Her name was Rose, and she was the best of us.
I don't think there's anyone I know, maybe even anyone I've heard of, certainly nobody here today who can claim they've seen her image or heard her voice and walked away unchanged, unmoved, unadulterated. In every venue she had a presence that set her apart from the people she swam among. Even when dressed the same and talking the same as the rest of us, her depth of spirit turned us all toward her in envy, frustration, adoration, and ardor; when clothed in her art, there were some who couldn't bear to look her way.
Those of us who were privileged to work with her remember her ready smile, her willingness to pitch in and haul equipment around or clean up a stage after a gig. We remember her particular brand of humility, the kind that could coexist hand in hand with vanity as she relaxed on a couch after rehearsals, smoking and tapping one foot absently, and the twinkle in her eye as she'd give unabashed advice. Or criticism, or praise, all with the same welcoming pat on the seat beside her to remind you that she was creating intimacy, not authority.
Her name was Rose, and she learned how to love before she died. May the same be said of us all.
Hers was one of those wild talents that grow to verdant adulthood without any coaxing. Her few close friends in school, she'd share it with in private, but her teachers and family tried to steer her toward math and music and she went along with them in public. She didn't even start performing until after she graduated, and was hindered by living in a small town with no real live-sex scene to speak of.
She moved to the city probably before she was ready, supposedly for more school but really (so she maintained in interviews) to try for a career as a sexplayer. The countryside wasn't ready for her brand of raucous, freewheeling carnality; memorial-day orgies at the local veterans' club, weddings, wakes and the occasional bar date groping through 50-year-old lounge arrangements for a bunch of sleep-deprived salespeople more into their expense-account drinks than the show or even each other, aren't the proper environment for a hungry young artist by any stretch.
So she took classes in sexual therapy, tantric body-care methods and music, all with an eye on her chosen career. Eventually the money ran out for school, as parents learned how she'd been "squandering her education", and she went to work waiting tables and bartending in between open-arms nights at coffeeshops downtown, playing for (and sometimes with) small groups of friends and acquaintances.
She started the way we all start; small.
I don't need to tell you about her first real off-Broadway hit, or how she teamed up with Jeffers and Rhea to produce Wrinkle. The string of Annies that that show garnered speaks for itself. Between Wrinkle's run and the fifty-city tour that she and her quartet pursued afterwards, Rose changed the face of sexual congress for a generation. And not coincidentally, sparked a new spirit of art within our profession that shows no sign of slowing to this day.
In all of her works, from the unbridled ecstasies of Wrinkle to the tender pillow-talk of the Featherweb series, even in the affectionate agonies of Ugly Fruit, her mission was one of play and peace, and her eye for communion was ever-present. Where it would have been easy to leave her audience yearning for her, she revised and rehearsed, never satisfied until they'd created a work that left us burning to share with each other.
Her name was Rose. Don't remember her with your eyes on a screen; find her with your fingers on a friend.
The door to this studio will stay open after you leave. Pay attention to its shape; it will be easy to forget as you file back out to where my Sister's art is unspeakable, where her counterparts wave dimly through blankets of self-loathing or funhouse mirrors of sublimation when they can be found at all. Where each of us habitually, unconsciously strives to keep pleasure from becoming its own reward.
Please leave her side now, for the world wants us and I cannot.