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Jenny Hubbard: Love and loss the second time around

By Jennifer Hubbard for the Salisbury Post

Ever since we first performed “Love, Loss, and What I Wore,” sponsored by the Sidewalk Deli at the old Lee Street theatre, we have called ourselves the Love Loss girls, though we’re all way beyond our girlhoods. Over the past three years, people have been asking us to do it again, so I thought, “Why not add an actual girl to the mix?”

Enter Camille Palmer, a 15-year-old sophomore at Salisbury High School and a talented artist who graciously accepted my invitation to recreate the 15 dresses crucial to the play’s execution. The original off-Broadway production used illustrations by Ilene Beckerman, who wrote the book on which the play is based. I showed Camille those drawings, and she gamely put her own spin on them.

Camille says she’s never been good with words, so she learned to express herself through art. She comes by it as naturally as one can — through her mother, Cara Reische, a professional visual artist, and her father, Jon Palmer, an architect.

“My mom taught me that art doesn’t have to be perfect,” Camille says. “When I was in seventh grade, I would have these images in my head that I would try to draw out, but I couldn’t execute them the way I wanted. But I kept at it, and now I have skills that I didn’t have three years ago. I’m impatient in every other way. But not with art. I look back at some of my old art, and it’s pretty bad. In 20 years, what I’m doing now will look bad, too. It’s a lifelong process.”

When she’s not working in watercolor, pen and ink or digital format, you can find Camille on the basketball court. She laughs as she tells me that she’s very competitive. “I like to win,” she says, “and basketball is good for me. It gets my mind off things. It pushes me physically and balances me. It forces me to talk to people, and I wouldn’t do that on a normal basis if I didn’t have to. I’m an introvert.”

But being an introvert comes in handy when you’re an artist. “We tend to people-watch,” she says. “Mom and I will notice an interesting-looking person and say, ‘How would you draw her? What makes him look the way he looks? How do the pieces of that human being fit together into a whole?’ Mom taught me how to figure out the base and core of who the people are before I try to draw them.”

Because the play is being performed as a fundraiser for the Wallace Cancer Center at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, Camille’s 15 drawings will be on display in the lobby for all to see and bid on, silent-auction-style. Camille is delighted that she can use her art for a worthy cause. October is Breast-Cancer Awareness Month, and if you would like to honor a loved one who has had the disease, attending the play will provide you that chance.

Claudia Galup, a veteran actress and the show’s director, is a breast-cancer survivor, as is cast member Mary Ann McCubbin. Claudia will step out of her elegant directorial footwear to perform one particular monologue about a breast-cancer survivor.

“When I had my mastectomy 25 years ago, it was a very major surgery,” she reports. “I was 49 years old. I didn’t need my breast for feelings of femininity. I was past that. When I went to surgery, it was 5 in the afternoon. Four of my friends and my daughter and my husband were with me. They walked me down the hall on the stretcher, and they all kissed me before I went into OR. Then one of them pinned a St. Christopher medal on my hospital gown, and the nurse let her leave it. I don’t think they would let that happen now. Every time I do that monologue, it all comes back to me. I feel it very strongly.”

Mary Ann says, “Mine was so easy in comparison. The cancer was found in Stage One. I didn’t have to have chemo or radiation; I was so grateful. My breasts had done their job — attracted men and fed babies — so I didn’t lament. I love the breast-cancer monologue, too. All of the pieces speak to universal experiences of being a woman.”

“But men will get a kick out of them, too,” says Claudia, “because they’ve heard these stories from their wives and daughters and sisters. It’s a wonderful play for partners to attend together.”

“And the structure of the play is so useful,” Mary Ann says. “Fashion is important to women; it’s part of the woman’s experience.”

Camille’s drawings will be projected on the screen as eight actresses tell stories about clothes worn at memorable moments. If you know anything about Nora and Delia Ephron, the script writers, you know that the play is charming and laugh-out-loud funny.

Shari Graham joins the original cast of Anne Cote Hoffman, Kimi Matthews, Mary Ann McCubbin, Wendy Alexander-Persse, Tamara Sheffield, Teri Steelman and me. The 80-minute comedy will be performed at Lee Street theatre on Oct. 11 and 12 at 7:30. Visit www.leestreet.org; tickets are $17.

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