Celebrating the members of the League of Professional Theatre Women

Archive for the tag “Oklahoma”


Vanda, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenPlaywright
New York, New York USA

The Play that Changed My Life
Growing up in my working class neighborhood only one hour and two trains away from New York City (you had to change in Jamaica from diesel to electric) meant I never went into The City to see a play. We went into The City occasionally to see a special doctor and those trips weren’t fun. But no one, and I mean no one, ever went into The City for any form of entertainment. We lived in a different world and City people were faraway strangers who were possibly dangerous. None of us had any concept of theater.

Then in the sixth grade, my teacher planned a trip to see a play in another town. Not the City. We were going to see a show put on by a visiting theatrical troupe. I don’t know what happened, but no one in the class, including the teacher, showed up. It was just my girlfriend, Jackie, and me.

I had no feeling of excited anticipation waiting for the overture as I would now. I don’t even remember the overture. The first thing I remember– the very first thing to wake me up to theater—was Aunt Eller charging onto stage with an egg beater in her hand yelling at the salesman who sold it to her. My body sat up straight. A grown woman who could’ve been my Grandmother was up there singing. Wow!

I didn’t know then that Oklahoma had changed all of musical theater back in the forties. All I knew was I LOVED what was happening on that stage.

Right after that evening I set about writing my own version of Oklahoma, using my mother’s old 78 rpm records. Jackie and I tried to direct the class in this version. Of course, no one took it seriously, including Jackie. I lost control of my cast and my pirated version never happened. But that first theatrical experience assured that I would go on to be a playwright, though it would be many more years before I wrote my first play.

Vanda: 2011 Winner: Pride Screen and Stage’s Women’s Work Contest (Patient HM
2009 Finalist: Lambda Literary Award in Drama (Vile Affections)
2008  Vile Affections (Full-length play): published by Original Works
2007: Profiled in Dramatists’ Guild Magazine, The Dramatist.

Edie Cowan

Edie Cowan, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenDirector / Choreographer / Actor
New York, New York USA

What play or production changed your life?
When I was eight, my parents took me to see a production of Oklahoma – I was smitten. I especially remember a dancer in the show who wore a straw hat with ribbons down her back. I had a hat just like it and assumed she was a child like me. At one point in the show, she fell down. She picked herself up right away and continued dancing. I’d been taking dance lessons, and the thought came to me…some day I could be a dancer in a Broadway show.

I kept that thought to myself, until one day, on my way home from college, I noticed a building from the bus window. It was the Long Island Institute of Music and Dance. I asked my dad if I could take a few classes there – he agreed and before long I was taking several classes a week.

One day, I announced to my parents my decision to drop out of college and become a dancer. My father said “over my dead body” but suggested I could major in dance at a university. Three years later, I graduated from Butler University and began auditioning for shows. I got my first job, dancing in the ensemble of the original Broadway production of Funny Girl.

Jump forward several years. I went to see the Broadway revival of Oklahoma. There was that same dancer, wearing the straw hat with ribbons and darned if she didn’t fall down again. I realized she wasn’t a child at all and that moment had been choreographed.

Several years after that, the great Agnes DeMille was being honored by the SDC with the Mr. Abbott award. I was asked to be one of the speakers at the gala. I related this story with Ms. DeMille sitting not ten feet away from me. I ended by thanking her for inspiring me to become a dancer and then a choreographer. She touched her heart and opened her hands toward me.

Seeing that show changed my life, and wonder of wonders, I actually got to tell Ms. DeMille and thank her. What a feeling!!!

Edie Cowan has had an extensive career in the theatre from performing in the original casts of three Broadway shows, playing featured roles in three national tours, to choreographing the original Off-Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors. She’s directed and choreographed at many regional theatres and internationally under the auspices of the State Department.

Laura Annawyn Shamas

Laura Annawyn Shamas, member of the League of Professor Theatre WomenPlaywright, Educator
Los Angeles, California USA

“My First Big Role: Playing A Boy”
The first play that changed my life was Six Who Pass While The Lentils Boil by Stuart Walker, published by Samuel French. In the 1960’s, I was eight years old and lived in Ponca City, Oklahoma, with my parents and brother.

My mother’s close friend decided to direct Six Who Pass While the Lentils Boil for the community theater there. One of the biggest roles in it calls for a dutiful young boy who does not betray the Queen, even though many tempt him to do so. A casting notice went around town, and all the boys interested in acting tried out for the role. My mother’s friend, the director, suggested that I audition, even though I was a girl. As an eight-year-old, I did not find this to be a strange idea. Sure, I could play a boy, I thought. Why not? I have a brother, so I know how boys act.

I auditioned; the competition was fierce in Ponca. But I was given the role. To look more convincing, I got a “pageboy” haircut and became “Sir Davey Little Boy.” My parents helped me to memorize my lines—well, “helped” is a euphemism. (Ask them about it sometime. They still remember it as an unpleasant ordeal.) What I remember most about being in the show is that I got to wear green tights and was dressed sort of like Robin Hood. My brother was envious!

Although my young parents were struggling financially at the time, my father gave me a huge bouquet of roses for the opening; I still have the card that came with them, addressed to “Sir Davey Little Boy.” In performance, we had no need of a prompter because I’d memorized the entire script by rote; the adult actors came to depend on me to help them with their lines if they “went up.”

To this day, I enjoy stirring lentils. And with this early experience, portraying a boy when I was a young girl, my love of theatre began.

Laura Annawyn Shamas is a writer, mythologist and educator. Her plays include: Up To Date, Lady-Like, Portrait of a Nude, and an adaptation of Picnic At Hanging Rock. Details about her new book Pop Mythology: Collected Essays are available at her website: Member: Chickasaw Nation.

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