Today is my birthday and my parents bought me this awesome journal that I’m going to use as a diary. I hope to write in it every day and tell you all about the super cool stuff I’m doing this year. My BFF Julie is coming over tomorrow for a sleepover and then it’s my birthday party with friends. Better rest up so I can stay up all night, hehe.
P.S. Tomorrow I will tell you all about my new crush Mike. He’s super hot!!!
And that, my friends, was the one — and only — entry made in my sweet pink sparkly journal. So much for documenting my “super fun” fifth grade year.
Luckily for the women of Minneapolis, the hilarious duo of Barbara Melnyk Gehring and Linda Klein were a tad more diligent about documenting the trials and tribulations of growing up female. And even better yet? They’ve created a stage show all about how hilarious that experience can be.
Yes, ladies — from tampons to menopause and everything in between, it’s a true fact that what we ladies go through in life can be pretty doggone funny, not to mention entertaining. While other shows have previously hit the stage showing the serious or sometimes cynical side of being a woman (no, this is not the “Vagina Monologues”), this show is all about the laughs. Gehring and Klein used their own personal diaries as inspiration (and even the dialogue) to let every woman know, you’re not alone — we were all this dorky once.
“Girls Only: The Secret Comedy Of Women” is now playing at Hennepin Stages and runs through April 3. Shows run Thursday through Sunday with each exploring the many (hilarious) stages of being a woman.
I was lucky enough to talk with Gehring and Klein about the show they created, the feedback from the women they entertain and what this “secret” business is all about.
Curiocity: Tell me a little bit about “Girls Only” and what’s in store for audiences.
Linda: Well “Girls Only” is actually a comedic variety show and it has a little bit of sketch comedy, a little bit of improv, some singing, some dancing, a little audience interaction.
Curiocity: Wow, OK. So really, anything you’d want and more.
Linda: (Laughs) Yeah, that’s the way we like to look at it.
Curiocity: If you could sum up the show in just one word, what word would that be?
Linda: I’d say playful.
Barbara: I was going to say exotic. (Pause) No I’m totally joking. That’s like a 180 from us.
Curiocity: Obviously it narrows things down with the title, but who is this show for? And who would you recommend it to?
Linda: Well the show seems to appeal to women of all ages. We have preteens who come that giggle at the stuff they’re going through and we’ve had a 94-year-old come here, laughing heartily at everything she’s already been through. We’ve yet to find a woman who can’t connect to the show on some level.
Curiocity: What kind of response have you received from this show?
Linda: It’s a really special response. Because a room full of women and two women on stage create this really magical, special energy.
Curiocity: How did you come up with the concept of this show? How did you get from reading your diaries and laughing to creating a two-woman show?
Linda: Well actually, we have been writing comedy together for about 15 years, so this was one of many shows that we have written. We took our comedic inspiration from everyday things and one time, when we were reading our diaries to each other and cracking up, we thought this is a possibility for a show. So we started with the diaries but then we began to explore other aspects, womanhood and girlhood.
Curiocity: How much of this show is straight out of your own lives? Or straight out of those diary entries?
Linda: The show is entirely based on truth.
Curiocity: Was there anything you were reading from your past that you were like, ‘Oh, maybe we shouldn’t put that in the show,’ in terms of potential for humiliation?
Linda: One thing we really discovered in putting this show together is that the experiences that Barbara and I had were universal. We thought that we were having a unique experience through the trauma of girlhood and come to find out everybody experienced the same thing.
Curiocity: Are you finding that even though you’re talking about your experiences growing up, are girls who are going through those trials now able to relate to the material?
Barbara: Oh absolutely. That’s the funny thing, because Linda and I grew up, really in the 70s. It’s the same thing now — girls still have diaries, they still have crushes, they still go through puberty and they still get embarrassed or nervous about the same things. You know, it seems like pop culture changes but our basic human growing up experiences is the same. Culturally, pretty much the same as well. We had some women from Japan who saw it and they got it. They got it.
Curiocity: You list some pretty funny subject matters, from maxi pads to puberty, that’s all included in this show. Is there anything that you personally find to be the funniest in a show like this?Barbara: You know, it’s interesting. We do have one point in the show where we do some improvisation and we have these purses. And we take a purse from the audience and we ask if we can use it and they always kindly say yes. And so we do a scene about it. And what’s so fun is that every single night, it’s different and every woman, it’s so fun, because every woman who didn’t get their purse picked is going, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s in my purse?’ We all have such crazy things in our purses. Purses are so universal. It doesn’t matter what age you are, you can basically live out of your purse. You could be stranded for months, but I have my purse, I’m fine.
Curiocity: Have you ever had anyone say, ‘Um, no I don’t think I can give you my purse?’
Barbara: In the hundreds and hundreds of performances we’ve had, I can count them on one hand.
Curiocity: So, what’s been the most surprising thing you’ve found in someone’s purse?
Barbara: (Laughs) It’s a toss-up between the chewing tobacco and the flask of whiskey. It’s such a treat for Linda and I. We just don’t know what we’re going to get. It’s always fun because it’s real. These are their real purses. It’s what they had in their purse that day. Real items.
Curiocity: When you were going through your diary, laughing at the entries, what surprised you most about your own past?
Barbara: I think for me, it was amazing how I kept being told no about something. There was a crush I had on this boy and I just couldn’t let it go. I never took no for an answer. And I would take something very negative and make it positive. That was something I noticed as I ran through it. I was always trying to fix the situation.
Linda: I think I discovered that I thought I was a singular dork out there on my own. But through this process I have discovered that I was surrounded by dorks and didn’t know it.
Barbara: People who we think were popular, my theory is, I think when you talk to them, those people didn’t think they were popular. I think there’s always someone more popular above the popular person. Everyone thinks they were a dork, that’s what we’re finding. That’s our research.
Curiocity: What’s the most rewarding thing about performing this show night after night?
Barbara: For me, the energy and laughter that is created by this simple, honest show. The women, they laugh heartily, they’re free to be themselves. When we talk to them after the show, they’re so grateful for this opportunity to really laugh at themselves and relive childhood and girlhood and go, ‘Wow, that was really fun.’ You know, we used to live with that angst of being teenagers, but when you go back and look at it, it really was fun. Walking out on stage, I get so much energy from those women. What a fun thing to give to the world. Linda and I are really grateful that this is out there.
Curiocity: So what is the secret? Or do you have to check out a performance to find out?
Barbara: I think the secret lies within the person going to see it. I think there’s a lot of women who left a little bit less locked up. You know, there’s women who go home to find their diary or a long-lost item from their childhood. Perhaps they bring a friend next time to share it with. We had one woman who said ‘Every time I come and see this, I learn more about my friends because they tell me, these friends that I’ve had forever, they’re now telling me these secrets and stories that I’ve never heard.’ It lets women let go and relax a little. Whatever secret is in the show kind of comes out in the women who are leaving through those doors.
For more information about the show or for tickets to a performance, check out “Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women” on its website. Tickets range from $29.50 to $32.50. The show’s runtime is one hour, 30 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.
Sara Boyd is a web producer and columnist at WCCO.COM.