Today is Tuesday, June 16. Not just any Tuesday, but Jo Ann's birthday. It is day that I really enjoy celebrating, obviously. If you read a prior blog, you would know that we have been together as partners for over 34 years. That is quite an accomplishment I might add. But this is a blog about theater and the fact that Jo Ann is here on earth is relevant to my participation in theater.
When we first met, she was an education major and I a theater major at the University of Texas. She was heavily involved in a Chicano organization, MAYO. In fact she was an elected officer. My political involvement was zero. I had an excuse then, one only theater majors might understand. So she is the one that moved me toward more learning, more discovering about whom I was, where I had come from and where I was going.
Hummm...sounds like the main reason I do theater and write plays. The more we fell in love, the more we began to share ideas, dreams, and classes. She suggested the electives classes that we could take together to meet our degree requirements. And for three of our last four college years, we took a class together every semester. It also worked out great for studying too. We would attend classes, she would read the books and I would write the papers. She would rewrite my paper for her own version. Was this cheating? I don't know, since she usually got a better grade on her paper than I did on mine. So this pattern, established over 30 years ago continues to this day. Only we are not writing for grades, but for grants.
So how does an education major and theater major make it all work? Well actually it didn't. We did break up our final year of college. Theater took too much time away from our relationship. I would return at 1:00 am on a regular basis from rehearsals or performances. Then be up and gone to the 7:00 am class since all my classes had to be done by 1pm for me to do my work-study job that lasted until 6:00pm, giving me an hour before that 7:00pm rehearsal/or call that would take me to midnight. But we never stopped being friends or staying in touch. So a one-year separation was like a big rubber band. We stretched it as far as it would go and then it brought us back together for good. We have stretched that rubber band some during the past years but it hasn't broken. And I hope it never does.
But what did happen was that Jo Ann developed her own love for the theater, but on the business end. She has flourished. We both gave up to solid teaching careers in Houston, TX and moved to Santa Barbara, California to work with Teatro de la Esperanza. She took the job of tour coordinator. Esperanza was exclusively a touring company so she pretty much kept the group in business for about 4 years. We left the group, came back to Austin with two small children; Julio and Carina and left the theater world behind. This was in 1983.
Then one day, ten years later, (I was now working as a letter carrier and Jo Ann resumed her teaching career) I decided that I wanted to write again. I missed the theater and found that she did too. Joining forces with Teatro Humanidad Cansada (Now Teatro Humanidad), we began our return. Jo Ann performed like we had just left Califas the day before. She was a pro at doing publicity and marketing. To this day, people marvel at how well Teatro Vivo does its PR campaigns. This is Jo Ann.
But this is not all she does. She also serves as a very, very important part of my play development. And this is what means the most to me. She listens. And she remains the most trusted critic that I have. She is honest in her comments to my scripts. Most people don't know that she is the first to hear my plays. We sit at the dinner table, and I read. She takes notes and gives me important first impression feedback. I use what she gives me and she has made me a better writer or at least my plays better.
This note today is dedicated to you, Jo Ann, on the 20th anniversary of your 35th birthday. Your love, devotion, and support of me, my work, our children have made me a very happy man. I hope that I too have returned some of the same that you have given me. Happy birthday and I am on my way to the store for champagne and Italian cream cake.