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Just some thoughts about parenting

It’s hard to believe that last year I had a two-year-old who still sucked on her pacifier, slept in a crib, had awful tantrums and wore diapers. I also had an eight-month old baby. Only a year later and they are already so big, so independent; only one in diapers, one who sucks a pacifier and only one in a crib.

Maya, my almost four-year-old talks like a teenager and seems to have such a confident grasp of concepts; and my little one wants to be big. She’s so darn cute and coming right along. She says “Vadi” for water, the Russian word for it. Yup, she’s coming along. This summer, it’s me that is stalled. Without proper time set aside, I lose myself in parenting. I have a marketing client (I do), who I’ve mostly ignored all summer. I have a playwriting career (I do) and in the summer and winter I simply don’t….have…time. Normally when you have a job, it’s a job and there is a set time that you go do that job. For a mom that works from home, who doesn’t have both kids in school or a day care, where do you get this “time?” You beg, borrow, steal…you pay for it. So it’s a lot to figure out. How do I spend the time that I mostly have to pay for? 

And then, during the summers and winters, I have so much less help that there are days and days that pass by where I don’t get a break, a moment of thought to myself, and I just give in to it…to this parenting thing, and I’m okay with that.

I realize I’m not working a normal job (9-5) for a reason and I know why. I don’t have full-time help for several reasons and I know why. The truth is, I am here in this moment flipping through the channels trying to find Olivia because I want to be here…

When you are a parent you have so many moments of “Wow, oh my god…this is amazing….This is so hard…Why am I sweating so much? Do I really have to bend over to gardenfairylillyget that? Oh yeah, you have learned to put on your own jacket….Please don’t jump on that….Break that…Eat that….Don’t talk to me like that!….Why is it raining and I am pushing a double stroller? And then, it’s over – Pre-school…pushing a double stroller…your parenting time, or maybe your life. So you better enjoy every rainy day, every fight, every tear…every cuddle.

A labor of love, my play about my grandma, July 21st at 6PM in Santa Rosa, CA

 I have been working on this play about my darling granny, Dale Messick for 10 years now. I had my first reading of this play — a very early draft — at A.C.T in San Francisco in August of 2003, the summer I did a literary internship at the theater. I remember getting the idea and writing every morning before I’d go into work. Wow! I’ve come full circle, haven’t I? That summer, right after the internship ended, I went on to a trip to Spain with my then boyfriend and he proposed while we rode around on a horse-drawn carriage in a beautiful small town. What a summer! I thought I had this play — and it was such a big play, for really my first big play. But I didn’t have it, not yet….and my grandma passed away two years later.

I graduated, I worked, I married, I had two babies…and I still didn’t quite have it, and then with children, I felt I was slowing down and it wasn’t going to happen. But then, there was the Comic Book Theater festival and Eric Gould who forced me with a stick to re-write my play.  Then, there was another year and a half of work — where I met with actors and my friend and director Jamie Ramsburg every week for 7 months to get a second draft. I’m sharper and better at the same time that I’m also dragging my feet and I’m scared because I know I’ve got so much hard work ahead of me. I’m nothing if not determined, and believe me — a mommy with two young children who wants to get anything done needs to be determined. So here we go — a totally new version of the play — that is a draft mind you, and this is only a staged reading. But let me just say in all honesty, this play is pretty special and you will feel very fortunate to have seen it. Image

 Play Info —

6TH STREET PLAYHOUSE IN CONNECTION WITH THE REDWOOD WRITERS presents

A STAGED READING OF REPORTER GIRL a play about Dale Messick and Brenda Starr Reporter by Laura Rohrman

ONE NIGHT ONLY JULY 21ST AT 6PM at the 6TH STREET PLAYHOUSE

52 W. 6th Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Phone: (707) 523-4185 (24-hour voice mail)

SANTA ROSA, CA (JULY 9TH, 2013) Reporter Girl is Laura Rohrman’s full-length play about cartoonist Dale Messick, who created of the famous cartoon strip Brenda Starr Reporter in 1940.  Directed by BROWEN SHEERS the play is a is a sexy re-imagining of Messick’s life in the 1940’s just as her career was taking off.

THE STAGED READING OF Reporter Girl will perform SUNDAY, JULY 21st at 6:00pm with a talk back with the author after the performance. The price for the reading is free/donations accepted. No reservation required.

http://www.6thstreetplayhouse.com/home

About Dale Messick/Brenda Starr Reporter:

Dale Messick was born in South Bend Indiana in 1906, and made her way to New York City working as a greeting card artist in the early 1930’s. In April 1940, she gained major success when her cartoon strip Brenda Starr Reporter won a contest in the Daily News and launched her long cartooning career. The strip was very popular and ran for 71 years and only just ended in 2011. Dale Messick wrote and drew the strip for 40 years, retiring in 1980 when she moved to Santa Rosa, CA to be hear her daughter and two grandchildren, Laura “Noni” Rohrman (the playwright) and her grandson Curt and their mother, Starr Rohrman (Dale’s only child). She lived mostly in Oakmont, CA and was a colorful character in the area, often sketching people wherever she went. She passed away after a long illness in 2005, just shy of 98. Dale Messick is credited with being the first female syndicated cartoonist in the world. At its height of popularity, Brenda Starr Reporter was syndicated in over 250 newspapers worldwide and in 1945 Brenda Starr got a full-color Sunday page. In 1977 Brenda Starr’s wedding to long-time love Basil St. John was celebrated worldwide.

About The Playwright:

In addition to being the maternal granddaughter of Dale Messick, Laura “Noni” Rohrman grew up in the Bay Area (Penngrove) and was involved in theater as an actor as a teenager. In 2000, Laura moved to New York City to pursue her dream of becoming a playwright. She has since had over 50 productions worldwide and completed her MFA in theater at the New School for Drama. Her work has been developed and produced with theaters around the world. She’s been a finalist for several major playwriting awards including: The O’Neill Festival, Samuel French One-Act festival and a Weissberger Award Nominee. Laura has been working on Reporter Girl for ten years. She started the play in 2003 as an exercise in graduate school when her grandmother was still alive. She’s just completed a seven-month workshop sponsored by The New School For Drama’s Alumni Project in New York City to complete a new version of the work. For more information: http://www.laurarohrman.com

Ghost Story

I spent the day with my children up at my mom’s today. We played in the back yard for most of the afternoon. It was so warm…and then I was consumed with the oddest memory — it was with me pulsing in my heart all day. I remembered the first time my first real boyfriend came up to my house. We live up on a mountain, so it’s far.  First you go to the middle of nowhere and we are a twenty minute drive from there. The boyfriend was Miles McNaught and my mom picked him up in Petaluma and we drove up the hill together. We went for a walk, I showed him all around and we had dinner with my mom and he went home later that night. We were so nuts for each other (honestly nuts) that we couldn’t even kiss, not really…and though that’s what we spent a lot of time doing — -that’s not how we spent our time on that particular day. We held hands and walked with my dog Moe out to the point that overlooked the city that was so far off in the distance that we could only hear each other. Then Moe ran off and I had to chase him. The day must have been warm like today, but it wasn’t July. We first started dating in March of 1986, so his first visit to my house must have been in April of that year. Ah. Such a beautiful time in my life.

I was absolutely heartbroken when Moe died when I was 22. My darling dog, who I loved with all my heart. By the time Miles passed away on Thanksgiving 2010, he wasn’t my boyfriend anymore. We had long ago broken up and I had married someone else, who I love, but Miles and I had stayed close; he was my very special friend.  We had such beautiful memories and there was always this spark between us. We always laughed and hugged each other as if we were still teenagers. He meant the world to me; and I to him and I knew it without ever questioning it.  Let’s face it, I can certainly live, because life is such a beautiful gift, but it’s  hard to live without your first love in the world. There are still things I want to ask Miles. I still feel him near me. It’s not every day, or even every week. These deep days, like today are rare, but when they happen it’s kind of awesome. I’m standing in the kitchen at my mom’s and I’m doing something with my 20 month old and suddenly he’s there, laughing at me. I turn as if I am 16….and nothing. The laughter was my three year old in the other room.

My first born’s first dance retial: The power of love

Call me crazy, but with all the sadness in the world, going to a kids’ dance performance is a way to really lighten your spirits and remind you, that it’s not all bad. Despite the polar ice caps melting and terrible hurricanes, corrupt, polarized politicians — there is happiness to be had, and it’s right in front of you, maybe.

Maya’s first ballet performance was a hit. She was awesome and the show was very professional with so many wonderful children dancers (lots of hip hop boys’ too), teachers and parents. I caught myself getting a little weepy there in the audience. I noticed I was a little teary during the rehearsal too. I was totally embarrassed and put my sunglasses on. I dunno. Perhaps it reminds me of when I was little dancer, which doesn’t seem so long ago. I sort of did a dance on stage in 2004, and before that I did a crazy “Bat Dance” with my friend and amazing dancer Sue Olsen. But that was a long time ago, when I was 18. I danced a lot when I was teenager.

I was also a dance teacher once, and I was the teacher back stage wanting my kids’ to do well.

But this feeling I had today came up and grabbed me in the chest. Love is so powerful.

And then, I got home with baby Lilly and put her down for her nap. Dad is at a birthday party with Maya. I immediately had to get to work cleaning out the double stroller — after an afternoon out, it’s disgusting with milk splattered about. Then, I cleaned my apartment like crazy instead of sitting down to do my real work — for a client that is due Monday, or my writing, which is due for my TV class. I can’t work when my apt is a mess, which is just a perpetual state of affairs when you have little kids….it just is. But once all the laundry was folded and put away, I put the program from Maya’s dance recital in her baby book, and sat in the chair in her room– the one we sit together in every night, where I read The Cat in The Hat and The Giving Tree. I  looked around the cluttered room and thought: just don’t take this from me.Image

Why Seeing the play “Wood Bones” is Important

Wood Bones is an important play for New York Theater. It’s written by a Native American playwright and it’s in NYC. When was the last time you saw a play written by a Native American playwright? In NYC? I don’t know about you, but this will be the first time for me and I’ve been going to theater in NYC for over 10 years. The play is also seeped in ritual and written about and for Native peoples who are so marginalized that we don’t even talk about them or know how to talk about them.  Through a haunted house story, the play invites the audience into a world I have rarely seen, one of the modern Native American Indian — the men and women who live on reservation land — or not, and who have learned to hate and  honor their traditions.

One of the things that I love about theater are the worlds it allows you to visit. For 90 minutes or more, once the theater is dark, the playwright, director and the actors are holding you captive and show you a world with living and breathing characters. You leave the theater, at the very least, being inspired, one would hope.  Possibly you’ve learned something that makes you think about things just a little bit or a lot differently than you did going into the theater. This should happen even if the play is bad or doesn’t make sense.

I’m going to tell you something — even my stinky plays take the audience on a journey. My very worst play, a play that got me nearly got me kicked out of my MFA program was about a brother and sister when the brother was sent away to a mental institution. The other play that really got me trouble (not because it was bad, but because it was about a professor) was about a guy who masturbated too much who was about to die, but he could turn things around if he could be nicer to women.

Plays these days are BORING and the coverage in the media is male focused (white male focused) and also BORING.

I am tired of seeing ho-hum plays that are extremely cliched and only made new by a celebrity or a prop.  This unraveling of quality is happening all over Hollywood and for the past 5 years it’s practically ruined theater for me in New York City — especially Broadway. Did anyone see that play Grace? So Paul Rudd is supposed to make your play interesting? That’s a lot of work for Mr. Rudd!

I rarely go to theater anymore. I have 2 good excuses – their names are Maya, who is three and Lilly who is only one.  My first priority is my children. I just don’t have the time to go out to theater like I once did. But I am also left a tad cold by the theater when I do go.

I am a playwright with some credentials, enough to speak my mind at least. I feel that I have a style. My own work is quirky, usually dark and edgy and I’d very much like to see things that have the following criteria:

The play should be well written, well acted, have some humorous moments that show intelligence and wit. But the play should not only be witty and it should not be perfectly well-made.  Revivals are fine, and who doesn’t love some of the old great plays?  I have seen most of them at least once, and I don’t really need to see them with a celebrity in one of the roles. I just don’t. It doesn’t make them any better, if anything, like in the case of “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof,” I believe a celebrity actress made it worse. Another thing in this rant, why would I want to see a play where nothing happens?

Here’s what I want to tell producers:

I really don’t care about your set if your play is boring. That’s great that you can write beautiful prose, and say some interesting things and I love it that you are smart, but if your story is not new and exiting and by god original, then what is the point? Are you taking me on an exciting journey? Does your play make sense? Can I follow it? What do you want me to think and  feel when I leave? Have I learned something new, or have I merely been mildly entertained?

For me, the answer is always this: Your play should have taken me on a trip (I love “Trip To Bountiful”),  and would love to leave the theater having learned something new. I like bold subjects, and I don’t like prodding through topics that have been done again again.

Turns out, for me anyway, doing the PR for Wood Bones was an education, and a mind bending one at that. As soon as I took the job, I realized — oh wait, I’ve never done PR before, not officially. Also, I have no idea how to reach out to Native Americans in New York City. Is there a Native blog for New York? And I really don’t know very much about Native Americans or their community. American History was my favorite subject in college and Sacajawea my favorite book; and rafting down the Grand Canyon was one of my favorite trips of my life. And, by golly, my two-year-old nephew is part Navajo!  Guess what? Despite all that, I still don’t know shit.

I’ve been lucky in my career. I’ve worked in marketing since graduating college. Though I haven’t always loved that I do marketing, the fact that I am also a writer and playwright, and am a naturally curious person, my career path has led me to some interesting opportunities to say the least. The jobs I land are so very random, but usually in a good way. They are either good for perks (Starwood Hotels) or for something else — an entertaining story.

My very first marketing job was working for the French company, JC Decaux, an outdoor toilet company. Yes, that’s right. I helped open their flagship office in San Francisco. My focus was the display ads on the outside of the toilets, so I was making phone calls to Macy’s, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren,  but the office was small and I often took calls from druggies and people who just wanted to use “The John” in peace.

My next job was much more normal. I worked in a really fancy office on Maiden Lane in San Francisco. Obviously after my first toilet job, I couldn’t wait to have a respectable normal job. I worked for one of San Francisco’s chic advertising agencies as an assistant media planner and my client was Kia Motors, a Korean car company, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. I spent my days dressing cute and flirting with a co-worker. It’s a frilly time…before the Internet boom, just before….and I was lucky to jump that ship and land at my next job which was the very cool, hip Salon.com. I loved this job, one of my favorite jobs ever.  I went camping with Jake Tapper and a throng of other seasoned journalists who are now on CNN and really very famous. Later, when I moved to New York, highlights included doing the online marketing  for the W Hotels and for DIRECTV. I got to go to fashion shows and held court at big meetings, but that power and money didn’t make me happy. In fact, I cried after my first day at DIRECTV because I just didn’t want to work for a big company, it’s not my style.

When I was very young I spent 2 summers in France working in restaurants learning French. I also smoked way too many cigarettes and drank like a fish and sipped lattes with a ciggy in one hand with a cute hat on my head. I used to be able to stay up all night and dance on bars, get lost and come to work at 8AM, drink a huge glass of fresh squeezed OJ and everything would be okay. This French experience is why I got my first job for the French company and probably why and more importantly how I got into marketing. I landed that first job because I spoke French.

At some point, when I was in NYC, I decided I wanted to be a theater artist and I worked my butt off to make that happen. When you have a true passion for something it’s not really that hard. Even though I had a marketing background, I spent 90% of my energy working in the theater. I got my MFA from the New School for Drama, I acted in numerous plays and was even the star of a Russian mini series. I’ve written and had over 40 productions of my plays over the last 10 years.  I spent the 3 years that I was in grad school working part-time as a theatrical literary agent. I was also copywriter for a major theater, a dramaturg for a summer, an assistant on Broadway.  I’ve directed plays, staged managed and written reviews. This year I can add two new titles to my rap sheet:  play contest judge and press rep.

So what’s my point? I’m not sure. It’s 5:30 in the AM. Wood Bones is original, Wood Bones is exciting – it’s well acted and makes sense, and I think you should see it. And then, perhaps a day or two later, when you want to know more, take a trip to the Native American Museum and bring your Kleenex, because you might cry.Image

Hip Hop Abs…or update…1.5 years into having 2 kids!

It’s almost my birthday. I’m totally old! Ugh.  I’m going out with friends tonight — to a bar in NYC. It’s hard to plan these things last minute…drinks for 15 friends in NYC. A few people will cancel with really good excuses at the last minute…and I will be annoyed. I mean, why bother with all the planning? But whatever. Just because I’m old and sore, I should still get a drink with friends on my b-day, right? I’ll have to update you on how this goes….

You know you are feeling old when you are more excited about the massage that you’ve booked for the next day, then your night of revelry.

Anyway, so both my kids’ celebrated their half birthdays this month. Lilly, my little one who is as cute as they come, is 18 months old; and Maya, my oldest is 3.5. Whoa! So I am 3.5 years into this mommy thing….and 1.5 years into being a mamma of two. What have I learned?

1. The first year of having a new baby is the hardest! Whenever I think of having another kid — and believe me — everyone ask “will you have another?” What do they think I am a baby machine…? No, I am giving away all of our baby stuff as fast as possible….I am ready to move on from the baby making phase, but I will remember it fondly, I will….

But what I remember the most, and what I will impart to anyone who asks is this:

The first year of having a new baby is HARD. The real reason women are not supposed to have babies after a certain age is because it’s too hard. Someone is trying to tell us something important. As you get older, you need your sleep!!

2. It’s harder to lose the baby weight after the second baby. For me this has been true. 18 months later and I am down to 3lbs of my pre-second baby weight, which means 13lbs more than before I had babies. I guess that’s not so bad. Things would go a lot faster if I didn’t go to Shake Shack once a week, I know this…yet, I still find myself at Shake Shack every Friday.

3. Laugh more, relax more, Cuddle more and forgive more often. The other day I was about to give my older daughter a time out for not going to brush her teeth right when I told her to. She said, “In a minute mommy.” Then she and the little one started riding on their horse and cow naked. I just started laughing.

4. Realize that I may not have hip hop abs, but maybe I can get to a dance class once in awhile. Before I had babies I used to live in the West Village and on Wednesday nights I took a very professional level dance class at my local gym. It was a hard class and one that you really couldn’t do unless you were once a dancer. I was a dancer when I was younger and used to take classes several times a week up until my twenties. I  even had a dance scholarship when I was 19.

The last time I took this class (at my gym) was before I was even pregnant, probably in 2008. I remembered the class and the teacher fondly. Her name is Abbey and she seems to have a following — she does great choreography. It’s a combo of lyrical jazz and hip hop. In short, a real work out.

Since my daughter now takes ballet and loves it, I had often thought that I should go take a dance class — but I don’t have the time. I mean, that’s now how I would want to spend my time….but maybe that’s what I should do. Dancing is healthy and something that I used to love to do. So the other day, I woke up early with Maya and I went to turn on a cartoon for her, and a crazy infomercial came on for “Hip Hop Abs”…I let it play and after a minute, Maya turned to me and said, “Let’s do hip box ats.” We jumped up and started dancing and I decided right then and there, I was not going to have this flabby muffin top anymore. I was going to go get myself some hip hop abs! I ordered the supplies. I know that I won’t do it, though. I don’t think I even have a dvd player. But I did get inspired to go find a dance class, and you won’t believe it — Abbey’s “Dance Project” was happening that very evening at my old gym in my old hood. I had a sitter that evening, so I decided to go to the class. I slithered in to class in the back. Abbey yelled something to me. I’m sure that she didn’t recognize me. She never knew my name, but back in the day, she used to refer to me as  “Hot Pants.” Anyway, I was sure that I wouldn’t last 10 minutes…but there I was 30 minutes later — hooked…dancing, turning, jumping — sweating. I left though, early, because I didn’t have the right shoes and my toe was bothering me. But I was happy! In fact, I couldn’t stop smiling the rest of the evening. Dancing is good. I’ll be back!!

5. Super moms need a break. We are all super moms…I know this.

Remember that you need a break too. This can be anything….a rest, a massage, a moment to write a blog post….a hair cut. Moms (and dads too) need a time out from work and kids. These moments of time out are refreshing and well deserved. I’m a frigging super mom, who also writes plays, TV scripts and has marketing clients.  I take both my kids swimming by myself (they are babies) all the time. You should see what chasing them around the changing room is like, and you’ll understand why I think I’m a super mom. I also do a Russian play group on Tuesday afternoons. Yeah, I speak Russian enough to do a Russian play group. I read French books to my daughter every night and she loves it. No, I’m not perfect, and I never seem to have my double stroller stocked with exactly what I should have (there’s always a lot of weird shit in there), but I’m a very good mommy and I deserve every little break that I can get….you do too.

Goodbye J.R.

When I was a little girl, I started watching Dallas on Friday nights with my mom. I can remember loathing that The Dukes of Hazzard a really ridiculous car bang up show came on first. My brother, Curt loved cars, so of course we had to watch it. But then, there was Dallas. I didn’t understand it, but I loved it all the same, and I really followed JR and Sue Ellen. I just wanted them to get back together and they were always separated or she was drunk. J.R.was always cheating on her. Oh, it was evil, but interesting. I even made up a game that I called “Dallas.” I’d make my friend come up the stairs and catch me cheating on her. I would be J.R. and she would be Sue Ellen. Don’t laugh. I really did this.
By the time I was a teenager and Dallas was still on the air, I’d stopped watching. Teenagers don’t sit home with their mom’s on Friday night! So I barely noticed when the formidable show went off the air in the early nineties. But I was always interested in Larry Hagman, because he seemed so charming and likeable and yet he was a scoundrel. He was, it seems to me, a little like my own dad. He even looked very similar to my dad and they had the same initials. J.R. — and my dad is Jack Rohrman, so his initials are J.R.
My dad and mom were divorced by the time I was five. So I didn’t see my dad so much — on weekends — sometimes. He remarried when I was 6. My dad lived large. He and my step mom went on long, very fancy and exotic vacations. In fact, they still go on fancy, interesting vacations. Bhutan — who goes to Bhutan? Thailand, Ireland, Russia, Cuba…places I couldn’t even imagine going. Whether it was true or not, my dad seemed rich. He drove a blue Mercedes. He had and he still has a style about him that is unique. He is handsome, like J.R, but my dad J.R. lives in the wine country, so he drinks wine and has a hot tub instead of oil wells. He is a scoundrel, but loveable. He was a lot like J.R and like Larry Hagman. Perhaps, only now as a grown up, do I understand that possibly I liked Dallas so much because watching the show was like getting to spend time with my dad.
Out of odd fascination, I was excited when Dallas returned in 2012. I watched every episode. And even though he was an old dinosaur, I loved it that Larry Hagman reprized his role as the scheming, smart, J.R Ewing. He was back! Somehow, even though he was really old and had very long eyebrows, he was still so charming. Overall the show grew on me, and I’ve enjoyed watching the very last of J.R. in season 2. I think the producers did an apt job of keeping his memory alive. The more I read about Larry Hagman and this role — the one of J.R., the more it seems to fit. He went out, just the way he’d want to — wearing a ten gallon hat and shrouded in mystery…at least in TV land. Real life is sometimes not as much fun.

It was odd, but I cried when I first heard that he died. I mean, I know that I liked Dallas when I was kid, but I didn’t know Larry Hagman. His death really shouldn’t make me cry. But there I was, reading about his life and tearing up, for about a week before, well, other horrible things happened in the world.

The weekend that Larry Hagman passed away, we were visiting family in D.C, and it was very difficult for me to get a minute to myself to catch any news on the TV about his passing. Finally, I just turned on the TV and my little three-year-old happened to be in the room with me. I didn’t care, I really wanted to see the news about Larry/J.R.
When his picture popped up and the newscaster’s described his life in passing, Maya, my three-year-old, saw his picture on the screen and said, “There’s Gompo! Why is Gompo on the news?” Gompo is what she calls her grandpa, my dad. It was unexpected since, I’m sure I hadn’t mentioned anything about Dallas or my dad to her. These were my secret thoughts. I was touched, and felt a sense of redemption and deep understanding from such a special place: my daughter. I suppose his death made me cry because it reminded me of a special time when I was a little girl. Maybe it also reminds me of my dad, and how much I looked up to him. If he was all good, he’d be a little boring. And let’s face it, J.R. was never boring.