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1130 Pine Street, Paso Robles, CA 93446
July 13, 2017

A Legend Takes the Stage

By Anne Laddon

A Legend Takes the Stage

“Who would be an ideal subject for a play,” Al Schnupp asked Andrew Campbell, Arts Manager for the City of West Hollywood. Al, who prefers female protagonists, and fellow playwright, Ellyn Gersh-Lerner, had considered Judy Chicago, Alice Neel and Georgia O’Keeffe, among others. Without hesitation, Andrew exclaimed, “Ivy Bottini!”

Mr. Campbell arranged a meeting to introduce Al and Ellyn to Ivy. A victim of macular degeneration, Miss Bottini is nearly blind. “Come here. Close. Let me have a look at you,” she said to Al. She studied his face, nodded and said, “That’s a good face.” Then she turned to Ellyn, examined her and smiled, “That’s a better face.” Ivy confessed she falls in love, quickly and often, and warned Ellyn, “I may fall in love with you before the interview is over.”

The playwriting pair of Al and Ellyn interviewed Ivy four times, each interview lasting about 3 hours. Over the course of a year, they co-wrote “Ivy”, which was then presented as a reading in West Hollywood as part of the One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival. A year later, Al suggested they tackle the play again, and rewrite it as a musical. Ellyn was involved in other projects and the new version became a single-author creation. Al wrote a series of poems/songs, focusing only on language, rhyme and rhythm, not on any musical composition of the “lyrics.” As he worked on the script, more and more it emulated the style of poet Richard Wilbur, who translated and adapted many plays by Moliere. A title emerged that reflected Ivy’s mission, while speaking to current, relevant affairs – INCLUSIVITY – the Ivy Bottini Story. After several readings and revisions, Al decided to mount the play at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles.

The script is comprised of 17 songs/poems, with transitions. The opening number is entitled “Family Tree;” the final number is “World Tree.” The play shows Ivy’s journey, a progression from a regional to global vision. The opening number introduces key members of Ivy’s immediate and extended family:
IVY Ivy. My name is Ivy. I’m the kid –
The kind who just can’t live inside the grid.
DAD Archie. My name is Archie. I’m her Dad –
That scrappy girl is the son I never had.
MOM Ivy. My name is Ivy. I’m her Mom –
In this trio, I’m the ticking bomb.
DAD Two Ivys in one house – makes for touch and go
What’s the word today? Friend or foe?

Ivy had a deep affection for her father, contrasting with a troubled relationship with her crazed Mother. Ivy and her father share a similar sentiment, as they speak in unison:
There’s a whole lot of darkness, a whole lot of light
There’s devils wanting to pick a fight,
There’s angels to set things right.
And later, in the same number:
There’s a whole lot of goodness, a whole lot of bad
There’s no way to outrun the sad,
But there’s always someone to make you glad.

After graduating from high school, Ivy, who was naturally athletic and a gifted artist, organized and coached an all-girls basketball team. She did this while studying at Pratt Institute School of Art where, after the death of her father, Ivy was granted a full scholarship. “Girls” is a tribute to a litany of women she loved, without ever acting on her desire. Ivy would eventually choose the expected, conventional route and marry, but she did meet with a therapist, once, to resolve her feelings:
DOCTOR Come in, come in,
Please take a seat. Let’s begin.
Do you like my large and handsome desk -
It pleases me…so Freud-esque.
Now, why are you here?
IVY I think I’m queer.
DOCTOR What? I beg your pardon. Say again, once more.
IVY I love women. That is the sex I adore.
DOCTOR Oh, no, that’s not good
Let’s look under the hood.

Ivy married Eddie and they had 2 children. Sixteen years would pass before Ivy came out as a lesbian. Two numbers, “Eddie – Hello” and “Eddie – Goodbye” capture her meeting and separation from Eddie. In a farewell to Eddie, Ivy says:
You’ve been nothing but kind
Showing respect
Bearing in mind
Not one to neglect
My odd little needs
Not one to correct
My misguided deeds.

To this day, Ivy looks back on Eddie with great fondness.

Ivy became involved in the women’s movement and knew Betty Friedan intimately; she was one of the co-founders of the NYC Chapter of NOW. While serving as president of the NYC Chapter, Ivy announced, publically, that she was lesbian. Betty was appalled. To Ms. Friedan, the NOW agenda was to focus only on equal pay and child care. In “Betty Goes Beserk” the chorus says:
Betty thinks the New York Chapter
Is corrupted by the Bottini factor.
Ivy says NOW should be a lesbian enclave
But Betty says, “Hell, no!” and she won’t cave.

Betty masterminded a plan to successfully expel Ivy as NOW president. Ivy and her disillusioned partner moved to Los Angeles. Ivy conducted workshops on raising consciousness among women and performed, across the country, in a one-woman show called “The Many Faces of Woman.” In the eighties, she hosted a radio show on a mainstream station, as well as taking on leadership roles in fighting discriminatory propositions. “Proposition 6” presents Anita Bryant and John Briggs as a carnival sideshow duet, as they campaign to ban gay teachers from the classroom. “Proposition 64” portrays Lyndon LaRouche as a flimflam artist, who cranks his organ grinder and spews hatefulness and fear against people who are HIV+.

In the closing number, “World Tree,” Ivy appeals to the higher aspirations of people:
The bigotry won’t stop. Challenges don’t end
It seems there’s always something to defend.
Why can’t we embrace everyone on earth,
And celebrate their dignity and worth?

Lisa Keating, a singer and actress from Santa Fe, will play Ivy. Five students of the Cal Poly Theatre and Dance Department form the ensemble: Miranda Ashland, Gabrielle Duong, Kathryn Fogel, Jennifer McClinton and Trinity Smith. Each actress plays multiple roles. Sabrina Orro is creative consultant. The set is comprised of a large, lattice-like tree backdrop, designed with spirals and flame-shaped openings. The set is transformable; photographs and objects are hung or placed in the tree. Props are transformable, as well. From behind a dollhouse, portraits of family members emerge. LaRouche plays an organ grinder that is decorated with a grotesque image of a ventriloquist doll head; when the cover is removed, a creepy, evil clown automaton is revealed. Typewriters are lapboards with desktop bells and sound bars, struck with thimbles. Photographs - portraying idealized versions of family life in the fifties – are altered to show the hidden anguish beneath the polished facade. The backup chorus to Betty Friedan wear top hats, white gloves and sport dancing canes.

INCLUSIVITY – the Ivy Bottini Story will be presented at Studios on the Park, 1130 Pine Street, Paso Robles. The opening performance, August 20, 7:30 pm, will include a reception with Ivy Bottini and hors d’oeuvres. The cost is $45.00. Additional performances will occur on August 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29 at 7:30 pm. The cost is $15.00. Throughout the run of the play, paintings by Ivy Bottini will be on display and available for purchase. For reservations, contact: alschnupp@gmail.com.

 

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