usShe told me (in no uncertain terms) that no one EVER called her Phyl. So I called her Phyl Phyl.

“Where is Phyllis Johnson!?!?”… The silence and stares that followed were mind numbing.

“Where is Phyllis Johnson!?!?” I yelled once again.

Why was I here, at my first theatre audition, searching frantically for this entity, this legend, this person of interest and rumor… One Miss Phyllis Johnson?

I didn’t know anything about anything. All I knew is I was new in town, bored out of my mind, lured into auditioning for community theatre by a friend who I had met because he was bartending at a ‘Frou-frou’ shin dig and I gravitated toward his mutual weirdness (regardless of the fact that I was pregnant and couldn’t order a drink!).

So in I walked, confidently insecure, sure that if I could identify the said ‘leader of the pack’ I could find some sneaky, Julie’esque’ way in.

I found Phyllis Johnson. She was sitting on the opposite side of the theatre. She looked like she knew what she was doing. She looked like she knew I was coming. She did NOT look amused. “Damn, this is gonna be a hard nut to crack.” I remember thinking.

So I was cast. I was cast as Phyllis’s protégé. I’m sure she was thrilled. I know I was! I showed up every day, exaggerated smile on my face, electricity shooting from every pore, anxious for a new experience, a shot at the spotlight and a chance to make some friends after a very long time…

She looked down at me (though I was slightly taller). She reluctantly processed that I had never acted on stage before. She stared into the overly enthusiastic eyes of an out-of-towner film actress; recently married into a reasonably well-known family, hoping (praying!) that entitlement was not a part of my vocabulary.

She got lucky. Cause it sure as heck wasn’t!

I stumbled out on stage for dress rehearsal and immediately froze like a deer in headlights. Who did I turn to? – Phyllis. Who saved me? – Phyllis. And nope, it hasn’t stopped since.

There might be 20 years between us but not one thing more. In the last two years we haven’t gone a week without speaking, to a (please just go with me!) event without attending together, had an idea without colluding, made it through a party without giggling (uncontrollably), or experiencing a life event without shedding many, many mutual tears…

She is truly the yin to my yang. She feels free to say: “Just shut up!”, “Get over yourself!”, or the dreaded (gasp) “You’re overreacting! Let  – it  – go.”

I haven’t loved or needed someone like Phyllis since I was an insecure teen looking for a little support while trying to figure out who the hell I was. Now I’m a 42 year old simply grateful for a friend willing to give me support while I continue to figure out who the hell I’ll ever be.

Three plays, a haunted trail, dozens of board meetings, several cast parties, a theatre clean-out, a week at the shore, four children’s camps, endless hugs and therapeutic tears later, she is still at my side and has become, without a doubt, my best friend.

I still might not know who I’ll end up being but I know I’m better, MUCH better, since I met Phyllis.