My friend Jane has a background in theater and music. Over the years she has occasionally been assigned to direct high school student musicals. Usually, however, she hides and pretends she’s merely another English teacher, while keeping her fingers crossed that the current administrator doesn’t learn of her expertise.
However, I think Jane is a frustrated director in need of an adult play and cast. She’s been bugging me for years to take her concept idea for a Broadway hit and write the script. She already has the title, Last Exit. As soon as I started this blog, she called to remind me once again of the play.
As any of you reading these entries know, Jane and I consider ourselves sisters, part of a larger group of sisters and a decades-long friendship. We’re pretty sure we were all family in some weird past life, and it’s always delighted me how we can simply pick up the thread of a conversation even if we haven’t been in touch for a while.
Dianne found us earrings that remind us of our sister relationship — taken from early cave dwelling artwork illustrating four women. We wear the earrings at sister events or to lend support when it’s needed.
I remember walking into a School Board of Trustees meeting and sitting down next to one of the principals. Mary, one of the sisters, was presenting so of course I had on my earrings.
The principal leaned over to say hello, spotted the signature earrings and grimaced.
OK, I knew about you. I even knew about Suzanna and Peggy, but Mary? Mary? Mary is a sister too? Tell me it’s not true.
I smiled. We’re everywhere.
He sighed. We do know about The Sisters. If the group shows up to advocate for anything, we’ve all agreed to just let you have your way. It’s easier.
I smiled. The administrators of twelve high schools and a central office prepared to acquiesce without debate or bloodletting. Countries should take note.
As we’ve retired, we still get together, but now we also show up en masse for illnesses or injuries, taking a day here, a meal there, a drive to the doctor’s or just visiting. We’re very fortunate to have one another.
With that kind of background woven through the fabric of our lives, Jane and I are certain it will continue until our final curtains. At least we came to that conclusion one evening over plotting, laughing ourselves silly and a bottle of something or other.
Jane wants to make us into a smash Broadway hit, so we can all retire well above our current teacher-retirement means. She has the plot down and most of our parts cast. I believe Jane has selected Ellen Bursten to play herself and Judi Dench to play me, which, in itself, it’s pretty darn cool. Jessica Lange, Allison Jenney, Shirley McLaine, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren and Cathy Bates round out the headliners. You really won’t want to miss it.
While not giving away the entire plot, because we will want you to purchase tickets, the play follows a group of aging sisters reflecting on their lives with lots of laughter and some tears.
The play opens with the sisters at Mimi’s grave site following her unexpected passing, which, in reality, happened almost four years ago. We make a pact over a bottle or two of wine that when one of us is dying, the next youngest will, um, accelerate the transition — gently and with love, of course, but eliminating as much suffering, lingering and impact on the savings account as possible.
And, so it goes, one sister at time, until only the youngest — enter Helen Mirren — is left standing alone at the last grave site, waiting to face the music and police.
As she is escorted off stage by police, exiting stage right, she smiles grimly with her final words.
At least now I’ll have free room, board and medical care for the rest of my life.