Nora and Delia Ephron

Love, Loss, and What I Wore

March 31 - April 10
Ivy Tech Waldron Auditorium

Identity & Clothing

 

Identity and Clothing: Discovering Who We Are Through What We Wear

By Jordan Goodmon

It was a gorgeous, pink pullover sweater—mohaired and V-necked—and spotted at a department store while shopping with her mother. “I had just graduated from high school and I was sort of disappointed that my mother didn’t say we could buy it right then,” recalls Sandy Sabbaugh, one of 17 women who will make up the cast of Cardinal Stage Company’s spring main-stage show, Love, Loss, and What I Wore. A few weeks after the shopping trip, Sandy received a pink mohair, pullover, V-neck sweater that matched the one in the department store—only this sweater had been handmade by her mother. The gift has held a special place in Sandy’s wardrobes, both past and present: “I wore it all four years of college and I still have it today, although I don’t wear it anymore.” She plans to give the storied sweater to one of her granddaughters.

Love, Loss, and What I Wore is a collection of such remembrances: 28 vignettes of moments from various women’s pasts, remembered almost as much (if not more) by their accompanying outfits as by the memories themselves. The premise began with the 1995 book of the same name written and illustrated by Ilene “Gingy” Beckerman, whose recollections and namesake appear as the leading narrator in the script adaptation by accomplished sister-duo Nora and Delia Ephron. Nora Ephron is, of course, the creator of some of America’s favorite romantic comedies like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally. She saw the dramatic potential of Love, Loss, and What I Wore the moment Beckerman asked her to write an introduction for the book, recognizing that the various snapshots of memories retold through the lens of clothing tapped into something uniquely universal, yet simultaneously personal: “This is not about fashion;” Nora Ephron explained at a Q&A for the play’s opening back in 2009. “It is about what clothes really are to us, those moments when we are constantly trying to find our identity through them and either failing or succeeding, in my case failing at least three times out of four.”

In February 1985, a young singer had a white gown designed by a dressmaker in New York City for her debut at Carnegie Hall. Sylvia McNair, now a professor at IU’s Jacobs School of Music and another Bloomington local who will be joining the cast, laughs today about the color: “It was white. It was white! —and it had gold, rhinestone beading. I was a young cub covering Kathleen Battle’s Semele, but singing the role of Iris for this performance in honor of George Frideric Handel’s 300th birthday.” Backstage after the show, Miss McNair received a first kiss from the man with whom she had been conversing for two months in old-school, epistolary fashion—a storyline after Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail heart. “So, that’s how I got my very first kiss from the man who would become my husband 14 months later on the night of my Carnegie Hall debut.” The marriage didn’t last, but did the white-with-rhinestones dress witness this dual beginning? Yes, it did.

Love, Loss, and What I Wore speaks to the idea that what’s personal can be personal to others, too. Though comprised of separate monologues with a few surprising points of intersection, the play reads like an afternoon with old friends, sitting around a coffee table recalling past marriages, prom dates, Brownie uniforms, and musing over that age-old clothing question that unites all women: is this navy blue or black? It doesn’t matter that the attire discussed in the play is linked to highly specific and personal moments in time—indeed, no two identical dresses can be worn in quite the same way because of the people who wear them. The poignancy of the play is rather in its ability to bring to mind the shared experience of losing that one favorite shirt, even if that experience isn’t actually shared at all.

This sense of vicarious community in Love, Loss, and What I Wore is the reason artistic director Randy White has decided to truly make the show a community production. Sixteen of the 17 actresses in the cast, including Sandy Sabbaugh, Cardinal Stage board member and local real estate agent, are active members of the Bloomington community. In lieu of paying the actresses, Cardinal will donate $2,500 in the name of the cast to My Sister’s Closet, the Bloomington-based organization that provides work attire for women entering or reentering the work force. Additional monetary and jewelry donations will be collected at each show. The hope is that community donations will match Cardinal’s donation amount.

Love, Loss, and What I Wore will run Thursdays through Sundays, March 31 through April 10 at the Ivy Tech Waldron Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased at the Cardinal office (900 S. Walnut Street) or at www.cardinalstage.org.