Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

26 August 2011

Thanksgiving in August: Wahima

I met Wahima in the Fall of 2000 when she started at Cal Poly Pomona. I had been in the department for a little while and it was starting to feel like home. I loved Wahima immediately, although we didn't become friends right away. First we were in Hamlet together (that must have been Winter 2001), and then by the end of the school year we must've been really close, because I have this picture of us from May or June of 2001 – I can tell because my hair is dyed black from when I played Elvis in Picasso at the Lapin Agile.

Wahima and I spent tons of time together after that. I am not sure we ever really acted in anything together, though, maybe a reading of Henry VI (parts 1, 2 & 3). Wahima was an extraordinary help on our production of Gross Indecency, and she was always helping out at the Pomona Downtown Center when a few others and I were trying to get a theatre company started up way back in the day (that whole situation is best forgotten and Wah would agree with me). More than anything, Wahima and I worked together with her as an actor and me as her director. She was Alice in my production of Closer, and she starred as Bernice in the Thornton Wilder short play of that name; she also played Silvia in my Two Gentlemen of Verona, and when J&E produced Howard Korder's Boys' Life in Westwood, they asked Wahima to play one of the women in that too.

We have worked together so much – and I think she is so incredibly talented – that Wah became one of those actors that I thought of whenever I read a play. Justin and Elizabeth were always that for me too. I read plays and think about which role Wahima would play if I directed it. (I still have a fabulous production of Normand Chaurette's The Queens in my mind with Wah and Fran Bennett and Linda and Ashley and Elizabeth that will probably never happen.) It's hard for me to really describe how important it is to have an actor like this in my life as a director. Because of my love for Wahima's abilities as a performer, her image works her way into my readings of things. I can see how productions would work, how roles can come alive. It is a wonderful gift for a director to have someone like that in his life.

Wahima has given me much more than that, of course. She has loved me unconditionally for years, even when I am difficult, when I do not have much to give, when I am testy or temperamental or sad. And she has always been incredibly generous with me, making space for me when I come to visit, taking time out of her schedule whenever I have needed it – both in California and in New York, where she now lives. And Wahima has made it so much easier for me to simply exist in my close-knit group of college friends, who have mostly been couples since we've known them. They have all been couples and Wahima and I have always had each other; we have been virtually our own couple, and it has been lovely. We have come to depend on each other for this relationality and for so much more.

Wah lived with me for a while in the Summer of 2006 when I still lived in Pasadena, and we used to get into this wonderful rhythm, coming home from work and spending time with one another. I was still working as an accountant, then, and Wahima would bring me sandwiches from Starbucks (where she worked) so that I would have something for lunch. I remember this time very fondly.

I only get to see Wahima once or twice a year these days, though we speak frequently and I visit New York when I can. Sometimes we meet up in California, as well (and recently, Kentucky, but that's another story). She is easily one of my favorite people in this world, and when I see her we are both usually really emotional. I picked her up from the Nashville airport in December last year and we both almost started to cry. I assume we all know this feeling of just being able to be with someone we love who we haven't seen in far too long. When Wah and I get the chance to see one another, this almost invariably happens. I am so grateful I have her in my life, so happy to be friends with someone as funny and beautiful and talented (both as a singer and an actor) as she is. Any time we spend together is not enough time.

Also: follow her on twitter – @Wickedwa