We were invited by Dr. Pauli Merry to run a play-reading workshop at her class on Women’s Studies at Irvine Valley College. I love working with college students. There were enough students so that everyone had a role. My mother joined in the fun. I assigned her the role of Eleanor Roosevelt because, I explained to the kids, “My mom knew Eleanor from her days volunteering in the canteens during World War II in Washington, DC.” My mom had learned how to eat fried chicken with a knife and fork from Roosevelt. What was going through their minds as I told them these stories? After we went through the script, we discussed the cultural constraints that act on women and hold them back. It’s always an eye-opening experience for them. My greatest prop, though, is my mom. I tell them how my mom, who is turning 100 years old in July, was alive on this planet when women could not vote in the United States. They look at her as the dinosaur they think she is, but then she jumps up and dances around their chairs and tells them “be kind to each other.”
I read their reviews of the workshop afterwards. Dr. Merry made them all fill one out. You can’t tell what the kids are thinking or absorbing, but then you read their feedback and see it: the workshop was a huge impact on them.
I love doing this work.