Smile Politely

Commemorating tradition in And I Remember

Its 8 p.m. August 6th. A sudden laughter pierces the silent air of Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center. It emanates through every crack, door, every small opening of the building. It is a warm, loud, whole-hearty kind of laughter that fills the room and makes one feel comfortable and welcome. The remainder of the people (including me) are bustling around trying to find a comfortable seat in a dimly lit room.

Everyone seems to be ready.


Karen Vaccaro walks on the stage and begins to take song requests from the audience. This is only a pregame for an upcoming hour of comedy, storytelling and journey through lives of 3 extraordinary women who shared their life stories with our community on this night.

Their stories

The flyer for And I Remember mentions that Karen Vaccaro will “transform herself into three radically different real women” but it doesn’t really mention the level of realism and depth that this metamorphosis entails.

The three women live very different lives. One is a dancer, one is a musician and one is a poet. They speak with different mannerisms; believe in different things, like different music. They are coquettish, intriguing and outright hilarious. At first, it may seem as though they are “radically different,” but at some fundamental level they are united in their sense of purpose, strength of character and all the wonderful things they have to share.

Their voices are the voices of the older generation, but they are not outdated. Their eyes have seen it all: drama, love, betrayal, comedy — the same timeless, intrinsic things that every generation drools and dreams about. Their stories have that immortal ring to them that we see in the movies or hear about from our grandparents. They are not only entertaining and fun, but they also contain a lot of substance and wisdom that a younger year should pay heed to. And most importantly, they are real.

These are real stories from real people that Karen and her production have found and interviewed, and they endow the show with honesty and intimacy.

These women are ready and they have a lot on their mind to share.

“People are not feeling the responsibility to take care of one another anymore” said Char. This is the type of commentary that appeared frequently in the monologue. The themes of the old vs. new and movement forward vs. stagnation were few of the many.

At first it was hard to follow who was who because Karen was alone on this one. She was a one woman act, taking on the voices of three different individuals at the same time but she has pulled it off. The different voices started to merge into one another, blend, twist around and at one point unite in harmony suggesting that the perceived difference between the three may have been an illusion.

By the end of the play you feel as though you have known these women all your life. They are your parents. They are your close friends, friends of the family, and friends of friends of the family. They are also maybe even very close, proximal to yourself and to me.

The play has also done a really good job using the fantastic stories of previous generation to highlight ours. It has pointed out the growing difficulty of communication, intimacy and just simple respect between people of our times.

Even though this was not your typical Broadway show with flashy lights and the audience (who don’t silence their cell phones) it was more than that.

The stories that these people have shared with the audience had much more substance, elegance and depth than something a big production regurgitates year in and year out.

The acting could not have been better — not only did Karen tackled three different roles, at times we could see glimpses of other personalities. She has done a great job introducing diversity of emotion, expression and style.

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