Erma Begin Again
They say that love is lovelier the second time around. Sequels are sometimes even better than the original (Godfather II, anyone?). And I always tell my husband that he’s so lucky he married his second wife first.
I certainly hope this is true, because it is with trepidation that I dare to tread upon a stage again in a reprise of the show that brought me back to the stage last year after a 13-year hiatus. Yes, Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End will ride again at Geva Theatre Center.
And once again, I’m terrified. Because while the second time around may be lovelier for some, I don't always agree. The second massage on vacation is never as good as the first. And think about your sophomore year: awkward, right?
Last year was so exciting precisely because it was the first time in a long time. There was definitely fear. I felt deer-caught-in-the-headlights fear.
Think about it: If you haven’t ridden a bike in over a decade, you probably don’t want to start up again by taking a mountain bike down a very steep trail.
But that’s what we did. Everyone was taking a risk that the old broad could even remember the lines, let alone manage to walk and talk at the same time.
This year is a different kind of nervous. It’s nervously hoping it will be as good as I remember (and that I’ll remember how to iron again). Rochester’s own Steve Rosen, who is currently performing in The Other Josh Cohen off-Broadway following last year’s production here at Geva, gave me this advice:
“It’s such a rare gift to get a second crack at a great part. Because we’ve already had the benefit of climbing these mountains before, the elements that were most anxiety-provoking the first time around aren’t really factors this time. I get to spend less time worrying about my performance and more time enjoying the privilege of making people escape their troubles and laugh for 90 minutes.”
Great advice for anyone, on stage or otherwise.
My 88-year-old mother can’t understand that I’m doing the same show again and not a sequel. Which is hilarious to me because (and I’m not giving anything away here) Erma dies at the end, just like she did in real life. So, no Mom, it’s not a sequel.
Of course, opera and ballet companies and theaters often do the same shows over and over again. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without A Christmas Carol.
If you’ve seen the show before, feel free to come back and be an Erma groupie. As I think about the lessons learned from speaking her words, I think they bear repeating again and again.
Such as: “I had been hiding my hopes and dreams in the back of my mind — it was the only safe place in the house.”
Eventually she let them out, writing columns and books from her bedroom that shared the truth of being a wife and mother. And she traveled the country, fighting for women’s equality and the ERA and speaking for those who worked from home.
This year we are mounting the show during Women’s History month. Not only that, but the show on Sunday, March 17, benefits the National Women’s Hall of Fame (for details on that, go to womenofthehall.org/event/erma-bombeck-at-wits-end).
This year, in honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, the Hall will be announcing its inductee class for 2019 in New York City at an event honoring Rochester’s own Gail Riggs for her contributions to the Hall (go to www.womenofthehall.org/event/announcement-of-inductees-2019).
Who knows, maybe Erma Bombeck will be among the inductees this year?
For tickets to the show, go to www.gevatheatre.org/event/erma-bombeck-wits-end.
As seen in the USA Today Network, Garnett Newspapers and the Democrat & Chronicle.
As first published in the Democrat + Chronicle and on the USA Today Network