By Linda Wallace

Author's thoughts on the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Monday, June 04, 2007


Souvenir is currently playing through June 10 at the ACT Theatre in Seattle. Patti Cohenour’s portrayal of real-life Florence Foster Jenkins, pictured on her album cover above, is laugh-out-loud funny, though the play’s central themes are of serious interest to artists. Ms. Jenkins, known as Flo to her long-time accompanist and friend, Cosme McMoon, was aria challenged but gave recitals to paying audiences consisting originally of her wealthy friends. The concert proceeds went to charity and her popularity grew, resulting in the production of the album and larger crowds, culminating in an overflow audience of 2,000 at Carnegie Hall in 1944. She died a few months later.

Cosme, portrayed by Mark Anders, narrates the play and struggles with the issues of the market value, popularity and ultimate worth of art. The music he writes is ignored while the truly terrible singing of Flo is acclaimed. He wonders at her confidence: does she hear something different in her head than what comes out of her lips, does she know how she sounds and capitalizes on it, is she the ultimate trickster or mad naïf?

As an author, I attend many writers’ conferences, and I always love to hear other authors tell their personal stories. Often, you hear an underlying shadow of self-criticism of their work. Large doses of courage are required to send you heart and soul out into a critical and rejecting world. Writers agonize: am I good enough, should I keep trying? Apparently, Flo didn’t agonize. She had no talent, but she did her thing and was successful anyway. I can think of several extremely popular writers who I believe fit into the same category.

Joe Adcock says in his Seattle Post-Intelligence review that laughing at Jenkins is like laughing at the disabled, but I disagree. The disabled don’t choose their situation; Florence Foster Jenkins chose, for whatever reasons, to perform. When we choose to perform, we invite the reaction of our audience.

Go see the play; I highly recommend it. Or you can listen to samples of Flo’s singing on Amazon. And you can read excerpts and reviews of my books on my Web site,, or at my publisher’s site, Wings ePress. I bravely invite your reaction. Even if it’s laughter.

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