Imaginal Cells: 1974-77

When our friend the caterpillar stops chomping leaves and spins a cocoon, it hardly knows what it’s in for. It spins itself into a future whose silken fibers are incredibly strong. Then the change begins. Cells are awakened that seem so alien to the worm’s wormhood that an immune reaction sets in. Cells battle cells until nothing remains of that child in the kindergarten photo, and its urge to flight gives it wings.

Our changes were less dramatic, but we often longed for that tight cocoon where we could dream our metamorphosis until the glorious emergence. Too often, we woke, checked the mirror: Nope, still a worm. It was like a childbirth that goes on for hours, days, weeks, and at last it’s your own self that’s emerged— a self already starting again into labor.

In the summer of ’74 we were making that change. We wrapped up management stuff at Theatre X, not knowing whether we were conducting a burial or midwifing a birth. We found a basement apartment in Chicago several blocks from The Body Politic, an arts complex that had offered us a small chamber theatre. We were rehearsing our first duo show, Song Stories, while booking a tour for this show that did not yet exist. Elizabeth was pregnant, our toddler was toddling, and his father was making doctor’s appointments for episodes of something unknown. We were putting together a board of directors, bylaws, logo and stationery for our new company. We bought an electric piano and the first of a string of Dodge vans. Our savings, which had cushioned our exodus from teaching, were nearly flatlined.

Midsummer, we ferried across Lake Michigan, drove on to New York and Vermont, where we visited the Bread & Puppet Theatre’s summer festival and had the most delicious ice cream of our lives. Why we allowed ourselves that trip, under the pressure, is lost to memory.

- EF -

It was the worst year. I’d never want to live that year again. Everything had happened so fast. One day I was a faculty wife, the next day I was part of a wild theatre collective, then I was nursing a baby. Now I was pregnant again, the money was dribbling out, we were leaving the dream we’d spent five years to bring into being, and we had to move. When I saw my mate near-comatose or staggering around and slurring his words, I felt the animal’s terror when it senses the earthquake’s onset. There was nothing under my feet. One day at a time, the saying goes. . . .