I noticed her incredible smile my first day of work in 1993. We were the only two 20-somethings in the small office in Washington DC. From first glance we couldn’t have been more different – me new to town an over eager political science grad looking to work my way up; her an actor paying the bills by working as a receptionist. Until that night having beers at Trio it was an office friendship. She exuded creative energy and I was fascinated by, what seemed to me, her alternative path – a college graduate auditioning in the theater scene with the plan of becoming an equity actor. She was immensely committed to her craft.
I got swept up in her group of eclectic friends: young actors, directors, stage managers. We spent free time in various venues, many of which rattled my limited sense of theater. Seeking art and amusement, she introduced me to places in the city I would have never ventured, cue the room full of naked actors performing five feet from my face.
When she wanted to start a female centered theater company, I availed myself of anything I could do to be involved. She embodied feminism in art in action. I reviewed scripts, served on the board, built sets. We spent long nights in bars and apartments drinking, smoking, and dreaming. She made me feel cool, edgy, and profound.
Eventually my ambitions took me away from DC. We kept in touch by email and I followed her choices with awe and wonder. She pursued her passions in an unencumbered way. After suffering for years from food sensitivities, she got a graduate degree and started her own nutrition consulting business. She still acted and when I was pregnant with my first child, I drove from Milwaukee to Green Bay to see her perform for what be my last time seeing her onstage. Then she was an herbalist and sold her potions – beard oils and body balms – to loyal customers. She later became a yoga instructor and took up acroyoga. It seemed so fitting that the pictures I would see made me think she had run away with the circus. I lived vicariously through her spirit always wondering what was next.
I hadn’t seen her in 10 years when she was murdered by a stranger. She never showed up to Christmas dinner holding her famous brussels sprouts. I worried and waited and then the worst was confirmed. A month later, at yoga for the first time in 15 years, I found myself weeping for her cruel death but also reveling in her good life and the inspiration she left for me to do the things I love.