RBG Was in the House

There’s something magical about being in the presence of theatrical excellence. It is powerful, evocative and entertaining, all at the same time. That experience was shared by the members of the Sippican Woman’s Club as they watched a historical performance by Sheryl Faye, who personified Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Faye was the club’s August guest speaker, bringing her unique talent to persuade us we were watching and hearing Ginsburg herself.

            The actress has written and portrayed a variety of female historical characters such as Helen Keller, Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Sally Ride and Abigail Adams to name a few. With the use of a screen where corresponding images play out behind Faye and preprogrammed audio adds to the illusion that there are more actors than a singular person on stage, her performance was simply put, a master stroke.

            Faye took the audience into the very heart and mind of Ginsburg as she met challenges every step of the way in her professional development, starting with her decision to study law at Harvard. It’s important to note here that Ginsburg’s mother always encouraged her to reach for the stars, go to Harvard, become a lawyer and dismiss those who said “only men” could and should pursue such a career choice.

            Faye’s show was in the narrative style, talking about the character while also slipping seamlessly into dialog throughout, giving RBG life through her own words. Faye’s ability to transport her audiences into the very human portrayals speaks to the historical research she has completed. That knowledge, coupled with her ability to inhabit the characters with such seeming ease, is phenomenal.

            Ginsburg’s life was one of incredible challenges. Losing her mother as a young adult was a major blow to the aspiring jurist. Her mother had wanted to go to college but was denied that opportunity simply because she was female. All of her own aspirational desires were poured into making sure her own daughter would have what she needed to study.

            The Ginsburgs were a family that believed in helping others. The young RBG didn’t celebrate birthdays at home with guests invited to share in the celebration with a big cake and gifts. Instead, Ginsburg’s mother took her to an orphanage, where they passed out sweet treats and cakes to the children living there.

            Upon querying her mother on why she couldn’t have a normal party, RBG was told to think about the impact that visit had on the children. Philosophies such as that would thunder down the decades, as RBG established herself as a person always ready to aid those in need.

            Ginsburg would meet her husband while studying at Harvard, eventually marrying her great love Marty and continuing to work on her degree. They would welcome their first child, and Ginsburg would find the way to study and take on the roles of wife and mother. Those plans would change when she followed Marty to New York. Ginsburg eventually received a law degree from Columbia University. Many decades later, Harvard would bestow upon her an honorary degree.

            Marty would become very ill while they were both at Harvard. Ginsburg forged ahead, not only taking care of the home and family, including Marty, but going as far as helping him with his studies while working on her own degree.

            RBG was a force of nature. She is remembered as a champion of rights for all people, a woman who faced tremendous odds against her success and the second woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court. “It is the best job in the world,” she stated many times.

            Faye’s telling of a life that was truly bigger than life in so many ways was a humble tale. RBG was not boastful and she was not loud. She spoke from a point of reference few can achieve, one of grace and strength. Faye got it right with emotion, humor and truth.

            Also getting it right was SWC program chairman Lorraine Charest, who selected Faye as the guest speaker. Of the performance, Charest said, “We were all mesmerized.”

            The Sippican Woman’s Club sponsors scholarships for local students, primarily funded through their Holiday House tours. After a very long hiatus due to COVID-19, the event will take place on Saturday, December 9, between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm. Tickets are $30 before the day of the event and $35 at the door. To learn more, visit sippicanwomansclub.org.

By Marilou Newell

2 Responses to “RBG Was in the House”

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  1. Deborah Bush says:

    Marylou Newell did an outstanding review of Sheryl Faye’s performance as RGB at the Sippican Woman’s Club. It was the first meeting of our club year on Friday, September 8th. Local tri-town citizens would be in the dark if there were no local reporters like Marylou and others at The Wanderer. Thank you to all who generate the weekly Wanderer.

  2. Sheryl Faye says:

    Thank you so much Marilou for this lovely article. I am so grateful.

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