Sunday, October 24, 2010

Caroline Aaron Talks Mothers, Daughters and 'Love, Loss, and What I Wore'

Caroline Aaron (Photo courtesy of The Women's Conference)

Actress and L.A. mom Caroline Aaron has never been so excited about a job, she said, as the one she's working on right now.

That job just happens to be the one that will culminate in a one-night performance of "Love, Loss, and What I Wore," tonight at 9 p.m. at The Women's Conference, an annual event created to celebrate and empower women organized by California First Lady Maria Shriver.

And as a mother in Los Angeles -- and particularly as the mother of a 9th grade daughter -- Aaron has particular insight into what it means to empower not only herself but also her child.

The play, a series of monologues performed by five actresses (including Aaron) that was adapted from Ilene Beckerman's book of the same name by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron, and directed by Rita Wilson (who also stars), humorously examines the emotional relationship women have with their clothes.

It was "the idea that all of these incredible women are going to be there who have been really titans in their field," Aaron told me over the phone, that had her so thrilled.

Besides Wilson and Aaron, the other actresses who will be performing are Tracee Ellis Ross, Carol Kane and Natasha Lyonne.

This is a first for Shriver's annual conference, which runs Oct. 24-26 at the Long Beach Convention Center. "A Night at the Theater," as tonight's event is called, was added just this year and sold out within minutes of its announcement -- a real testament to the power of all involved.

"I did this show at the Geffen Theater," Aaron explained, "and Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger came to see a production that we did (there). I think (Shriver) was very excited about the idea that women can be defined by the clothes that they wear, emotionally."

That's when Shriver decided to add "Love, Loss, and What I Wore" to the lineup, not only as a part of the conference but to actually kick off the event.

"All of these monologues are true stories," Aaron said about the play. "(Nora and Delia Ephron) used the book as a frame, and they sent an email, as I understand it, to a lot of their friends and said just to write them stories about certain clothes in their lives that have had an emblematic meaning to them -- what did it mean ... whether it be a wedding dress, a prom dress or something that had been bequeathed to you by your mother, anything like that. And they had this variety of stories they configured into an evening."

Aaron plays several roles in the play, among them a woman who can't seem to find the right purse to make her life work; a woman married to a man who went to jail shortly after they fell in love, and what she wore to visit him; and a woman who has a hard time trying to find something to wear to disguise her weight.

"I also play a woman who goes for a bra fitting in New York City and what the experience is like for someone to manhandle your breasts while they're trying to put you in the right bra," she added with a laugh.

Her favorite of those?

"The one that Nora wrote about the battles that I have with my purse," she said. "There's a line in the monologue that I really relate to, which is, 'Every time I go out of the house I take my purse and feel like I'm relocating.'"

"It's about how you're so weighted down with your life," she added. "You don't want to forget anything because you know if you don't have that, then you're screwed."

We talked about what it's like being a mom of a little one, and feeling as if you're packing your entire life in your purse/diaper bag when you go somewhere with your child. (I told Aaron I was surprised I wasn't a hunchback at this point.)

But it's really those children -- our daughters -- that we hope will also be empowered by the support they feel from their moms and from everyone else in their lives.

It's a struggle, though, as Aaron admitted.

"I try and work against the tide," she said. "One of the things that happened this year in school was that they sent her a reading list, and all the books (for 9th grade) that they sent her were great, great classic pieces of literature, but men were at the center of the story. And I said to her, 'This isn't right. They should have a story with a woman at the center.'"

Little girls need to have a sense of themselves, she added, but "I think the culture is constantly conspiring to tell us that men come first, and so I'm always trying to point out to her who are the heroines of our society as well as the heroes -- because I think the heroes are getting a lot of press, and I don't think the heroines are getting as much."

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