Last year I had just finished a rough draft of a musical I had been working on and was considering what to tackle next. A friend insisted that my next writing project should be about “the gals,” my wonderful group of local friends. We had met here in the Triangle, a blend of natives and transplants, who had found one another on meetup.com and become fast friends.
Our backstories were fascinating and varied. We had lived in several different countries, pursued intriguing careers, had been married for better or worse and most had raised now-adult children. What was clear to us all, as we navigated our sixties, was that no matter how the world regarded us, we were NOT done yet.
What was keeping me from writing about the gals was that there was no STORY. No plot. No high stakes. No narrative arc. So, I made one up.
“The Woodstock Tontine” throws a handful of my friends into a fictional premise:
Six women meet in Woodstock in August of 1969 and are reunited at the funeral of the group’s emotional pulse, Valerie—the one who had gathered the group together at the festival nearly 50 years before. There is BJ, a black women adopted by Jewish parents. VERONIKA, raised in post WW2 Germany. SHELLEY, who’s libidinal juices remain as reliable as the sap of a maple in the spring. TRUDY, world traveller and self-appointed moral compass. And ROBERTA, who comes up with the idea of the Tontine—a way to have the gals “invest” in their friendship. Each contributes a sizeable sum of money. The last gal standing will receive the entire amount after the rest are gone. It is a proposal both tantalizing and morbid.
One by one, the group dwindles, but not before learning much about each another and, even more, about themselves. The blessing of friendship is how much we are able influence one another’s lives, if we are willing to invest and take the risks that real relationships demand.
I have learned this from my friends. I hope others get that message from the incredible ladies of “The Woodstock Tontine.”