“Dancing to the Edge of a Cliff: One Woman’s Musical Mythological Journey Towards Self-acceptance” – written and performed by Margaret Mendenhall. Directed by and developed with Jessica Lynn Johnson at Whitefire SOLOFEST 2019.
This play moved me. I know all art is supposed to and some does, but this play, a one-act, one-woman play about Margaret Mendenhall’s quite fascinating life, moved me deeply and I’m very glad it did.
Margaret’s life story is what this play is all about and we begin as she began as a child, feeling as many creative people do, more than a little different from those around her. She unravels her life for us on stage like pulling the thread from her sweater, feeling less like she constructed her life story and more like she de-constructed it. Not in a destructive way though, not at all, but thoughtfully and with a delicate and fluid intent. She explains herself as she discovers herself, and all that discovering took her some time, so it’s only fitting that she take some time to tell it.
Her life reads like a mythological journey, which is fitting since she has just completed her PHD in Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology. She ran away as soon as she could from her normal life with her family to L.A. and a life of wild dreams and glamorous intentions which quickly dissolved into the mundane realities of working to survive. Yet there was always a turn in the road, always another adventure, and always the hint that something could, at any minute, fall apart.
Margaret didn’t just survive two mental breakdowns, one feels as if she triumphed over them…more mythology I suppose. She is a gentle and warmly funny soul, but a quiet warrior. Her talent I believe lies in her innate ability to befriend us while at the same time entertaining us and also risking everything in exposing her true self, her “fragility.”
Don’t we all go around pretending to be strong and impenetrable and fearless when in reality we are all quite the opposite. How beautiful and refreshing to be entertained and enlightened by someone who is unafraid of being afraid.
Margaret’s story is beguiling and funny and sad and true, but it is also radiant and evocative and inspiring and utterly charming, much like Margaret herself. I hope she continues to share her life with us.