet, but I am like her with my eyes

on women and the twin trails of these headlights

lead to a future we have left just minutes behind

and I know this like I know my name. I am 14 and I

am praying, Please, no, not this, not one more thing

that makes me different, not one more reason

for them to stare and point. Later, I get out of the

car, slam the door on everything my mother won’t

tell me. I stand alone in the schoolyard, listening

to the thumps of boys and balls. The air against

my body is cold and I cannot imagine the warmth

of a lover who might wait for me, growing, as I am,

each minute older and more lonely. I do not know

that when I find her she will hold me like all my hurt

is precious, tight in the safety of her muscled and hairless

arms, I do not know the way she will help

to heal everything, but most of all

my mother’s long silence. And because I don’t know

the way her voice will sound, lips full around a song

she will whisper, the one my mother

has never sung, I sing it to myself.

Bring Rita Hayworth to Boston!


When I go to the theatre I go in search of a particular experience.  I want to be transported to another world, I want to see myself in new ways, I want to be visually and imaginatively stimulated, I want to understand the world differently.

In other words, I’m not easy to please.

So the idea that I could sit in my living room, watching the DVD of a theatrical performance and experience all of those things is, well, unlikely.

And yet it happened.  And it happened watching a one-woman show, less likely still.

Tina D’Elia’s new show, The Rita Hayworth of This Generation, introduces its audience to a cast of scheming and manipulative characters who end up, surprisingly, charming us with the pleasure of their company.  Whether it’s Carmelita, the cabaret singer and Rita Hayworth impersonator who wants only to make it big, or Jesus, the transgender poker champion who wants a lucky lady, or Rita Hayworth, who just wants out of purgatory, or the despicable Kelsey, host of the shows Stars that Are Living, Stars that are Dying and Stars that are dead…or even Angel, the Prop Butch, the show’s only sweetheart, we want more–more revelation, more laughs, more sex (yes, there is sex in a one-woman show!).  D’Elia and her director, Mary Guzman, have created a hysterically funny play that reveals human ambition in all its selfishness…and how we want our lovers to serve this ambition rather than any sense of intimacy.  But it is too smart a show to exclude moments of real humanity, the rarity of true generosity between human beings and the importance of that generosity in finding meaning as we grow, perhaps, awkwardly and humorously wiser.  Carmelita, the wrong-headed and unlucky heroine of the story, is perhaps the most blind of the characters when it comes to recognizing real caring–but our frustration with her only intensifies our involvement with the story and our understanding of its meaning.

Tina D’Elia’s magic as a performer is that there are times when one is able to forget there’s only a single actor on stage.  Whether in the first seduction scenes, where the desire she portrays is absolutely palpable, or in scenes in which Jesus tries to convince Carmelita to trust him, her commitment and imaginative reality are so strong that one can’t help but fall under the play’s spell.  Her work is supported by Mary Guzman’s skillful use of lighting and blocking to support the many character changes.  And let’s get real, in a one-woman show with actual back-and-forth dialogue, this is extremely hard to do.  The slight shift of a shoulder and angle of D’Elia’s body work best during dialogue scenes, but one always follows and enjoys the changes of characters.

Let me not neglect to mention the magical realism of the play.  I have long ranted about realism in theatre, and how film does realism best, so theatre better have some real innovation if it wants to stay in the game.  Well, this is a play in which characters travel to a special room in the casino to meet and play cards with dead stars.  I mean, really, when a transgendered poker champion sits down to deal in with the Three Stooges…come on, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Of course, the play is not quite perfect–D’Elia’s acting portrayal of Carmelita’s cabaret singer physicality is excellent, but her singing needs work; and the end of the play ties up all the plot questions too neatly without answering the most important–how does Carmelita author her own loneliness even after getting some degree of what she wants as a singer?  But not quite perfect does not mean that it is not excellent–in fact, it is.

Tina D’Elia is a Boston native, and I, for one, think we deserve to get to see her show live in this town.  Not only that–we need the show.  Boston theatre got a jolt of aliveness when Diane Paulus came to town, but we need edgy new voices and this is one of them.

As an acting teacher interested in helping people to create their own work, I also feel that great examples of one-person shows would and could ignite a renaissance of a genre that has been largely absent in Boston since the Theatre Offensive stopped producing Out on the Edge.

Sometimes, it’s just the right thing, the right time, the right show.

http://tinadelia.com/home.html