One perk of being 77 is reveling in long-term comradeship. I have been with Conrad for fifty-seven years, a mighty span. Right now I am visiting a friend I have loved for fifty-one years, another astonishing accomplishment. It’s been half a century of time and geography expanding and contracting like a celestial accordion, and there have been gaps, but we’ve never entirely lost the thread of that friendship.
While CB had his first post-doctoral job teaching at the University of South Carolina, 1966-68, we staged our own adaptation of Euripides’ Hecuba, and an amazing actor, Flora Coker, played the title role (I played her daughter). Even at that age, she was a force of nature, and is still the best actor I know. We were young enough to be good friends of that extraordinary bunch, and when we left and moved to Milwaukee, we tried to stay in touch.
Our first trip to Europe was in 1969, and we were already involved with the extracurricular theatre group that was to become Theatre X. We found Flora in Ireland and asked her to come join us in Milwaukee, and after a few months she did. You can look up Theatre X in Wikipedia and be amazed at how good it was and how long it lasted.
In 1974 Conrad and I separated from Theatre X and started The Independent Eye, but after the aches and pains of parting had dissipated, we all worked together from time to time. Our own theatrical work was literally all over the map in the US, and Theatre X did regular residencies at The Mickey in Amsterdam. Visits were rare treats, and working together was special.
In the early 80’s we wrote Full Hookup, which was superbly staged at the Actors Theatre of Louisville with Anne Pitoniak in the central role. Later Conrad directed it with Theatre X with Flora, and in my mind, hers was the defining performance.
In the 90’s, when we were in Philadelphia, we wrote and staged a four-character comedy Loveplay, based on improvisations with the same actors who eventually played the roles. We imported Flora from Milwaukee, and she lived with us during the script development and again for the spans of performance. She and I played a pair of long-term lovers in a dispute over polyamory. It was wildly successful.
Then we moved to Sebastopol, and visits only happened when our touring took us to the Midwest, but they happened. And when money permitted, we’d sometimes manage plane fare. Right now I’m enjoying three days of catching up and loving it, and it’s worth every bit of the aggravation United Airlines is happy to provide. Hail Time, hail Friendship, hail Flora.