Ladies’ Night Out
by Joy Pennington, Tale Trader, February 2000, Vol. 18 No.1
Barbara Schutzgruber begins this CD with “We all love stories… We each hear what we need to hear.” And so it is with Ladies’ Night Out, a collection of five diverse stories, each focusing on a woman. The “need to hear what we need to hear” begins with the title, so don’t be mislead by the whimsical, tongue-in-cheek, even serious, Ladies’ Night Out.
The stories collectively portray women in various circumstances undergoing experiences that forge character and personality. Except for Alice in “The Mole”, all the women are nameless, symbolically suggesting each is every woman. Throughout the stories, the women show a need for security, love, romance, and adventure, and they exhibit admirable qualities of independence, strength, determination, and loyalty. Only Alice in “The Mole” displays mean qualities of greed, pride, and arrogance. She is clearly not every woman.
“The Forest” is the most metaphorical and evocative of the stories. The main character makes choices, and with each choice she pays a price. Her first love is a young and handsome man whom she loses to the forest at twilight. Her next choice is to marry a woodsman and have children. With the woodsman, she learns the forest well, is safe and unafraid – until she meets a knight who turns into an ugly monster. Only the voices of her children save her. Next, she explores a spidery cave where she wakes a man-bear (her first love). Now she had three choices, the man-bear, the woodsman, or more unexplored paths in the forest. She makes her choice.
“The Mole” is a witty a cappella rendition about Alice who is preparing to go to a banquet. Before the mirror, she admires her beautiful eyes and all her beauty. Even as she tells herself she is more beautiful than any queen, she vanishes into thin air. Finally the gardener see her shiny ring, a priest is called, and Alice is found. Her pride and arrogance have reduced her to being a mole – blind and furry.
“Woman in Grey” is a haunting tale about a woman who, three evenings in a row, walks into a community grocer, and, without saying a word, gets a bottle of milk from Lillie, the clerk. When members of the community finally dig the woman out of an abandoned mine, they find her dead, but beside her is a live baby – and three milk bottles.
“The Bride” (also a cappella) is hilarious with a clever woman at the center. When a young farmer, who had courted her for a long time, asks her to marry him, she says no. He vows to marry the first woman he meets. She rushes around, making herself gross, and waits for him on the road. True to his word, he asks the vile-looking thing to marry him. She says yes. He is aghast but goes through with it. At the wedding party, she farts and cleans her nose with her hair. During the ceremony, she agrees to all the vows except to obey. That night, she reveals herself to him as the woman he has been courting. His honor matches her cleverness.
“Three Coins” also has a strong woman at the center and another strong woman (the old blind cook) as advisor. The central woman is stolen and sold into slavery. After twenty years, she is given her freedom and three copper coins. The old cook gets the coins, one by one, in exchange for three pieces of advice. As the main character makes her way back home to a far away land, she heeds each piece of advice. Finally, back home, she begins a new life of freedom, wealth, and love.
You’ll like these stories; they lend themselves to various levels of interpretation making it possible for you to “hear what [you] need to hear”. And you’ll like Schutzgruber’s clear, well paced, crisp telling.