As collaborators, Julianne Boyd and Joan Micklin Silver are a hand-in-glove match. They share the same artistic and political values, they laugh at the same things, they even finish each other’s sentences. So what if they only work together every eight years? They’ll be the first to say they plan their projects in response to social currents, and not because they need a job.
Boyd is a stage director with an extensive list of credits; Silver works primarily in the film and television industry. Together they have conceived and directed the popular musical revue A… My Name Is Alice and its sequel, A… My Name Is (Still) Alice, which ran through June 21 at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre.
“The first Alice,” as its creators call it, was born in 1983, when Silver put together a revue to benefit the National Abortion Rights Action League and Boyd, little more than an acquaintance at the time, was called in to help direct. The benefit performance was a success, and Silver approached Boyd about developing a full-length show.
Using material from 28 eclectic contributions (ranging from Steve Tesich to Anne Meara), Silver and Boyd put together a crowd-pleasing assortment of sketches and songs about contemporary women. The revue satirized gender roles, female yuppies and such stereotypical art forms as the steamy blues ballad and feminist poetry, but with such gentle humor that the show’s fell-good mood was rarely broken. Following its 1983–84 premiere at New York’s Women’s Project, productions proliferated from Dallas to Detroit, Seattle to Santa Fe.
With a harder edge
Mission accomplished, the women, now good friends, returned to their separate careers. For years they saw no reason to make their relationship anything but social. But recent changes in the political climate–particularly the growing possibility that Roe v. Wade will be overturned–changed their minds.
Like its predecessor, A… My Name Is (Still) Alice explores various facets of women’s lives–only this time with a harder edge. The new show features a soft-shoe number about sexual harassment, a sketch about single mothers, and a lookk at the so-called gag rule (in a piece called “The David Souter Home for Unwed Mothers”). “We found that because the pain was a little deeper in the gut, we had to laugh a little louder this time,” Boyd says.
“The first Alice had a feeling of celebration to it,” Silver adds. “One of the things we loved about the nearly feminist movement was that it allowed for the possibility that when women get together, something pretty terrific happens.”
At a Saturday afternoon rehearsal in a refurbished warehouse in downtown San Diego, Silver directs the first read-through of a rewritten scene that arrived by fax that morning; Boyd watches intently, laughing occasionally. The show is changing shape daily, yet the two present a united front of relaxed concentration. With the cast and crew they are warm (though never gushing), calm and diplomatic–a good cop/good cop team, as it were. Boyd and Silver divide the directorial duties, except for the opening number and the finale, which they work on together. “The revue format lends itself particularly well to two directors,” Silver notes. “I don’t think too many other things would.”
In the year 2000
In conversation, the two are unfailingly on the same wavelength. Is there a key to their silky collaboration? Silver points to their similar lifestyles (each is married with three children), their compatible tastes, their close friendship. “The bottom line is we have the same sense of humor, the same sensibilities and the same values,” Boyd chimes in. “That’s why it works.”
Will there be an Alice 3? The partners answer with a simultaneous yes. “I keep saying Alice 2000, that’ll be the next one,” predicts Silver. “A trilogy of women’s viewpoints in the last years of the 20th century.”