“Who taught you to move the cards like that?” his teacher chides, “–The magicians relationship is not between himself and his prop. It’s between the magician and his audience.”
“Ok.” says Houdini. And he looks down at us. “Ok….
What’s your name?”
It’s a beautiful show. It’s stunning and magical and glorious. As with most shows at this theater I walk out feeling just a little like my life has changed. Like the scope of what I believe has broadened. And throughout the course of it, over and over and over again he looks out at us and over and over and over again he says, “Ok. Hi. What’s your name?”
He asks for our names in such a way that I believe he remembers them. And names, to me, are so important. I’m really bad with names. I can never remember them. And I hate that about myself. My Dad though–he can remember your name even if he only ever met you once, six years ago. “It’s the most beautiful sound to a person,” he told me once, “The sound of your own name remembered well by a person you met. It’s a sound that lets you know you’re special.”
And this play is so beautiful. And watching it makes me feel special. I am thrilled. I am enchanted. I am on cloud nine. And despite myself I have that fluttery hope that he’ll choose me for one of his tricks, that at some point he’ll want to know my name.
But then I wonder–what would I tell him?
I have at least four names. Two of them given, one of them inherited, one chosen. Emma for an iconic British character. Emily for an iconic American poet. Laura for an iconic American author. Couling for family of storytellers.
See. It’s a beautiful play. It’s a stunning gorgeous fundamentally wonderful play about a genius man performed (as far as I’m concerned) by a genius man and a flawless ensemble. I am literally skipping with glee for thirty minutes afterwards. But once I’m able to calm (and have had half a glass a beer) I turn to the friend I am out with and say, “Sometimes I wonder…where are all the plays about the genius women?”
So we pull out some chalk and we make a list.
Because ask me my name and I will tell you one of four things.
Ask me who I am….ask me what made me what I am…and well….
I am Ada Lovelace, Eleanor Roosevelt, and JK Rowling. I am Susan B. Anthony. Anne Frank. Marie Curie. Rainbow Rowell. Rosalind Franklin. Mary Anning. Caroline Herschel. Hypatia. Cleopatria. Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II. Queen Victoria. Michelle Obama. Maria Merian. Elizabeth Blackwell. Mother Theresa. Rosa Parks. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Wangari Muaathai. Dr. Mae Jemison. Malala Yousafzai. George Sands. George Elliott. Jane Austen. The Bronte Sisters. Mary Shelley. Florence Nightingale. Marie Stopes. Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton. Katherine Hepburn. And so many, many more.
I am my grandmother. My mother. My blood sisters. My chosen sisters. My students. My nieces.
I am all the women who came before me. And all the women who follow after. And I’m not saying we’re all genius’. But listen; there are women out there, in history and alive today, who have changed the world. (We’re 50% of the population so this is a given. Right?) And it may not be much, but the least I can do is dedicate my life to telling their stories.
What’s your name.