For those who have known me for a long time, and for those who most likely have drawn logical conclusions about me by reading this blog, feel free to laugh now. As I readily admit, normally my walk in life is not the personality that when entering a room fills it with howling laughter. I can be crazy-funny in the moment, but on a regular basis, I am not generally described as the comic relief personality.
I am not sure why I think this part of my life is funny – perhaps because it is so out of character for me – perhaps because I am – as I see it – in this part, a weak link in a very strong chain – perhaps it is because it is something I never dreamt that I would be doing.
But, I am.
So keep in mind that what I am about to tell you is true – and I am not changing the names to protect the innocent (see Dragnet 1951-1959)!
I am proud to say that I am friends with 34 very talented women. That number doesn’t include the five talented women who have reached emeritus status. (They are still my friends and they are still talented; however, they are just more or less retired). Considering the entire group, the composition is amazing. These women come from all walks of life, represent numerous generations, have very diverse interests, lifestyles, and opinions, and again, are all my friends.
By default, I have been to most of their homes, always on the second Thursday of the month, always on time. Actually, the rules state that if I can’t be there, I must contact the host prior to 7:45pm. Failure to do so twice in a row means that I will be asked to exit the group.
And in some configuration or another, these women have been together for the past 93 years. Yes, 93 years!
Me? I am merely a youngster as I have only been with them for the past six years. I know several ladies who have marked their 50th year. Let me say that again, 50th year. It is amazing to me that sometime in 1909, 35 women joined together and came up with a brilliant idea that has managed to make it through numerous wars, natural disasters, depressions, recessions, and just the every day, usual, routine stuff that can set up all kinds of challenges and barriers no matter how strong the women are.
We have an ironclad constitution that guides us, and we follow it – every last word of it. Every five years (no exceptions), we invite spouses and significant others. The dues is $6.00. Cash is preferred, checks are accepted. But it must be paid, and the sooner, the better. In fact, at the start of this season, it was announced that all dues had been collected during the first month. And we applauded.
All members must participate once each year during one of the eight months of the season. Every five years, each member must agree to be a host. No exceptions. Every time we meet, we take roll, read the minutes, present the treasurer’s report, consider old business, and discuss new business.
And then the fun starts.
For the group I am describing is the Charleston Women’s Drama Study Club, currently in its 93rd season.
From October to May . . . for the past 93 years . . . a portion of our group becomes the cast – reading and acting out a play – and the remainder of the group comprises the audience. This season’s docket includes: The Best Man, Mrs. Mannerly, The Last Romance, Ghost Writer, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, The Other Place, The Naked Eye, and Theatrical Haiku. In all, I have seen 48 different plays during my membership and have looked forward to the previously mentioned eight.
In early evening, on the second Thursday of the month, we fill a house, create a set, find a place for the audience to sit, listen to the director provide a brief description of the play, the playwright, the time period, and any unusual stage directions that might be happening, and . . . off we go into the world of drama.
I have seen the ladies of the Charleston Women’s Drama Study Club transform themselves into all kinds of characters; we have no boundaries on who we might be and what we might do to convey what we believe the writer and director intended.
I have witnessed a woman – who is in her mid to late seventies (and who has been a member of the club for decades) play a character whose profanity would make pigs squeal. It was so out-of-character for the actor – and truly unexpected while in the moment. So, every time she spoke, we roared. Every time we roared, she laughed. And every time she laughed, we laughed more. It was crazy-funny at its best.
Again, we laugh, laugh, laugh at the comedies and cry, cry, cry at the tragedies. At times the audience is noisy-loud, and at other times, the drama is so dramatic we can hear a pin drop. We always end the evening by gathering around the cast and seriously discussing exactly what we might have learned from the production, followed by a cast photo taken by our resident historian. And this has been happening for 93 years.
Most amazing to me is what I have learned – being a member of the Charleston Women’s Drama Study Club. In all honesty, I haven’t learned to be a better actor – my talent is still on the lean side in that area. I am still not one who dazzles much, if at all.
But, the moral of this story is don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
Even with my minuscule acting ability, if I am a cast member, my theater buddies lavish words of praise and accolades upon me. And there is nothing better than trying something new and different, persevering and clunking through it, and having the ladies of the Charleston Women’s Drama Study Club tell me that I was superb! For me, that is how this star was born!