Favorite Female Friendships

By JORDAN LUSINK, Communications Coordinator

In celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the film Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, and in anticipation of our upcoming musical production of the same name, we’re celebrating some of our favorite female friendships, both in pop culture and in real life.

Oprah and Gayle

Gayle is Oprah’s right-hand woman. The Hamilton to Oprah’s George Washington. Their friendship has survived over 30 years, through marriages and divorces and kids and talk shows and magazines and basically everything. The fact that there are still rumors about whether they are in a more-than-platonic relationship (which both of them have stressed they would be super open about if they were “together,” or, as Oprah put it in an interview, “All my stuff is out there. People think I’d be so ashamed of being gay that I wouldn’t admit it? Oh please”) just emphasizes how important it is to talk about and celebrate non-adversarial, platonic female friendships.

Anne and Diana

One of my favorite things to do each year, and it has been for over a decade, is watch the mini-series version of Anne of Green Gables. (RIP Jonathan Crombie. You’ll always be Gilbert Blythe to me.) This adaptation of one of my favorite book series about one of my favorite bookworms will always hold a special place in my heart, and one of the biggest reasons for that is the relationship between Anne Shirley and Diana Barry. They got up to some shenanigans, but when it came right down to it, they were there for each other. Diana defended Anne to her mother when she thought that Anne was a bad influence on Diana, and pushed Anne when her melodramatic inclinations got in her own way. Anne helped to bring excitement and drama, and was the first to call Diana a kindred spirit and her bosom friend, swearing eternal friendship.

Mary and Rhoda

The ladies behind the well-known quote from Romy and Michele, “I’m the Mary, you’re the Rhoda,” Mary and Rhoda first appeared on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Mary (played by Mary Tyler Moore, obviously) was the eponymous lead who was a lead producer for the evening news. Her bestie, Rhoda (played by Valerie Harper), lived just upstairs from Mary and worked as a window dresser at a department store. These two thirty-somethings were both single and spent a fair amount of time talking about their dating lives. The pair reunited in 2000 for the made-for-TV film Mary and Rhoda. Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper were also close friends in real life.

Khadijah, Synclaire, Max and Régine of Living Single

Living Single was a TV show in the 90s about four professional women living in a Brooklyn brownstone. (Okay, technically three of them lived in the brownstone, and Max was a frequent guest at their abode.) Well before Sex and the City, these women were kickass and independent, focused on their jobs as professional women in the city and also trying to have relationships. (The title of the show IS Living Single.) This focus on relationships included maintaining friendships with each other, some of which began in childhood. The show launched Queen Latifah as Khadijah, an editor and publisher of a monthly magazine. Queen Latifah recently announced that a revision of the show with the original cast is in the works!

The Golden Girls (Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia)

Way before Sex and the City and Living Single, there was The Golden Girls. The show had and continues to be critically acclaimed, with each of the four stars have received an Emmy Award sometime during the seven seasons. The show centered on four older women living together, and was pretty clear in advancing and advocating for progressive values. Not only did the show have a pretty revolutionary portrayal of aging, the messages of feminism, advocacy for gay rights, and conversations about race and disability were common throughout the series. The legacy of the show continues to this day, though it’s been off the air for 25 years. (Issa Rae recently compared her new HBO series Insecure to The Golden Girls.) Reruns are played in syndication, and the entire series was recently added to Hulu so that a wider audience, including people who may have never seen the show before, can enjoy. Plus, everyone still knows the words to that theme song.

Jess and Cece

Whether you love or hate New Girl, Jess and Cece have one of the most awesome and supportive friendships on television. (Though most people don’t have a best friend who is a supermodel…) Though they are pretty close to being opposites, that just means they balance each other well. They’re also really good at calling each other on their BS. Their entire friendship is grounded in middle-school, and how they both felt like weirdos and outcasts, which is pretty much the basis for the best friendships.

Penelope and Salma

These two ladies have been friends for over 20 years. (For example, remember that show Punk’d with everyone’s favorite prankster Ashton Kutcher? Salma was pranked by Penelope in a restaurant in a 2005 episode.) They celebrated their friendship this January with matching Instagram posts, and there’s a long history of supportive and loving statements from and about each other. They’ve even shared the screen in the 2006 movie Bandidas, during the filming of which they almost died in a plane crash. Cruz said, “A thought came across my mind that if I were to die at that moment at least I’d die with my best friend.” Awwww.

Laverne and Shirley

“Schlemiel! Shchlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!” Laverne and Shirley actually began their lives on Happy Days, originally introduced as Fonzie’s acquaintances before getting their own spinoff. The ladies were single roommates who works as bottlecappers and got into all sorts of shenanigans together, including a surprising amount of musical numbers throughout the years.

Tia and Tamera in Sister, Sister

Okay, so they’re actually twin sisters separated at birth and adopted by different families. The nature of that beginning often translated to their relationship focusing more on the friendship aspect of their sisterhood. As one of several series in the mid-90s focused on young adults (i.e. Boy Meets WorldBrotherly LoveMoesha, the list could go on), the show often addressed issues that young adults would deal with, including peer pressure and fitting in. A unique viewpoint from Sister, Sister, though, was the difficulty of the expectations people put on twins, and establishing an identity independent of a twin.

Romy and Michele

And last but certainly not least, one of our absolute top favorite duos: Romy and Michele. Much has been written about these two friends recently in celebration of the 20th anniversary, especially taking a look at what makes their friendship so strong. The two are super supportive of each other, endlessly positive and mostly content to be independent thinkers, regardless of what other people think about them. Though some may see them as merely dumb blondes, they are able to come up with a completely realistic formula for Post-It glue, their created backstories to explain the last 10 years are that of businesswomen (rather than saying they married rich or inherited money) and (spoiler) they parley their business skills and fashion acumen into a successful clothing store. Ultimately, the story is really about celebrating friendship, fashion and accepting yourself as you are.


What are your favorite female friendships? Let us know in the comments!

Click here to find out more and purchase tickets to the World Premiere of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion: The Musical.

The Secret Garden and Frances Hodgson Burnett

By GRETCHEN H. GERZINA for D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre Company

Few people realize that The Secret Garden, the book that most readers associate with Frances Hodgson Burnett, was only one of the 53 novels she wrote and published, and that most of her books were for adults, not children. Although she had a lifetime love for children and gardens, she would be amazed to know that this book, which began as a magazine serial late in her life, is the one for which she is most remembered today— even though it was one that was closest to her heart.

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s love affair with gardens began when she was a small child living in Manchester, England. In 1852, when she was just three, her family moved to St. Luke’s Terrace, which backed onto fields owned by the Earl of Derby, leading Frances to recall it later in life as the “back garden of Eden.” She remembered it as a place of gardens and perpetual summer, where a small child could daydream beneath the trees and beside the flowers, ignoring the industrial city that surrounded this suburb of light and air. There were farms and country cottages close by and she became friendly with a family of market gardeners who kept pigs. Just a year later, however, her father, Edwin Hodgson, died, and his widow and five children embarked upon a decade of moving house, each time to a slightly less desirable neighborhood. Each move took Burnett further and further away from gardens, until in 1865, her mother decided to make the riskiest move of all: to join her rogue of a brother, who boasted of his accomplishments in America, in the American South during the last months of the Civil War. There the Hodgson family found itself ensconced in an unexpected place: a log cabin in a very small town outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. There, but for the generosity of their neighbors, they would have starved.

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Their financial difficulties were quite real, but young Fanny (a name she quickly abandoned) found Tennessee a true Garden of Eden after the pollution of Manchester and the smuts that floated down like snow from its factory chimneys.

She had read in the back of ladies’ magazines that they paid money for stories and, having invented them for her friends back in England, she thought she might take a chance at being paid to write. The first story she sent came back with comments, but instead of revising she mailed it again to another magazine. The editor was puzzled and surprised to find an accomplished work with an English setting coming out of Tennessee; was she English or American? That evening she sat down and wrote a second one for him. Both stories were accepted immediately, and with the check that arrived she launched a career that saw her eventually become America’s highest-paid woman writer. She was only 18 and none of her work was ever rejected.

By 1886, Frances had married a Tennessee doctor, had two sons and had written the blockbuster novel Little Lord Fauntleroy—her 18th novel, which made her hugely famous on both sides of the Atlantic. Now as Frances Hodgson Burnett she had money of her own, and bought, in cash, a 17-room house in Washington, D.C. From the moment of its first appearance as a serial in Saint Nicholas Magazine to its publication as a book a year later in 1886, Fauntleroy became a household name. Largely forgotten or ridiculed today, it was the Harry Potter of its day. The image of a sturdy and very masculine little boy in a velveteen jacket shot around the world and was to haunt her son Vivian, from whose photograph it was taken, for the rest of his days. The story—and the plays and films it spawned—started a fashion craze that mothers loved and boys hated, as they were forced into wide lace collars and long curls, probably not helped when girls were always given the stage and film role.

Even though writing was how she had to make her living, it also enabled her to travel, buy beautiful clothes and furnish houses in England and America. However, Burnett was not only a writer of novels and stories, she was also a producer of plays. Thirteen of her works appeared in West End theaters in London and on Broadway, generally written and produced by her. Prescient enough to understand the increasing role of movies, she later built clauses guaranteeing her the film rights to her books. It’s fascinating, therefore, that The Secret Garden did not become a stage musical or a popular film until late in the twentieth century, although apparently a now-lost film was made in 1919, five years before Burnett’s death.

 

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Although writing and gardening could not shield her from life’s tragedies, they did help her get through some of her life’s greatest sorrows. When her 16-yearold son Lionel tragically died of tuberculosis in her arms in Paris in 1890, she had his casket covered in violets. When her second marriage ended—a marriage that she was probably blackmailed into by a young English doctor and aspiring actor ten years her junior—she and her sister Edith retreated to a house that would become Frances’s most cherished home: Maytham Hall, in Rolvenden, Kent, which she first leased after her divorce from her American husband.

Rumors always surrounded her and there were plenty of reasons for her wanting to escape. From the time that Little Lord Fauntleroy first made her famous, she was constantly in the press and in the public eye. She crossed the Atlantic 33 times in her lifetime, and whenever one of the ships she traveled on docked, she was met by a crowd of newspaper and magazine reporters who wanted to know about her difficult health, her latest book and her love life. When she filed for divorce, her lawyer made sure she was safely on board a ship heading for England before serving the papers. Gardens were, for her, a retreat.

At Maytham, she had set up an outdoor study, with a table and chair under the trees near the rose garden, and wrote each morning in the company of a robin that grew tame, the later inspiration for Mary Lennox’s robin in The Secret Garden, which was, in fact, written in America. When she moved back to America for good she built a beautiful house with spacious gardens in Plandome on Long Island, and next door built a cottage for her surviving son Vivian and his family. As she grew older she spent her winters in Bermuda with her sister Edith and kept a full-time gardener.

Burnett claimed that The Secret Garden was the first children’s story to appear in an adult magazine. The first installment made its appearance in The American Magazine late in 1910. She wrote to her friend Ella Hepworth Dixon after the story’s serial publication that “it was our Rose Garden as it would have been locked up for years and years and years—and some hungry children had found it. You cannot think how everyone loves that story. People write to me with a sort of passion of it.”

The Secret Garden begins and ends in gardens, one a garden of death in India, and the other a garden of revitalization and resurrection in England. Burnett believed to the end of her own life in the healing and resurrecting power of gardens. The last chapter of The Secret Garden is called “In the Garden,” and the last thing that Burnett wrote, on her deathbed, was a magazine article by the same name. As in The Secret Garden, she always saw gardens as places of healing and return to health.

After she died, the little article was republished as a book, with watercolor pictures and photographs of her own gardens at Plandome. It ends with the words that have come to symbolize her other life’s work: “As long as one has a garden one has a future,” she wrote, “and as long as one has a future one is alive.”


Artwork by Becky Kelley.

This article originally appeared in ASIDES, the production program and publication of the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Visit ShakespeareTheatre.org/Asides to learn more.

Click here to read more about and purchase tickets to The Secret Garden.

Behind the Curtain at the Romy and Michele Photoshoot

We had a lot of fun during a Romy and Michele-filled week recently, during which we did a shoot with Seattle Weekly, an awesome video with our Romy and Michele, and a pre-production photoshoot. Take a look behind the curtain with these photos taken before and during that photoshoot, with our Romy and Michele, Cortney Wolfson and Stephanie Renee Wall.

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Special thanks to our amazing photographers, Mark and Tracy Photography, who took many of these behind-the-scenes photos.

Click here to find out more and purchase tickets for the World Premiere of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion: The Musical.

Behind the Scenes with the Cast of The Secret Garden

We can’t wait to share The Secret Garden with all of our 5th Avenue family. Not only have we been working on it here at The 5th, many of the cast and creative members participated in the co-production at D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Get a glimpse behind the scenes with these photos! Special thanks to The Secret Garden cast for sharing. Find and follow them on Instagram by clicking their names here: Tam Mutu (Archibald Craven), Lizzie Klemperer (Lily Craven), Josh Young (Dr. Neville Craven), Daisy Eagan (Martha), Charlie Franklin (Dickon), Brittany Baratz (Rose Lennox), Jason Forbach (Captain Albert Lennox), Johann George (Fakir) and Jared Michael Brown (Lieutenant Wright). Continue reading “Behind the Scenes with the Cast of The Secret Garden”

Comedy for Two: Hilarious Duos in History

By JORDAN LUSINK, Communications Coordinator

Murder for Two is a murder mystery musical that is also filled with laughs. In this round up, we look at some of the other great comedy pairings in recent history.

Laurel and Hardy

Laurel and Hardy were big during the early Classic Hollywood period, especially in the 1920s into the 1940s. The bowler-hatted duo were Englishman Stan Laurel and American Oliver Hardy. They were especially known for their slapstick comedy, and appeared in over 100 films together.

Continue reading “Comedy for Two: Hilarious Duos in History”

Meet The Secret Garden Principal Characters

Last week we introduced you to the members of The Secret Garden ensemble. Today, get a little more information about the principal characters in the show, many of whom are making their 5th Avenue debuts in this beautiful production!

Continue reading “Meet The Secret Garden Principal Characters”

Q & A: An Interview with Secret Garden Dialect Coach Lisa Nathans

We chatted with Lisa Nathans, the voice/text and dialect coach for The Secret Garden, to find out more about what a dialect coach does and what are some challenging aspects of the dialects in the show. Read more below!

Continue reading “Q & A: An Interview with Secret Garden Dialect Coach Lisa Nathans”

Marsha Norman: Cultivator of a Theatrical Garden

By HANNAH HESSEL RATNER, Audience Enrichment Manager at D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre Company

Marsha Norman is on a mission. The award-winning playwright’s career has covered Broadway, Hollywood and numerous theatres worldwide. Her accolades include a Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award® and, in 2016, the Dramatists Guild Career Achievement Award. She has co-directed the playwriting program at Julliard for nearly a quarter of a century. And at this point in her career she is determined to tell the story of women.

Continue reading “Marsha Norman: Cultivator of a Theatrical Garden”

Meet The Secret Garden Ensemble

Spring is coming to Seattle with our upcoming production of The Secret Garden, which begins performances next week! We have assembled a fantastic cast, with a wondrous mix of local favorites and some Broadway actors as well! Today, meet the phenomenal members of the ensemble.

Continue reading “Meet The Secret Garden Ensemble”

Whodunit?

By ALBERT EVANS, 5th Avenue Artistic Associate

A cloud obscures the moon. A window shatters. A woman screams. Silence. Then…a car speeds away.

There has been a murder!

Never fear: the Great Detective is on the case, aided by a faithful but slightly befuddled companion.

Through the Detective’s keen powers of deduction and extensive knowledge of ceramics, pipe tobaccos, etc., the time has come to pin the crime on the perpetrator. All the suspects are brought together in one room to answer the question on everyone’s mind—

WHODUNIT?

Continue reading “Whodunit?”