In the new documentary film “Tea with the Dames” four exquisite British actresses: Dames Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins and Joan Plowright discuss their illustrious lives and careers.
All four were asked at some point to play Shakespeare’s Cleopatra. All four admitted to not feeling attractive enough to pull it off. Two never dared. Maggie Smith felt safe enough to portray her in Canada where not many people would see the show. Only Judi Dench agreed to play the Queen opposite Anthony Hopkins in an amazing production at The National in London.
Judi is maybe 5’ tall, curvy and sumptuous. Not many people’s immediate idea of what Cleopatra might have looked like. In fact she warned the director, Peter Hall, “I hope you know what you are doing. You are setting out to direct Cleopatra with a menopausal dwarf.”
As was stated by Michael Billington in The Guardian: “That, of course, was the very last thing we saw. In place of the conventional sultry temptress, Dench gave us a Cleopatra whose sexuality stemmed from her volatility, intelligence and wit: a woman of infinite variety who was enthralling company and an irresistible magnetic force, drawing Anthony Hopkins’s jaded warrior of an Antony back to Egypt.”
I had the great fortune and pleasure to see this production. I can agree that Judi Dench’s off the charts performance was sexier, earthier, and more potent than could be imagined and indelibly etched in my mind for decades afterwards.
Dench proved that getting older, going through changes in our bodies is in no way the end of our vitality, attractiveness or power…in fact in many ways it is just the beginning.
It got me thinking about how many women believe they are not attractive enough to play Cleopatra in their own lives let alone allow themselves to embody deep passion and power. Particularly when they are in the throes of another phase of their lives - menopause.
Now I happen to be an odd champion of menopause having had the intriguing career luck to have created MenOpop, (a Menopause Pop-Up & Activity Book). No, really, it exists!
MenOpop offers a whimsical and cheeky look at the absurdities of menopause, spinning it into a world of irreverent humor and outlandish fun. . . all served with heaps of love. Sweaty ladies explore the 3-D Uterus, take a bath with the Centerfold, "Miss Ma Period" and challenge each other to play “MenOland" (the Menopause Board Game with a real spinner!).
The goal in creating this book was to take the absurdities and realities of “the change” and spin them with good humor. By demystifying the signs and signals of menopause, we turn a challenging experience into something everyone can enjoy and feel empowered.
The reception to the book was amazing. It was featured on CNN, ABC NEWS, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, THE WASHINGTON POST, HEALTH MAGAZINE and Dave Barry’s Holiday Gift Guide.
According to the International Menopause Society, this Oct.18 is World Menopause Day and this year’s campaign raises awareness on sexual well being after menopause.
This continues one of the goals of MenOpop to really allow women to recognize that no matter what stage of life they are in, their inner Cleopatras are able to venture out and be seen and heard. Here’s to all the ‘menopausal dwarves’ brave enough to come center stage and shine. (Thanks Judi for leading the way!)