My Friend Leslie

A decade or so ago, maybe 1993 or 94, I was doing a lot of community theater, and I auditioned for The Odd Couple (Female Version). I felt like I had a really good audition, and then I got called back. There were four people called back for the role of Olive Madison (Oscar's counterpart): me, Leslie (who I didn't know at the time), and two other people I don't remember. Leslie was very funny, I do remember that.

I felt fantastic about how I did at the callback, and later that night, the director, Karen, called to tell me the part was mine, because I was funny and vulnerable. I had a lot of fun doing the show and everyone said I did a great job.

A year later, I auditioned for a play called I Hate Hamlet, by Paul Rudnick, which was being staged by the same group. The director called me after the audition to ask me to play a part that is ordinarily written for a man, the part of Gary Peter Lefkowitz. (Sidebar: I have a long career of playing parts that were originally played by men. I have no explanation other than my childhood as a tomboy and my rather deep voice).

I showed up for the readthrough, and Leslie was there, cast as the main character's real estate agent/communicator with other worlds. We bonded fairly quickly, as actorish types seem to do, over coffees after the rehearsal.

We were only a few rehearsals in when Karen, Leslie and I went out after rehearsal (some of the other actors were probably there, too), and Leslie said, with solemnity, that she had a confession to make.

"For the past year, I was plotting your murder."

Okay, that was not anything I ever expected to hear. I had to know why.

"You got the part of Olive Madison. That was supposed to be my part, and my friend Karen gave it to you instead of me. I was going to hire someone to kill you."

Karen interjected "I needed Maureen because I needed someone to be vulnerable as well as funny!"

"I can be vunnerable," Leslie said.

I laughed. "You can't even *say* vuL-nerable!"

I think we all laughed.

I have to admit, I was flattered that someone had been thinking about me so much. True, she painted me as her enemy, but I was in her thoughts. It actually meant a lot to me. Yes, I have self-esteem issues.

I asked Leslie why she confessed.

"Because now that we're doing the show, I got to know you, and you're so nice. I just can't hate you anymore."

And thus a friendship was born. Nowadays, we are lucky if we see each other quarterly, but we still keep in touch, mostly because of Leslie's efforts. She was at the hospital when Monkey was born, she has brought Christmas presents, she helped me clean and organize my dining room (she's a professional organizer - we must be friends because opposites attract). I helped her to find her inner liberal (she was not only a Republican, she was holding elected office!). Aside from theater and humor, we don't have much in common. There's the organizing thing, for one. She loves David Cassidy, was riveted by the OJ trial, and visits psychics. I don't, wasn't, and wouldn't.

Anyway, I wanted to write about Leslie because I know she likes reading about herself (something else we have in common), and because I love her.


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