You’re my Favorite Debbie Allen When We’re Reenacting Fame

Before there was Will and Grace, there was Sammy and Renee.

My friend Renee and I met at the Jewish Community Center of Houston’s Performing Arts Camp (natch) when we were nine. To this day, people often ask how long we’ve been married. Especially anyone who has ever played a board game with us.

When we were in high school in the ’80s, Pictionary was the craze. Renee and I made a fierce team – a good thing, since in P.E. class we opted out of most team sports and marched to the beat of our own drum, sometimes literally. We spent full gym periods doing one of two things: walking the track while singing or playing one-on-one Mime-Volleyball. The latter is exactly what you think it is: no ball, no net, just two histrionic teenagers attempting to get some exercise.  As one does…

If you don’t recall Pictionary, it’s charades with pictures. One partner pulls a card from the deck with a word or phrase on it then draws something on a piece of paper for the other partner to guess.

For example, Renee picked a card then hastily drew what looked like a bear, and I said “Dog.”

I guessed correctly.  Even though her scribble beared no resemblance to a dog, I knew that was her intention.

One time Renee lowered her pencil to the pad, and before the tip even hit the paper, I blurted out “NEW ZEALAND!”   She put her pencil down, because, well, I was correct again. Our competitors were stunned but they believed it.  Everyone knew how strongly Renee and I were connected and perhaps were more intrigued to see what we could come up with next rather than separate us.

In Like You Like It, Sylvie and Phil, a gender-reversed take on As You LIke It’s shepherds Sylvius and Phebe, are work-study students at Sausage on a Stick. They’re BFF but she wants more. He wants more of the same.   I needed a lot of “same” rhymes for his song.

And while Renee and I were never in Sylvie and Phil’s predicament, I was definitely thinking of her when a lyric appeared out of the ether:

“We’re Pictionary partners who always win the game.”

For me, there was no better way to encapsulate the bond between two best friends.

When Like You Like It played in Houston, I stood in the back of the theatre, unaware of where anyone I knew was sitting. When Phil sings his song and gets to that lyric, I instinctively turned to my left.  There was Renee a few rows away, turning at the same time, our smiles meeting each other, proof that after all these years, we are still connected.