Frances Pici oral history interview, 2014-06-07

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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LORRAINE FONTANA: Well, hello Pici.

FRANCES PICI: Hello Lorrainer.

FONTANA: So we're here June 7th, 2014, at the GSU Women and Gender Archives, and we're going to talk to you about your life, and how the things that happened in your life fit into the archives here. So now, you see, I called you Pici, which is really your last name, not your first time. [Cuesto es un nome italiano?]. So maybe we'll start with your family -- your blood family -- you know, where you were born, and then tell me a little biography about you.

PICI: OK, well, first of all, thank you for inviting me to do this. I think, now as I get older and I see my life -- the rest of my life in the distance, it's kind of nice to reflect and get all of this organized. And I will say that, in 1:00this preparation -- I've been living and working in Atlanta for the past 40 years, and when I came up with that number, I was a little -- I was like "Oh my God, 40 years." And for 38 of those years, I have shared a home life and a home with another woman, and a combined total of about 14 rescued kitty-cat companions. I was born in Buffalo, New York -- yay -- which is a city known all over the world for freezing-cold blizzards and spicy chicken wings. I was also raised in Buffalo, New York, with a mother and a father and three brothers, before parental discretion was advised. And because I was the only daughter, the only girl, the oldest granddaughter, I suppose there was a time in my life, 2:00early on, that I was content to be made of sugar and spice and everything nice, until faced with child chubbiness, and issues with my weight. As a very early pre-teen, I had recalled one incident with our pediatrician when I was 11 or 12, and he said, "Franny, for a girl of your weight, you should be 27 feet tall," according to -- well, anyway. I was also brought up Catholic and Italian -- actually, Sicilian, which is even more Italian, and I will say that this combination of Catholic and Sicilian as a dominating influence early on, really did make my younger years very simple ones. Everything was either forbidden or compulsory. And I must say that -- I can't tell you how many teenage years I 3:00spent looking for loopholes in the Ten Commandments. Couldn't find them. I was a little wild. I remember when I was 14 years old -- this is something I've said in the past -- I asked my mother what an orgasm was, and she said, "Don't ask me -- ask your father." And I was like "OK." (laughter). Well the very next year I decided to enter the convent, at 15. I sent away for the brochure, filled out the application, toured the nunnery, and my mother was thrilled. My father said, "No 15-year-old only daughter of mine is going to become a (pause) nun. Amen." Thank you, Dad. Right after high school, I enrolled in college for the first time. I went to the University of Buffalo, and I was there during the Vietnam 4:00War, the Kent and Jackson State shootings, the Wounded Knee uprisings, the Attica Prison riots, and the second wave of the woman's movement. Yay.

FONTANA: A few little things.

PICI: Few little -- and actually, back then, University of Buffalo, or UB, was a very activist university. We were referred to as the Berkeley of the East. And as a result of that activism, there were a couple of months where they deployed the National Guard to our campus -- about 200 of them -- and it really wasn't a situation where you see now, where they're just kind of hanging out in groups. This was a clear deployment. They were in formation, on high alert, and sometimes, with their rifles pointed towards our student bodies. Well fort -- and it was very scary, I mean, it was not a very good environment that was 5:00conducive to learning, unless you looked out of the window, and, as our political science professor said, "We're just going to close the books, look out the window. All you need to know is what's happening right outside there." Well, fortunately for me, also on the campus at that time was the newly founded Buffalo Women's Studies College, and at the time, the Buffalo Women's Studies College was one of only two women's studies programs in the country. The other, and the first, was -- and still is -- at San Diego State University, and I even remember the very first women's studies course I took. It was called WSC213 -- Women in Contemporary Society. Changed my life. And I will never forget the very 6:00first time I walked through the doors of the Women's Studies College, and I looked around, I knew, right then and there, that I had found my people (laughter). I mean, the [mother-f-ing-ship?]. That place was crawling with dykes, I mean -- young and old, and tall and short and thin and round, and ay-ay-ay-ay-ay. I was so excited, I was so turned on, that I volunteered for everything. I joined the budget committee, the curriculum committee, the financial aid committee, the governance committee, the Hedonist Caucus. I even staffed the place four days a week, plus going to school. And after -- oh, I would say three months of -- just three months of walking through the doors of the Buffalo Women's Studies College, this 19-year-old Sicilian Catholic, only daughter, was given a set of keys to the front door. I had my own set of keys to 7:00the Buffalo Women's Studies College. I'm going to take a sip. This is OK, the way we're doing this?


PICI: OK -- because I have a couple -- I have another story. I can remember a time at the Women's Studies College -- it was a Saturday, and I think we were going to do a marathon day of events. We started off in the morning with a governance meeting. In the afternoon, we had a Women Concerned for the Political Direction of the College meeting, followed by a potluck dinner. After that, we had a coffee house. After the coffee house, we had a meeting of the Hedonist Caucus. (laughter)

FONTANA: I love that (laughter).

PICI: And I probably got home at three or four o'clock in the morning -- still living with my parents and my brothers -- and I had accidentally left the agenda for the governance meeting on the front seat of the family car. So -- wait, and 8:00there's more. So what -- the number one agenda item for that particularly governance meeting just happened to be, "How to deal with lesbianism in the Women's Studies College," and I was like, "Oh no!" (laughter) And, you know -- I'm sure you remember, but way back then, in the '70s, how to deal with lesbians in the women's movement was, you know, a frequent discussion, hot topic -- some would say a red herring, if you want to put it in fish terms (laughter). So, well anyway, it's seven o'clock in the morning. My father comes busting through my bedroom, waving this agenda over his head, and he says, "Franny -- does this mean that my 19-year-old, Sicilian Catholic, only daughter is a buck?!" And I 9:00said, "Pop, what's a buck?" And he said, "Why, it's a woman who loves other women, who lives with other women, and who has sex with other women." And I thought, "Hmm...buck..." Well, shortly -- And that kind of scared me. I kind of got a take on where they might be in this situation, with what I was potentially becoming. And so, shortly after that incident, I left my parents' home and the state, and I moved south. And I tell you this because I really -- I think I left Buffalo for two really main reasons. One was fear that my family would uncover 10:00my ho-- homosexuality (laughter), and the second reason was the Southern women -- oh my, honey please. It's all I needed. And I must say -- and I'll just add this -- ever since that move, I have tried just about everything that life has to offer, except heterosexuality and folk dancing.

FONTANA: (laughter)

PICI: Anyway -- so I left Buffalo, 1974, moved to Atlanta, de-bussed. The moment I de-bussed, I immediately joined ALFA, the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance.

FONTANA: Now, you knew about ALFA before you got there?

PICI: Yes. Martha Smith said, "You've got to come down here. We've got an organization. I think you might need it," (laughter) and I said, "I'm there!" 11:00Got on a bus. And actually, as you know, but I'll say this -- ALFA was probably the only lesbian feminist organization in the country. She existed for 22 years, 1972-1994. I got there right at the beginning, probably 1974. And again, ALFA -- joining ALFA changed my life, once again. I mean, ALFA was a wonderful organization. ALFA was a political place, a social place, an educational place, a safe place -- it was basically a place where a bunch of dykes could get together and try to come up with some lesbian feminist theories to go along with our lesbian feminist practice. And as I was reflecting and preparing for this 12:00interview, I remembered that, in 1980, I had just successfully sued my employer for sexual discrim-- sex discrimination, and --

FONTANA: Say a little more about that -- the details about that.

PICI: I can't really say too many details because of part of the settlement --

FONTANA: Oh OK. I see, OK.

PICI: -- but it was a pretty big corporation. It was sex discrimination; failure to promote -- and I wanted -- I had Margie Pitts Haimes, who was a famous Atlanta women's lawyer, here, back then. She was on the case, and we won, we settled. And the money -- a good portion of the money that I won in the settlement, I donated to ALFA. And ALFA turned around and used that to fund the Antioch interns, and also --

FONTANA: I didn't remember about where the money came from to do the Antioch interns.


PICI: That was me. And that was something that really -- you know I -- it replenished itself, too, because the actual money was not only used to fund the interns, it also gave me a job, because part of the settlement was, you know, "I don't want to have anything to do with this company." So I needed work. They hired me as the ALFA administrator, and I think it was a couple of years, because I had at least two interns, Chris and Ruth. And part of the responsibility of that role was to fundraise, outreach and to resupply the fund. So it was very successful -- I loved it. I was so happy. And I forgot about that. So anyway, I was the ALFA coordinator for about a year. I also joined the ALFA Omegas, and this is definitely going to require a sip of water (laughter). And, as you know, the ALFA Omegas were the first -- very first and only 14:00out-of-the-closet, lesbian feminist softball team to play in the city of Atlanta league. The first --

FONTANA: Not only -- the first, yes.

PICI: The first, yeah. We were -- well, at the time, we were the first and the only. We were definitely the only.

FONTANA: At the time -- you're right, that year.

PICI: Well, yeah. And I think later --

FONTANA: So you joined right away -- it was '74 when we first got us in the leagues, so you--

PICI: That's another thing Martha Smith said, "And by the way, we've got a softball team that we're trying to get together." And I think -- I remember the first year, we all -- almost all the women on the team were lesbians except for two, who were, we thought, using their rookie season to make the decision, to make the choice -- to make the choice, to make the decision. And also, the Atla-- the ALFA Omegas were a non-- in the spirit of lesbian feminism, were a 15:00non-competitive softball team, and what that meant was that if you came to the practices, you played in the games, regardless of skill level, regardless of experience, regardless of athletic ability, regardless of whether it was a close game in the bottom of the late innings, with a runner in scoring position, and one out. Regardless of that situation, we were a non-competitive softball team, and we did have fun. I mean, again, ALFA Omegas changed my life. It was a way for us to come together as a team. We had such fun as -- you know, I look at that time as women kind of experimenting a lot with open relationships, different relationships. We'd been siloed for many years. We really didn't even know each other existed, and now we're in an environment where we're coming 16:00together in a relatively traditional teamwork framework, but, as I mentioned, we decided to be not cutthroat, competitive. Our goal was not to win. Our goal was to showcase some of the lesbian feminist values that we were trying to incorporate into our lives and our belief systems. And I remember -- and yes, we did have fun. I remember Amy, our ace coach, would get us all together for practice and say, "Everyone, assume your favorite positions." (laughter) And we did. And one of the things that I do remember is -- the second year, with this mantra in mind, "Assume your favorite positions -- have a lot of fun" is -- I think, the second year, two of the in-fielders, the short-fielder, and one of 17:00the coaches were all having some sort of a romantic relationship with each other. I mean, some of the affairs were over, and some were covert. I could see everything -- I was a catcher, for a while, so I could see it all. I got a good view of the playing field, so I could see it all developing.

FONTANA: And that gave you more than just the softball insight.

PICI: Yes (laughter). And I was thinking, "You know, this infield is a whole lot more incestuous than those distant, unrequited outfielders." But, you know, like I said, we were trying new things. We were looking at exploring ways of relating to each other in relationships that were not limited to a partnership. In other words, some of us you know, were -- and this environment was perfect for it -- playing around with a little non-monogamy. And I'll never forget -- and this type of experimenting did lead onto the softball field during the games. One 18:00game, Peach Tree Hills, 1975, I was playing shortstop, for some reason -- because I'm usually your catcher. I was usually your catcher. I'm playing shortstop and I hear the left-fielder bickering out there with the short-fielder, who was now her girlfriend. And I wrote this down, because I thought it was a classic quote, she said, "I know what I said about non-monogamy, but why go and ruin a perfectly good theory by putting it into practice?" To which she [bolts?] into the field, in deep center field, and then short-fielder -- girlfriend she's having the fight with -- drops her mitt and takes off after her. And I'm like, "OK, we're in a game here -- this is a softball game -- no crying in baseball!" (laughter) And so -- now, this could be an exaggeration, but it is kind of funny -- so I remember -- I was also an 19:00assistant coach at the time, so I said, "OK, huddle up everybody -- we need to talk here. Look -- we're all lesbians." I was a peace-maker -- I was a facilitator at this point. I took off the mitt, became a facilitator, and I said, "Look, huddle up everyone. We're all lesbians. We're all feminists. We're all part of this social and political alliance, living within this somewhat restricted, male-dominated, patriarchal societal structure. I mean, even our lesbian subculture in part is defined by these white, male, heterosexual role models and values, when, in fact, the very nature of our deviant lives and lifestyles should lead us to explore -- maybe even create -- some new and different and better ways of interacting lovingly with each other in relationships," which put everybody right to sleep. I mean, they just (laughter) --


FONTANA: (laughter)

PICI: -- they just, "[Aaaaaagh?]," you know?

FONTANA: I don't even remember -- maybe I did really go to sleep, too.

PICI: Yes, you did -- it was a lot to put you to sleep, Lorraine (laughter). Oh, and it was quite an experience. I must admit. We really did a lot of things -- we tried a lot of different ways.

FONTANA: So we played the rest of that game? What happened at the game?

PICI: Probably we did. We called it. But it was -- it was quite -- we were having growing pains. I mean, we had some ideas in mind of what we wanted to do, how we wanted to -- like I said, think about relationships not limited to a partnership, being more inclusive. There were a lot of women out there -- very much like me -- that had pretty much orphaned as a result of our chosen or given lifestyle, that, in that type of environment, in the '70s, one of the things 21:00that you gave up, which, at the time, was the dominant ideology, was your relationship with me, whether it be the financial contribution you would get from a father, a husband, a boyfriend, a brother. Back then, when I chose to leave, I left all of that, and the key that -- we all were trying to do was build a life outside of that dominant, nuclear family. I certainly think that ALFA, as was the ALFA Omegas, and when I get onto Red Dyke Theatre -- those were vehicles for us to build some sort of non-blood community. And we took in, you know, people who were in a much more difficult situation than me. I had a good relationship with my family, by virtue of the fact that they just -- I left. What they didn't see or didn't know about was fine. Italians do that real well. 22:00"I don't want to know. Just make sure you're eating OK, you look where you're going, you wear the miraculous medal, keep it on -- I don't want to know." But I wasn't dead to them, I was -- what I like to say is a distant relative. It was very much engaged, and I think, at the same time, with the ALFA Omegas and softball -- in tandem with that was Red Dyke Theatre, and I'll go on to Red Dyke Theatre just a little --

FONTANA: Yeah, say what that was and how that happened.

PICI: Well, in 1974, I moved to Atlanta first, but I had a best-friend -- and still do -- [Mickey Elvers?]. We lived in Buffalo together, and -- actually, when I had that incident with the buck, with my father, you know, and I knew that -- I ran to Mickey right away, and I said, "What am I going to do? What am 23:00I going to do?" And she said, "Well, did you tell him anything about the agenda item?" And I said, "Well, they saw it." And she said, "OK, this is what you do. You tell them that the reason it was on the governance meeting agenda was because they were trying to figure out a way to get the lesbians out of the--," (laughter) and I said, "Really?" And she said, "Yeah, you have got to do it -- I think this is kind of -- this requires some strategic lying just to -- it's an unsafe space right now." So it really worked. My parents were like, "Well, we just kind of thought so, that that wasn't really you, and we're glad --." They knew, I mean, they were like, "Who's she trying to kid?" So Mickey and I were in Buffalo, and, at the time, we were part of a theatre group called Stars and Dykes Forever.

FONTANA: I did not know that.

PICI: Yes. And it was very much -- it was different than Red Dyke Theatre because it was more in a coffee house setting, where people did -- it was mostly lesbians, although there were women who were not lesbians that were part of the 24:00group. It was a lot of poetry, a lot of music, and we did skits -- comedic skits. So when Mickey to Atlanta six months after I did, we all lived in a collective on Page Avenue, called Tacky Towers. Getting back to the conversation about, you know, taking in a lot of people -- there were probably eight women who were the original Tacky Towers, plus a baby [Booger?].

FONTANA: I don't remember.

PICI: [Adrian?]. I have pictures.

FONTANA: Oh, a booger, oh.

PICI: Because [Murray?] lived with us, and Murray had just --

FONTANA: I didn't hear what you said -- of course. Murray, yeah.

PICI: Murray and Booger and Jean and CK and Jane Black and Mickey and me and -- oh, and there were, like I said, squatters that came, as a place to live for a little while. But the core of the collective at Page Avenue -- you know, you get 25:00a bunch of women together and they're living together, when you're getting over the incest and all that -- the next thing you do, you pop a couple of beers, and let's have a show (laughter).

FONTANA: This was before you go on to Red Dyke Theatre, since you said a collective -- say a little bit more about what a household like that was, and why you call it a collective.

PICI: Well, we all -- it was a house. Pam Parker's father owned the house, and we rented from him. It had an upstairs and a downstairs. We figured out, early on, all the people's needs for -- some people were in relationships, some were not. We had a baby on-board that we decided needed to be in the upstairs with Jean, who was, I would say, the designated mama of the house. And Mickey and I were fine with that, even though, normally, we would have been -- as the founding mothers of things -- we would have wanted to use our influence to maybe 26:00have that type of mama. But I was not interested -- Mickey wasn't either, she was playing the field -- so we thought, "Maybe we'll turn this over to Jean. She's going to be the house mother, the den mother." And I would say I characterize her in that way, because she was trying to make sure we all ate right. It was the age of vegetarianism, and we were coming off of Hostess cupcakes, I mean -- we were very -- (laughter). And Jean -- and we thought that, since we had a baby, I think Adrian -- Booger -- was six months to a year, and Marie was a single mom, that maybe they needed to have the upstairs flat to just, kind of, separate them a little bit from the insanity that was on the first floor, which was -- all I'll need to say is that we were young. We were experimenting; we were having a lot of fun, and we were a little edgy. We were, at the time, and there was -- and I would say there was a pretty robust women's 27:00nightclub scene in Atlanta. There was the [Garbo's?], Tower Lounge, and there was another -- I don't think the Sports Page existed at that time. But we lived --

FONTANA: Were you here when there was the -- I think it was called the Gray Tower on Ponce? Something-tower.

PICI: Yes! Yes, yeah. I do remember that. Well, and getting back to the collective, we all -- I don't think we shared finances. Like, we all had our own individual incomes, whatever that might be, but we had a pool of money that we had every week that people put in for rent, for food. And our social life was all around each other, and Martha Smith used to come in there, and she used to 28:00say, "I don't know how y'all can do this." Because, at one point, we were all sleeping with each other, and this -- and again, it was this environment where we were all experimenting. We were very close. We were very open, and we were participating in a lot of things, collectively, outside of the house -- ALFA, softball, and Red Dyke Theatre -- and we were bonded. And it -- and we had to work through that. And again, this was a totally different environment. Our belief systems were different. We were in each other's face, running through the house naked all the time -- what do you think is going to happen? That was a wonderful experien--, again, Page Avenue, Red Dyke Theatre, changed my life. It was an opportunity for us to come together -- really, a variety of different people were coming from all different ages, places, with a strong inclination 29:00towards creative -- giving creative voice to our experience. Certainly, something that you would say was -- undergirded the softball teams -- and also was a basis of ALFA. But in Red Dyke Theatre, it was very focused on, "OK, we want to say this, in this way. We want to address this issue, and we can do it through comedy, through music, through visuals." I remember, right before any of our Red Dyke Theatre performances, we would go out into the community -- the gay pride marches were the best time -- and take pictures and pictures and pictures of lesbians and gay people, out there, in the world, being who we were. And as we would take the picture, which, of course, now -- with iPhones and digital 30:00pictures -- you've got -- everybody's doing it. But back then, it was a 35mm experience, and when you went up and you took a picture of someone, you said, "Look, I just wanted to let you know -- how would you feel about this being a part of a Red Dyke Theatre slideshow," because we always had a preview of our shows -- we started with a slideshow. And it really was a way to bring all of our audience together to see, "There we are," anyway. So we -- how did I bring that up? Why did I bring that up?

FONTANA: You kind of had -- maybe thinking of how Red Dyke Theatre got put together, started, and how you decided -- what creative ways you'd be --

PICI: There -- thank you, thank you. So we were --

FONTANA: Now, you and Mickey had some background with a theatre group like that. Were there other people in the group who also had worked in theatre, or other creative performing kinds of things?


PICI: Yes. Jean came from what would be a Montessori-like traditional theatre. Her family was theatre-based, so she understood the basics of presentation and performance. Of course, Jane is the funniest person I know, so she's a natural comedian. CK had a lot of experience with audio and visual -- she was our technical person. [Deborah Gray?] was -- had experience in lighting, so she wanted to get onboard. Mary Jane, our lighting technician. [Wo Donna?] -- guitar, music. Bonnie was -- had -- Bonnie was in Red Dyke Theatre. She was more -- and she was the subject of the film we did On Trial. When we got into more serious skits, we did a skit that Winona and [Marcellina?] filmed, and it was called On Trial. And we were pretty experi-- I mean, we had MCC Church as our 32:00main space of performance, and it was -- that was the one where we brought the motorcycle in -- [Peach Midler?] in the dyke ads? Like I said, that was the la--

FONTANA: Explain. It's not a traditional church -- explain why that was.

PICI: MCC was on Virginia Highland Avenue, and I think -- what is it now? It's 800 Virginia Highland.

FONTANA: It's all kinds of businesses over there. I'm not sure if it's still, like, a theatre, but it was an old cinema -- it was an old movie house that had closed.

PICI: Right. And MC -- Metropolitan Community Church took is over and then, since Red Dyke Theatre, we mainly did benefits. We were a non-profit, for benefit only theatre group. So MCC was the perfect venue, had an actual stage that was relatively clear of debris, and we could -- and it had seats and a 33:00proscenium stage and an audience, and we just loved it. And it even had a tech booth -- because we had some sophisticated audio-visual content in our shows. We always had music. We always had -- well, I'll just double back. Part of the reason -- when we were in Tacky Towers, and when we formed Red Dyke Theatre, and -- as you probably know -- there was a good synergy -- what's that word? We coexisted with a lot of the gay men's bars, where the entertainment of the time was disco music and female impersonation -- drag queens. And we were just loving it -- I mean, Sweet Gum Head, we would go all the time, and we became big friends with the drag queens -- Lily White, Kitty Litter, Satan DeVille, 34:00Charlie, um -- oh, Charlie. I have it written down -- I'll have to think about that, because she was -- Diamond Lil! Diamond Lil.

FONTANA: He's still around.

PICI: Amber Richards -- I mean, we became very good friends with the drag queens --

FONTANA: Charlie Brown?

PICI: Charlie Brown! Thank you -- thank you so much. And one of the things that we had, you know -- being lesbian feminists, we were -- we were concerned about the way women -- the men were representing the women. So we thought, "OK, we can do this." So we began parodying, as you know, the female impersonat-- in Red Dyke Theatre. And actually, I want to make sure I don't miss any of this. We were very involved in both gay and lesbian and the women's communities. We patronized both the men's and the women's bars. We developed an appreciation and formed this kinship with the drag queens. And we chose contemporary music to 35:00highlight our own characters, in our reclaiming of those images. For example -- Peach Midler and the Dykettes, which was a take off, at the time, of a very popular Bette Midler and the Harlettes -- I mean, she was one, way back then, that really embraced the gay community, Bette Midler. [Dyke-anna?] Ross and the Superbs, joined by the Femtations, which was a take off on Diana Ross and the Temptations. Gladys Peach and the Clits.

FONTANA: Yes. I remember that (laughter).

PICI: And these were -- and this brings up something, because our theatre -- our shows were very interactive for the time. And the custom in the gay bars, of course, with the female impersonators, is that if you like what they were doing, you'd go right up onstage -- you take a dollar, stuff it down their shirts, their blouses, hand them money, hand them notes. I mean, you just -- for 36:00something that was a scripted as lip-syncing to recorded music, it was quite a skill to be able to pull that off --

FONTANA: While people are coming up, yeah.

PICI: -- and our audiences adopted that same culture, as well. And I remember -- Joe and [BC?], who were the owners of the Tower Lounge and the Sports Page, I think -- Joe was crazy about me. She just loved Gladys Peach and the Clits. And every time we did a show -- and we knew we had to have "Midnight Train to Georgia," because Joe and BC are going to be in the crowd. Joe, over the course of the months before a show, would have a little Seagram's 7 velvet bag that she would take her tips and fill it with coins, and I knew that every show that I did "Midnight Train to Georgia," coming up that aisle was Joe and BC to take 37:00that and stuff it down my -- just, just wonderful.

FONTANA: You know, I -- the one I remember, a single person was Marie doing Al Green as Al Queen.

PICI: Al Queen! Marie was the best dancer. And we did want to do some male drag. We just didn't want to be impersonating female impersonators doing women, it was like, "Where are we now?" We're lesbians impersonating the female impersonators, but actually, we got so good that we weren't -- we were really appropriating the gay culture and the night clubs and the men's bars, but we really had reclaimed our lip-syncing and our performance to a level -- I mean, we rehear-- I mean, I'm telling you. We were. And Marie said, "You know, we need to do a man." And 38:00so she did Al Queen, which was her signature -- and our representative boy. And the Pussy Sisters, take off on the Pointer Sisters. Pussy Sisters. La Douche, which was our take off on Labelle.

FONTANA: Oh my God.

PICI: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then we also had, as you remember -- we got to a point where a lot of our shows had themes, like Tit-Witness News, which was the take off on a news broadcast. And we were very interactive with our audiences, not only during the performances, but after, we would have talk-back sessions. Because we knew we were also kind of edgy. We had had a philosophy of reclaiming certain images of women, reclaiming certain words like "pussy," "dyke" --

FONTANA: And "clit."

PICI: -- "clit." "Cunt" too, but we really never used "cunt," and, as Mickey 39:00said, I just don't think we could ever find anything to rhyme it with (laughter). I said it's probably better --

FONTANA: Maybe In football you could have (laughter).

PICI: Oh, that's true, because we did have football teams. It wasn't as formal as ALFA Omegas, but yeah, we did have Sunday football at Iverson Park.

FONTANA: I forgot that. I need to write that --

PICI: So in our talk-back sessions after our performances, we wanted feedback from people, and all those women from the Lesbian Connection and some more conservative lesbian feminists would use it as an opportunity to critique what we did, which we embracing what, because we were instigating a dialogue. That was our goal. And I remember us all lined up on the stage with -- one of the shows was at MCC and Elizabeth brought Charlotte [Bunch?] from Feminist Quarterly?


FONTANA: The Furies?

PICI: The Furies. And she was -- I remember her in the talk-back -- she said, "I must admit; Elizabeth told me that I would be seeing something that was a little unusual, a little edgy, a little fringe, and that I was a little concerned about the idea of people coming up onstage and giving you money and tipping it in your clothes -- but I loved it." (laughter) And she was -- and the reason I mention this is because Elizabeth told me she was bringing Charlotte Bunch, and Elizabeth -- and Charlotte was one of the people in line, coming up to the stage to put money in one of -- so it was one of those moments where we were kind of pushing the limits of certain things, giving voice to our audience to tell us, "What do you like? What did you didn't like? What could we do better? What do 41:00you don't ever want to see again, and why?" And from those talk-backs, we started going more in the direction of writing content that was more topical, like we were addressing issues of rape and violence against women, from a perspective of -- a lesbian perspective. We did some skits -- well that's where [Super-Dyke?] with [Closetta Lane], [Macho White?], [Fairy Wholesome?], [Clit Kent?].

FONTANA: Can you tell me the years where Red Dyke was performing?

PICI: Seventy-four to '78. Our last show was --

FONTANA: And I think what happened to me is that I've missed -- '76 I left, went to LA -- for those last two years, I wasn't even here --

PICI: We kind of --

FONTANA: -- and so some of the stuff you're saying, I remember, and some, it's like, "Woah, what?"


PICI: Well, fortunately, we have tape, which is another wonderful story. We did a show -- and I think it was '77, at Metropolitan Community Church -- and Lily Tomlin was -- nobody knew. We kind of had an idea that she was family, because she's always writing with Jane Wagner, but back in 1976, for good reason, Lily was not out of the closet. And she was doing a show at the Great Southeastern --

FONTANA: Music Hall.

PICI: -- Music Hall. And I don't know -- I know that this is as good an example of this story -- I know Amy [Estelle?] would probably have more details. But I think -- and this is what I witnessed. Lily Tomlin was at the Great Southeastern Music Hall. She had either seen or met Amy in her cable uniform, when she worked for the cable company, where she had the helmet, the holster, and Lily said to 43:00her something like -- or wrote to her and said, "I really like this get-up that you have. I'm thinking of doing a character that's a cable person -- would you tell me the kind of equipment that I would need?" Well, of course, you know Amy. She said, "Let me come to you after the show, and we can talk about it." Well Amy not only came to her after the show --

FONTANA: Brought her the --

PICI: -- brought us with her. Jean and me and Amy and somebody else -- she brought her equipment with her and we got backstage with Lily Tomlin. And Amy said, "Look at -- I had a spare. Instead of me just telling you all the equipment you're going to need, I'm just going to give this to you." And, of course, Lily -- we were in the audience of Lily Tomlin -- she said, "Oh, no, no. I have to pay you for this." And Amy said, "No, no, no, you can't. I don't want to take money," and Lily said, "No, I want you -- I really want to give you some money for this." To which Jean, who's the ultimate schmoozer and outreach, said, 44:00"Well, I tell you what. Red Dyke Theatre is doing a show in the next couple of weeks. We would love for you to come and be a guest." And she looked at her calendar. She couldn't come, but she said, "I'll tell you what." And she got out her checkbook, and she gave us a check for $500 to film the performance, which is -- I would s--

FONTANA: But is that the one which is, kind of, an old one -- we showed at the reunion -- but it's off and on?

PICI: Those were excerpts from that. We have a bigger one that's on first one half-inch reel, which, I don't know -- actually, I'm thinking, if they have preservation people here, that half-inch reel that Lily Tomlin actually paid for could be transferred onto -- actually, we did, we transferred it, years ago, onto what was then a u-matic tape, which was a three-quarter-inch, which nobody has players for anymore, which we then reduced down. When I worked at CNN, I 45:00took the u-matic tape, reduced it down to a VHS, which I then eventually digitized, and then took excerpts from for our reunion. But we have the full, two-and-a-half-hour MCC performance that Lily Tomlin paid for.

FONTANA: But I want to see that.

PICI: Well, hey, well -- we've got it.

FONTANA: A lot of people (inaudible)

PICI: And they're -- it's such a valuable history to know that Lily Tomlin paid for that for us, and that that was just a wonderful experience to watch Jean and Amy negotiate this experience. So those years that you were not there, we got a little more sophisticated in our performances. We had -- some formality to the Red Dyke Theatre Structure. Like, everybody wanted to be in Red Dyke Theatre, and we would have a -- new members every year, or every six months. And we 46:00started people off as stage manager, just to see if we could get along. Again, in the spirit of lesbian feminism, we were a very -- we were a collective. We operated -- there were no stars. Of course, some people had some favorites, and we had a following where -- but we had -- each of us would take turns being the director, and then the director of a show -- I would characterize that role not in the traditional sense, but somebody who was responsible for herding everybody together, for making sure all the I's were dotted, the T's were crossed, that everybody had rehearsed properly and kind of facilitated our rehearsals.

FONTANA: So each -- but each skit, or each song, or each piece that you did -- the group itself involved in that would do their own directing, in a way?

PICI: No, we would propose things, individually, of what we wanted to do in the 47:00next show, and if we wanted to resuscitate certain characters -- like Gladys Peach and the Clits -- with another song, or if we wanted to -- everybody was always wanting to see Peach Midler and the Dykettes, so we would always make sure and work that in. If we wanted to do a new skit that someone had written -- this is a good example -- we brought content to the group, where we met as a group and brainstormed what to do. Individuals would write things and present them to the group. We'd look them over -- we'd kind of evaluate, from the overall balance of the show, "OK, we want to make sure everybody has equal representation -- let's do this one. Let's fit this in here." It would depend on the theme of the overall show, which was kind of loose. And we wanted to make sure we had a good balance of comedy, some serious skits, some AV -- always wanted to have music or some sort of sound effects. When Jane did Billie Jean 48:00Queen -- which was our take off on Billie Jean King -- the sound effects -- Jane was on the -- we have it on tape. I remember being in the background. She was pretending she was playing tennis, and I'm in the background going (popping sound) into the mic. That was our high-tech sound effects. But it --

FONTANA: That was pretty good.

PICI: Still got it (laughter). One of the women brought a skit that they'd written -- had an experience where two older lesbians had been separated and put in separate nursing homes, and it was a real, you know -- it was something we were all starting to think about back then. We were very young, but it was very clear that there were some issues related to older lesbians -- who was the older lesbian that was always around? Er--

FONTANA: Yeah, [Irwin?] and the -- people from the Tower.

PICI: They asked us to do --

FONTANA: Betty and Irwin?


PICI: Yes, they asked us to do -- they were having mobility issues. They were the -- our matriarch, oldest of the lesbians, at the time. And in the talkback, they asked us to do something that was --

FONTANA: Good for them.

PICI: -- be the voice of older women. And, you know, we were all in our twenties, and we said, "We could do that." And so we got together, [Fanny?] wrote the script, and we decided -- it was about two women that -- lesbians who had been separated in different -- their families put them in separate nursing homes. And we would go back and forth, the way we blocked the scenes -- one over here and one over there, it was very dramatic, very moving. And, of course, with our spirit of comedy, which we would put in in appropriate places -- and we decided that, with the balance of that show and that we decided that the creator would not be in the show, but would maybe direct, to make sure that the intent 50:00of what they -- so those were the kind of decisions we would make, based -- and it was all collective. And basically starting with slumber party brainstormings over a weekend, we would come up with stuff, and then, again, we were extremely precise, very -- and since a lot of our stuff was based on recorded music, we had to be rehearsed. And those were such good times, when -- our rehearsals. It wasn't a painful experience at all. As a matter of fact, some of us thought we liked rehearsals better than -- "Oh no, we have got to do the show." Which, of course, that -- forget that. And you know, I would say -- and I don't want to miss anything here -- but the Great Southeastern Lesbian Conference, we would perform there. Benefits for the softball team -- benefits, at the time, now there -- this comes later, with the AIDS crisis -- there was not an AIDS crisis 51:00at this time. It was in the '70s. So we were mainly doing benefits for ALFA, Tower Lounge, any t-- Fourth Tuesday -- any type of -- anybody who -- it was our audiences. We could get an audience by doing a benefit, and that's what we were there for, and we -- don't want to miss any different, because I did take some notes -- "Creative process --" well, I will say, in just wrapping up the Red Dyke Theatre thing -- in 1978, we were so popular. Oh, Southeastern Lesbian and Gay -- oh yeah. We had gotten very popular, and people in our talk-back wanted us to travel and go to other areas, other than, say, Atlanta. We went to the University of Georgia and performed -- we went locally, maybe as far as Chattanooga. That's as far as we got. But you have to remember -- and this goes 52:00back to what I mentioned about being financially independent from men -- is that we had to hold down jobs and do all of this. That was our choice. And it was a good one, because there's just -- in these collectives that we live in, somebody had to be bringing in some money. And so we were faced with a decision in 1978, and again, it was a collective decision -- "OK, how many of us want to quit our jobs and take this show on the road?" And we had, I mean -- San Francisco -- we had lots of places that had already asked us to perform, and we had to make the strategic decision, and I still think it's a good one, that we just couldn't support that, that we were -- the makeup of our group had some scars from not 53:00having money. I think we didn't want to be impoverished. We didn't want to be starving artists, traveling -- the environment was not very stable, and it was also an environment -- and you probably are familiar with this -- where there were more opportunities, particularly women who were not encumbered with husbands and children, to maybe -- because of the federal regulations that were coming in -- there were more --

FONTANA: Non-traditional jobs.

PICI: There you go. Non-traditional, meaning jobs that were not as a librarian, a nurse, or an administrative assistant or secretary. There were actual, good-paying jobs that were held by men that a certain percentage -- probably the bare minimum of a percentage -- were set aside, particularly corporations that had contracts -- federal contracts -- that had to abide, that there was opportunity there, which, of course, I seized, as you did, Mickey did. And we 54:00made the decision, as a group, to disband, and it was a majority vote, and very few dissenters. I mean, a couple of people really wanted to take it on the road, but we just couldn't sustain it, and we knew it. So we disbanded. And for me, I tried to continue on the -- in a performative way, after I -- as a solo feminist mime and comic. The relationships that I'd cultivated through ALFA, through the softball teams, through the nightclubs with Red Dyke Theatre, I kind of appropriated all of my own experiences, and kind of kept -- at least kept me on the stage, in the same type of venues -- benefits for the sa-- it was not a for-profit. I never really felt like that was sustainable. It was also a time 55:00where I could supplement that with being a City of Atlanta softball umpire (laughter), with one of the women here, who frequents the Women's Collection -- Beth [Schapiro?]. The first --

FONTANA: Ah, she was the first.

PICI: She was the one. I said, "We can do this?" and she said, "Yeah," and I was like, "OK." And I signed up and -- you know, I also love the game of softball, and after a while, we realized we can't be playing. I went from player to -- I was assistant coach for a little while at ALFA Omegas, and then it was the [Southern Fury?], right?

FONTANA: Southern Fury.

PICI: I think we kind of -- that was interesting.

FONTANA: That was the year that I left, when I was in Southern Furies until I left that year -- '76.

PICI: Yes. And we had spin-offs. There was the Tower Hot Shots, the Meshugganahs --

FONTANA: The ALFA Amazons.

PICI: The ALFA Amazons! Oh, the ALFA Amaz-- we got a little competitive, there, I think (laughter). I think we were like, "Hey, what happened to this non-competitive?" I remember one game -- ah, that's right -- we had a 56:00conference, and it was a g-- lesbian conference, and we had an exhibition -- the ALFA Amazons versus the ALFA Omegas. And this -- it's even better, it gets even better. I was the umpire with [Carol Victoria?]

FONTANA: Oh yeah.

PICI: And we -- Carol and I were like, "Do we really want to do this?" and I said, "Sure, we're professionals." (laughter) And I was like, "OK, I really have to call upon my skills as an objective, no-vested-interest," -- that play at the plate, that close one, I was like, "Carol, you take that one." No, it was -- that's true. We had -- we had evolved, again -- what I love about this continuity of my own experience is I can see how adaptable and how agile we were, and how we really didn't discard any experience. We appropriated it in a 57:00way, molded it, morphed it into something else. As a solo performance artist and, in a way, a softball umpire -- I mean, you can't be any, I'm in the game -- but I ain't playing. Actually, being a softball umpire was wonderful. I loved that experience. I don't know if you've -- were you an umpire at all, or was that Martha?

FONTANA: No, no.

PICI: Really, again, it was one of those non-traditional things I remember. People were very -- there was only me and Beth Schapiro, and we were umpires -- we would umpire men's fast-pitch games. I mean, we were out there at Piedmont Park, just like the guys. And at the time, in the climate, they were not used to a woman being an umpire, and just as I did with Xerox, we had to prove 58:00ourselves, that we could in fact do this work, and it didn't take us long to do it a whole lot better. I mean, we were -- yeah. I remember --

FONTANA: So were there -- I don't mean to tell our stories, but was there -- do you remember an incident in which you could say how you're calling something that you never would have questioned with a man umpire, that you were being challenged or questioned about it?

PICI: Well, it's all in your presentation, and I knew that before I even set foot on the field, I had to rehearse a strike call -- the actual confidence behind a call. Because the moment you go out, they're going to go, "Hey, wait a minute -- that's a girl doing that! I don't understand -- they're all," -- and then, the very first call, you prove yourself by what they see. And I won them 59:00over the first game. And I remember -- I had a strike call that was very dramatic. It was, "Steeeeerike," I mean, it was your classic -- I got it down. It became my trademark. And I remember, the first year I umpired, I had a group of young kids that would come to my games, that would stand behind that backstop just hoping I was calling the plate, because we would switch back and forth, and you call the plate or you call the field. So, I think there was a show -- woman-ship behind it that was my entry in. And the -- you cannot disguise incompetence, so there was a skill there, of competence. And my years as a tomboy really paid off, because one of the -- and my years in baseball and softball -- because the key thing you have to do is keep your eye on the ball, for your own safety, and you have to be approaching with -- what you see -- 60:00without judgment. You cannot have a vested interest, and believe me, that is a challenge, because some of those teams were very competitive, and particularly when we got into the men's fast-pitch, they did not -- were not at all happy, until I proved myself. Which, like I said -- I went in with a reputation that I think I established early on. And I think I knew, from a performing standpoint, that it had to be very obvious that I knew what I was doing, I was good at this. And, you know, you make a couple of close calls at first base or the -- the stress calls, which could turn a game from winners to losers -- you are making sure that the people in the audience and the team see that you are in the proper position to see the call, that you are there in a fearless way as that 175-pound 61:00person is sliding into the plate with a catcher throwing off their mask -- you need to stay right in there and keep your eye on the ball and see what happens, and immediately know -- you can't hesitate.

FONTANA: You've got to be --

PICI: That sells it.

FONTANA: -- sure and even if -- so once in a while, did you get so good that even if it was a close call and you weren't sure, you were still sounding very authoritative?

PICI: Oh yeah, you had to be -- and, you know, you've got to keep in mind that 50% of the people there are going to (clapping sound). And the other fifty are going to go, "Aw man! Missing a good game" (laughter) But it was again, like Xerox, like anything I did that was in a non-traditional way, I learned early on, and -- this was the climate, and I think there was even a button that said, 62:00"Women have to be twice as good as men to be considered half as good -- fortunately, this is not difficult." Well it was difficult at first, but it -- when you persevere, and you realize that this is the -- this is what I've agreed to do. And you know, being Italian, coming from Buffalo and that environment, I knew that, "OK, this is my opportunity, so I'm going to not only accept this challenge, but I'm going to blow them away." And I think it's a good -- I would say that is my MO, and I like it. And I like that I have those types of successes that did not come without challenges, rehearsals, preparation, I mean -- this is not something that you go in, rolling the dice. You don't step out on a field as an umpire, like -- and when we went up to Chicago for the Gay 63:00Olympics, which was -- I was invited by the city of Atlanta -- 1993 I won the Best Umpire for the City of Atlanta, and they were all excited, because in three years to being a newbie to this pageant that they have every year. That -- and it was all voted on by a legacy of male umpires -- they said, "No, she's the best."

FONTANA: You won over everybody because you knew what you were doing.

PICI: Yeah. And I was invited to umpire at the Gay Olympics, which were in Chicago -- I think that was maybe '82.

FONTANA: I don't remember -- that's [wild?].

PICI: Oh that was -- boy, that was great. That was like -- and we had some teams from Atlanta that went.

FONTANA: Were there other women umpires there? It would seem like there would be.

PICI: In Chica--? They were from all over the country. So I was there, now, with my umpire [peeps?] that were all lesbians. And we were -- and the way they did 64:00the Gay Olympics, then, we didn't have any men umpires. They had just women that had come from -- it was great. I -- a wonderful experience, wonderful. So, appropriating my own exp-- do you have to go the bathroom?


PICI: I think I do, but I'm going to wait, because I want to finish this thought --


PICI: -- so appropriating my own experiences to keep me in a game, to keep me on the stage. Probably, after I realized, the solo performance thing -- although, it was wonderful, I loved it. I got to mingle with the -- as a mime, which I really got into, with Red Dyke Theatre -- I decided to research the history of mime, which, of course, comes -- stems from our people, our Italians. And I really wanted to get into studying performance mime, which I did. I hooked up 65:00with a lot of the mimes in Atlanta -- we did a couple of Atlanta Mime festivals, which I was very successful, and got to be with mime peeps, and kind of merged that with solo performance that was based on comedic monologues, which I was -- if I wasn't in whiteface, I was a talking mime, which got me a chance to do solo drama, solo performance --

FONTANA: Is that -- can you say more how that might have led, or connected, with the same -- working with that more traditional theatre.

PICI: Yes. As a matter of fact, I'm glad you brought that up, because as I moved from Red Dyke Theatre, which was fringe, off-off-off-off Broadway type of theatre, guerilla theatre -- to more happenings, guerilla theatre -- moving into 66:00solo performance, I was able to establish myself in still kind of fringe. My main venues were the night clubs, the gay bars, the women's bars, MCC, Fourth Tuesday, and working in tandem -- like, one year, [Robin Tyler] found out about me, and she sent me an e-- it was a phone call. I pick up the phone call, and I hear Robin Tyler go, "What the hell is a lesbian mime and a comic?" And I said, "Well, why don't you come to Atlanta, and I'll tell you." And she just happened to be visiting, so we planned, in a couple of months, to do a show together at Illusions, which was really my first move into some sort of a legitimate type -- because Robin came already with a history. She was already a celebrity -- we had a great time. I also did a show with [Kate Clinton] at the Existentialist 67:00Church. Again, I was starting as a solo performer to meet up with other like women that were doing stuff, which made me, A: realize I'm not going to be able to sustain this. Plus, I wasn't sure if I liked the idea of the way they all had to move around all the time. You've got -- I mean, I'm a nester, 40 years, same place, same house.

FONTANA: And you already had your relationship.

PICI: Yeah, and you know, you just can't come up with new material all the time to be able to satisfy a --

FONTANA: Stay in the same place.

PICI: -- so I, again, I appropriated that experience for me to say, "You know, I think I need to focus, now, on gainful employment, and see if I can keep this performance and umpiring," which, in many ways, was performance -- athletic performance, "in my life." And that's when I got hired at CNN, which, for the 68:00next 18 years, gave me a chance to really indulge in non-profit without having to rely on it for my own income. And that's where SAME came along, the Southeastern Arts Media and Education Project, and I will say -- Rebecca Ranson, who was the founder of SAME, changed my life. This was a foray into exactly what I wanted to do. The AIDS crisis had already happened around 1982 and '83, and I do have something about SAME -- I want to make sure I say it right. "SAME was a multi-disciplinary, Atlanta-based, gay and lesbian non-profit. Rebecca, who found it, had a vision, which I embraced, which was to use art and music and 69:00literature and drama to give voice to LGBT issues, particularly the AIDS crisis, which was the impetus for her to start this." I mean, Rebecca's the consummate social activist. I adore -- she -- I just fell in love with her immediately. When we met, we clicked right away. She was someone who legitimized a lot of the peripheral theatre, guerilla theatre, drag performance, and brought it into a more focused, purposeful project. In her -- she was an excellent fundraiser, schmoozer, was able to sustain -- she was a great non-profit person. And her years of [burn-out?] will prove it. She had to go through phases of the non-profit burn-out, but when I worked with Rebecca -- and I came in after SAME 70:00had started.

FONTANA: And when was that?

PICI: I'm so glad you asked. The organization, during it's first 10 years, 1985-1995 -- was during that time period where it was the most active. So I think it probably started in '83 and '84, but the actual performances were documents starting in '84. With Warren, which was the very first AIDS play, and it's known nationally for that. Incidentally, Rebecca -- now that I work at Emory, and Emory, as Georgia State -- but Emory's MARBL, which is the Manuscript Archives and Rare Book Library, which is their special collections -- over the last two years has been building an LGBT collection. And so, when I found out about this, I kind of hooked up with the curator and I said, "Look -- I've got 71:00some stuff through Rebecca Ranson and SAME, and ALFA, and Red Dyke Theatre," and he was like, "Bring it on." So, in the last two years -- last year, we secured Rebecca's entire archive, her special collection, along with her SAME collection, from her work with SAME. And all the other participants of SAME that I knew of was able to contact and get them to donate their holdings. So there's a huge -- everything now is in -- under the protective custody of Emory University's MARBL collection, and actually, I'm going to do something with them next month on Red Dyke Theatre. They have stuff from ALFA already at MARBL. They have Shirlene's work, some of Shirlene Holmes' work. It's a huge collection, and I think this is a good year, coming up, for them to even build it further, because they're renovating the place, so their desk work is minimized, and 72:00they're able to build these collections. This year is going to be a very productive intake year. So SAME, 10 years -- during that time, we produced 70 plays, original film and video -- Rebecca was really into AV, filming. We had a lot of people that were multimedia people involved with SAME, because we wanted to -- the technology was there. We were able to affordably record things -- we had radio shows. We had work with WRFG. Rebecca had a lot of connections with 7 Stages, Horizon Theatre, so again -- legitimizing and giving voice to some of our concerns in a non-fringe way is where Rebecca was brilliant. I think, on my 73:00resume that I gave you -- I'll refer to this, because there was -- like I said, changed my life. With Rebecca, I was able to -- oh, here it is. The [Avocational] Experience, OK. I worked with Rebecca as an actor, as a stage-manager, and as an acting coach. And I would say, in the time that I was with her -- and really, after -- in the late '80s and early '90s, Rebecca, after she came out as a lesbian herself, she was starting to balance out some of the same projects, which were primarily geared to gay men and addressing the AIDS crisis through theatre or performance -- she was starting to write plays about lesbians, and incorporating more of the lesbian feminist community, and you know, then again, right up my alley. So I volunteered, "I'll do anything. I'll 74:00be your assistant director. I'll be an actor. I'm good at stage-managing." Which, of course, is something that I went into -- when I was at CNN, I decided, you know, I'm finally getting my undergraduate degree. Georgia State is three-quarters of a mile from CNN -- maybe, now that I'm almost 40, let's start getting some education. So I decided, after many minors, to major in theatre and communication studies. And I was able to sustain that, really, the whole time I was at CNN -- to get a bachelor's, a master's, and what I call an ABCD PhD, which is [All-But-Comps-and-Dissertation?]. Communication studies, theatre, and performance studies. So, again, appropriating my own experience to bring to SAME, in these capacities, that were legitimate theatre. Now I'm in a venue with 75:00Rebecca, who is kind of bridging that gap, and I learned the praxis with Rebecca, and my theory of theatre in my academic life -- it was just such an exciting time, for me, to work with her, and to watch her -- I think I have to go to the bathroom. I have to take a pause here. Well, I tell you what, I'm just going to wrap this up and then I'll go to the restroom, and then we can talk more questions.


PICI: But I do have a point. One of things that Rebecca did -- we did in 1990, it was one of her pieces called, "As I See Myself Changing," and it was her way -- she wanted to incorporate art, literature, and dramatic performance. It was at TULA's art gallery. And we put together an eclectic show -- only women -- and the criterion was you had to be over 35. And we did our own pieces, whether it be music, art, poster art, or dramatic performance. And, at that time, I was, I 76:00think -- it really hit me, and this was way back in 1990, that I was, in fact, becoming an older woman (laughter). It's just like, "Oh my God," you know? I woke up one day and I looked at my watch and what I saw coming out of my sleeve was my mother's hand, and that was the visceral experience of, "I'm becoming an older woman." And I will say, in advance of this interview, I've kind of had that experience again, because I think, now, at 60 years old, I have officially become an older woman. But I've got to tell you --

FONTANA: Sixty is usually the official --

PICI: -- official.

FONTANA: -- elder-hood, senior-hood, [crone-hood?]

PICI: The 30th anniversary of my 30th birthday is now here, and I will say -- I 77:00will say that, unlike when I saw myself changing back with Rebecca, which was the first time it occurred to me that I was getting older, or was becoming an older woman. This time, when I turned 60, I really -- I honestly was not afraid. And I'm not afraid of these changes, these transformations that I see I'm undergoing, and I'll tell you why. The reason I am not afraid is because I have these decades of my own personal experience now being used as my back-up, my buffer, my references, my works cited. For example, when I was -- I can look back to a time in my twenties, during the '70s, young buck -- and back then, my life goals were to experience as much as possible, in as many ways as possible, 78:00and to do it all with steady romance and some sleep (laughter). When I turned 30, my life goals were: to get a job, keep a job; get a house, keep a house; get a girlfriend, keep a girlfriend; retain my shape. On the day that I turned 40, my life goals were to: finally graduate from college, and to avoid having to undergo a hysterectomy. When I turned 50, my life goals were to fill gaps and successfully recover from a hysterectomy (laughter). And now that I'm 60, my life goals are to keep my balance, help --

FONTANA: Do you mean that in many ways?


PICI: Yes, many ways. Help more than hurt, continue breathing (laughter). So, I think -- I'll just kind of end it there.