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Sarah Jean Fry

Two Trips, a Play and a New Appreciation for Home
by Sarah Jean Fry

February 2003

"Wanna go?" read the subject. The only thing in the email was www.breathoflifetheplay.com.

My response was simple; "This sounds wonderful. I bet it'll be excellent, but I'm confused. Isn't this in England?"

His 2-word response was "party pooper."

I let it go and returned to work trying to get out of the office to take my trip to Dallas. That was October 31, 2002.

I was headed to Dallas, Texas the next day to see two people receive film awards through Women in Film Dallas. Nici, now in college preferring to be called Nicolette, was receiving an award as an up-and-comer while a dear friend's mother, Kathy Tyner, was receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award. For these two awards, I'd fly to Dallas on Friday and fly back Sunday.

My aunt and uncle are gracious hosts and indulge me on my return trips to Dallas. They travel a great deal, however, I lucked out this weekend. They would be in town, and yes, my uncle would be very happy to escort me to the awards. I even had a choice of cumberbunds!

On the plane, I thought more about the Topaz awards and even more about seeing the play in England. Seeing Maggie Smith and Judi Dench in the same play in England could be an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I got so excited that I called my travel agent and bargained with myself while his phone was ringing. If I can get a ticket for less than $400, I'll take that as a sign I should go. I got voice mail and left him a request to find a ticket for me at the end of December. Besides, I argued with myself, I can stay with Jeff. He's been trying to get me to come visit for 7 years now. What a perfect match, see Jeff and see this terrific play. Plus, I've wanted to see England since I got back from France. It just seemed perfect!

No sooner had I walked off the plane than my phone started ringing. Excitedly, I answered thinking it was my travel. I said, "Hello, this is Sarah Jean." The voice answered, "Hi Sarah Jean, this is Carla from the Jana Luker Agency. You have a callback for the Honda commercial on Monday at 10am." I was surprised and excited. "I'll be there, thanks!"

I hung up and the phone rang again. It was my travel agent. I was scheduled to go to London for 2 weeks for $311. What a deal! I was going to England and the Topaz awards were the next night!

The Topaz Awards arrived. In the year since I'd last visited, Dallas seemed a bit smaller than I remembered. I felt like I was in a time warp. People and things I thought were so important before I moved to Los Angeles did not seem so important any more. The people I used to think so highly of had become working folks like me. "Oh my gosh, I'm getting older," I thought. That and I live in LA now. Star sightings are usual and I've met David Geffen and been in the audience of some wonderful people at Lew Wasserman's funeral and lots of other places. My frame of reference has changed. My 30's sure are interesting!

I'd grown in to myself finally, no longer a gangly personal trainer and tomboy, I'd recently added a few pounds and had grown in to a woman. I loved my long dress with thigh high slits and was no stranger to my high heels. You just don't spend much time in high heels in LA. My uncle looked great! He was in his own tux and the black cumberbund he'd let me pick to match my dress. It really was a treat to get a choice. He was so cute about it, too! Although, admittedly full-grown businessmen probably rarely hear themselves described as cute. LOL!

I felt great, looked great and could see by the admiring glances that others thought so too.

The awards presenters were longer-winded than the recipients. I felt there should have been a time limit just like those at the Oscars, Golden Globes, etc. The recipients' speeches were shorter and better. Nici gave an enthusiastic speech about the things she intended to accomplish in the near future, and Kathy gave a lovely speech graciously thanking those who had worked with her through the years. I had come to see the two best speeches, and as a LA friend said, "You've got book-ends [the up-and-coming and the lifetime achievement]." It was a nice evening with little further fanfare. It was fun for my uncle and I to join Kathy Tyner, Melody Parsons, and their family for drinks afterward. Smaller group, more intimate - I liked this better.

I blinked and it was all over, I was in LA and once again hurrying to get out of the office. This time I was leaving for 2 weeks in the United Kingdom. It was December 17th, and I'd barely been able to rush my birth certificate request and then my passport in time to go. But money gets things faster, so I paid and was ready.

The line through customs was long; 45 minutes to enter the terminal, then another 15 minutes walk to find the tube. It was a cold day, 40 degrees or so, but sunny after thirty-odd days of rain in London. Jeff had given excellent directions about what pass to buy, where to go to catch the tube, where to get off, and where to catch the Taxi. He had it all mapped out. When we got to his flat, he greeted us, paid the cab driver and brought us in to his spacious two-bedroom flat. We were in London! There were 5 of us planning to have a great time!

The five of us ran together for the first couple of days shopping, then two of us branched off to cover more tourist sights. We saw everything; Big Ben & the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye and the list goes on!

I got to see the play! "The Breath of Life" with Maggie Smith and Judi Dench at the Royal Theatre was sold out except for 2 seats on either side of the theatre. My friends and I took all 4. The fifth person went on to do other things. The play was very, very good. I thoroughly enjoyed watching two famous and skilled actresses in a play together. The play is about one woman (the ex-wife) who comes to confront another woman (the mistress) about the 2-decade-long affair with her former husband. It was funny and poignant. Two of my favorite lines were references to Americans. At one point, the mistress (Maggie Smith) says to the ex-wife (Judi Dench),"Are you looking for what Americans call...(pause to think) closure?" The audience thought that was hilarious. Charlie and I did, too. The other funny line was Maggie's as well. In confrontation, the wife says, "Why won't you say anything?" And the mistress replies, "How do Americans say this? 'I don't use that muscle any more'." And the wife says, "What muscle?" Maggie said, "The one that runs the mouth." Again, there was pause on stage for the audience to laugh heartily!

I felt seeing the play made it worth the trip! It was also great fun to see all the sights of London, but then Christmas day came. The entire town shut down. Nothing was open. Transportation was shut down and so were all the shops and restaurants except for hotels and one restaurant. We happily ordered pizza there! December 26th is Boxing Day. Most places were still closed, but there was a little transportation and a few shops. Charlie and I bought souvenirs and an early plane ticket back to the US. We'd seen everything, our other friends were off in Scotland, and we were ready to go home. For the first time, I thought of the United States as my homeland.

I found it very interesting to watch London's news. It's mostly focused on military issues and occasional related international news. Local news was 5-minute sound bites every once in a while in the evenings. Their newspapers were international in composition as well. We were truly in an international country with a monarch whose reign has been nearly 50 years. Queen Elizabeth's 50th Anniversary as queen will be celebrated in 2003. What I saw was the beautiful hub of an empire in its twilight. When Queen Elizabeth was crowned, she ruled over 80 colonies. That number has dwindled to 15, and in the place of colonies, she has created a new commonwealth. It is certainly a sign of contemporary times!

And when it was time to come home, I was ready for my homeland. I've been to France, Switzerland, Italy and other countries, but this time was different. I looked homeward with new eyes and a new appreciation!

A friend of mine was born in England and has since become an American. He is more patriotic and more passionate about being American than most American-born citizens. Another friend, American born and recently granted English citizenship, is passionately British now. I have a greater understanding for the passion that my friends have for their adopted countries. I can see why one became English and why one became American. For my part, I'm happier than ever to be American. The people were friendly in the United Kingdom, it was great to see my friend, the city was interesting, and I'll travel again soon, but as Dorothy put it, "There's no place like home." I've been enlightened by traveling abroad again, and I got to see my play.

Maybe someday, I'll get to work with one or both of those terrific actresses. Until then, I'll keep living and keep dreaming! You do the same!

- Sarah Jean Fry

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