This week, our friend Joan Schirle died. Elizabeth read it on Facebook.
She’d had a long bout with colon cancer. We had no idea. She wasn’t a frequent friend—she lives two hundred miles to the north—but we stayed often at her place when up there, drank a lot, talked a lot. She knew our theatre work; we knew hers—we were tribe.
Joan was one of a trio of gifted clowns who formed the Dell’Arte troupe. After years of touring, they founded a school in rural Blue Lake, CA, that attracted an international student body, and continues. On stage, she was unforgettable. At the Logger Bar, over a glass of beer, she was unforgettable. I could go on and on.
This has been a span of time when I think of unforgettable actresses I’ve known. Joan is now dead, Erika is dead, Camilla is dead, Flora is still alive, and Laurie and Elizabeth. None of these would rate the headlines of Beyonce or Dolly Parton when they pass, which they will—it seems to happen—but they’ve all made magic of an order undreamt by the NY Times.
It was an utter shock, yet I can well understand why one hesitates to tell friends, “I’m about to die.” I still feel the time when I was most in need of help. I had a disorder that produced extreme hypoglycemia—hallucinations, comas, etc. I was on my way two blocks from the theatre to my home, with a toddler in tow and a newborn babe in a Snugli on my chest, when I was overcome and unable to walk. I lay down on the sidewalk. A passer-by asked, “Do you need help?” “No problem,” I said, and he passed. Huge problem, in fact, but admitting it was impossible. It would make it real. So would I broadcast that I had a fatal disease? I don’t know, but I know the reluctance. It’s a matter of survival.
Life is so precious. That’s all I can say. It just is. Goodbye, Joan. I missed your curtain call.