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Menopause the Musical and society

Part three of a three part series; interview with Pammie O'Bannon of Menopause the Musical

“We love it when women are proud to be who they are.”
“For us, the show would not be possible without the audience. The remarkable thing that stays with me after performing all across North America and around the world is how similar audience reactions are despite outward differences.”

O’Bannon relates the raucousness of American and Canadian fans who are overjoyed at the chance to let loose and laugh it up. “Our matinees tend to draw slightly older crowds and these women tend to be a little more subdued. But our evening shows end up being incredibly fun celebrations where women are all too eager to leap out of their seats and join the cast on stage. We love it when women are so exuberant and are proud to be who they are.”

But things can be a little different across cultures, as O’Bannon explains. “During our shows in Malaysia, the crowds were much more reserved. The Malaysian Minister of Health played a large part in promoting ‘‘Menopause the Musical’’ but we still had to overcome challenges including language barriers as well as cultural taboos that are only starting to be dealt with, compared to where we are in North America. The most important thing we took from that tour was audiences still find ways to relate to us, making the play less about the theatrical and more about the women who come to see us.”

“We should be one of them.”
Back in North America things are a little more progressive but menopause is still a difficult topic to deal with. Back in 2001, O’Bannon and her menopausal ladies played their first show in Florida with a total attendance figure of 13 curious women. It didn’t take long for word of mouth to transform this seemingly cultural aberration into a phenomenal success, due entirely to the chemistry between the actresses and the audience. Keeping the roles fresh for the cast members means remembering, “We really shouldn’t just be actresses on a stage who are remote from the women who come to see us. We should be one of them. This makes is a natural leap for women to see past us and actually see themselves on stage.”

North American obsession with youth affects how society views menopause and getting older. The Baby Boom generation members who once trusted no one over 30 now have a hard time trusting anyone under 30 in a sort of what O’Bannon cautions seems to be “a sort of anti-youth movement.” Perhaps that is expected since we are in a time where the old precedents for aging have been discarded; 50 is the new 40, 40 is the new 30 etc.

Baby Boomers have carved out a new place for themselves by changing what getting older means. O’Bannon advises her cohort to look to the younger generations and their youthful energy for inspiration, “It is a chance to educate younger people.” The Boomers will lead by example and prove that life does not end after 25. Or with the first hot flash.

The generation gap is inescapable when it comes to menopause.Our mothers and grandmothers ‘suffered’ in silence and isolation because no one dared ta lk about ‘the change’ and no one knew how to deal with it. Also, doctors rarely talked to women about menopause and a vicious circle of shame and fear took hold in society. Today as things improve, women of all ages can begin the dialog and learn from each other and feel more empowered when talking to their doctors about menopause.

“We’re just getting started!”
When she accepted the role of Earth Mother, Pammie O’Bannon never thought that she would become the inspirational woman she is. Night after night, four talented and dedicated women channel their energy into a play that provides women with a couple of hours to laugh at menopause and laugh at themselves.

More importantly, women see that menopause is not the end of life. Rather it is the beginning of a new chapter; a chapter where strong and confident women have grabbed the pens out of the hands of the naysayers of the past and are now ready to write that next chapter their way. Menopause means the end for women? Nonsense! No better inspiration is to be found than the way O’Bannon leaves us with the ultimate menopausal mantra: "We’re just getting started!”

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