December 22, 2001 was the last performance of "The Eight: Reindeer
Monologues" at the now-defunct Theatre1 in Boston's South End. The show
was directed by Josh Pritchard (basis for Jason, now runs my ads and is
one of my three roommates). Also in the show were Claire Shinkman,
T-Bob Bowdin, and... me.
And a few days before I'd started this comic.
So, Josh, T-Bob, Claire, and another cast member named Duane volunteered
to be in the strip as supporting cast - the idea was apparently too
good. So, as I'd asked my friend Jhim just two days before, I inquired
about limits - i.e. what can I not do to them in the strip.
"Whatever you want," Claire said.
Okay, here's a hint, ladies. If you're a sexy redhead, don't say this
to a guy who draws a lot.
"No, seriously," I said. "What are my limits?"
"Do whatever you want," Claire replied. "I'm a whore for infamy."
I'm betting she regrets that right about now.
I've always felt bad about Claire's appearances in the comic. The
comic's Claire doesn't match up to the real Claire. Oh, we pick on her
mercilessly - that's still the same - but the real Claire rolls with it
wonderfully and gives just as good as she gets. I could probably have
done another strip that was entirely based on the experiences of she,
Josh, and I being in children's shows together. For example, she was
Alice in "Alice in Wonderland." I was the Mock Turtle, Cheshire Cat,
and Mad Hatter (the latter I scared children as). Anna's father (yes,
the comic's Anna) was in that one as well. And "Wind and the Willows" -
Claire as Ratty, Josh as Badger, me as Mole, T-Bob as the lead weasel -
and Anna as about everyone else.
But I digress.
When I started S*P, all the characters were meant to represent a friend
everyone had. Davan's the hard-to-like friend who, while trying, WILL
be there for you. Aubrey's the friend who tests your limits. PeeJee is
the friend who acts tougher than she probably is and cares a little too
much. Scotty's the friend you lose and you never understand why.
Everyone had a role except Claire. I could never quite figure out where
to put her and I could never make her comic self as larger-than-life as
Time passed and I saw Claire less and less. She was working three to
four jobs at a time, mostly theatre stuff, so fitting into her schedule
was nigh impossible - but she always had a smile to offer. This past
August Claire moved to Michigan to be with a gentleman she fell in love
with. Everyone was happy for her, if a little sad to see her leave. I
still get random text messages from her. Josh gets actual emails,
including one that apparently stated, "Who do I have to suck off to get
back into the comic?"
Since she's left, I've figured out which friend Claire is, and it's a
role anyone who's done theatre appreciates. When you're in threatre,
working on a show, that show becomes your entire world for however long
you're involved. A month - two months... whatever. And the people
involved become your greatest friends but only for that fleeting moment.
There's that moment of dread when the show's run ends and the cast party
happens - when you're glad the show's over, but you know as much as
everyone swears they'll still talk, some of the faces will vanish from
your life. Claire became, for me, the friend you want to hold on to but
you should probably just be glad you had anytime with her.