The Marvelous Rachel Brosnahan
“I can see Russia from my house.”
“I can see Northwood from my house.”
Don’t stop reading- I can explain! Northwood is not just the school where my son graduated, and my daughter currently attends junior high. It is where the marvelous Rachel Brosnahan was first bitten by the theatre bug. The very woman who just won her SECOND Golden Globe (she also got the Emmy last year) for her lead role in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel grew up in my neighborhood!
If you haven’t watched the show, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s about a young Jewish wife and mother (Midge Maisel) living in New York in the late 1950s. Her husband leaves her for his secretary and she ends up pursuing a career as a stand-up comedienne. My husband and I are devoted fans, and often re-watch scenes because the dialogue can’t be heard over our laughter. One could say that I am obsessed with Mrs. Maisel, but I am even more obsessed with the fact that Rachel got her start in theatre at Northwood Junior High.
The reason behind my obsession (not in a creepy stalker way) with Rachel’s Northwood roots goes beyond the superficial notion that it’s cool to have a connection (albeit weak) to a celebrity. I’m a big fan of other home-grown celebrities; Gary Sinise graduated from Highland Park High School, and Jason Brown (also a Northwood graduate) is an Olympic winning figure skater. Yet, Rachel Broshahan’s rise to fame has resonated with me differently.
I grew up in the 80s; an era where famous athletes (almost exclusively male) were glorified as heroes and role models. I was probably the least athletic child in my school and gym class was a nightmare for me. My disdain for physical education went deeper than just being ‘bad at gym.’ I had a disfiguring and disabling autoimmune disease that nobody talked about, making just sitting on the gym floor a near impossibility. My utter incompetence in anything sports-related was a constant source of humiliation. These feelings of inadequacy were only amplified by the tremendous value society placed on athleticism.
In high school, I miraculously discovered theatre; an island of fun in a sea of misery. Still, I recall any theatrical feats (I use this term loosely) our drama department accomplished was never quite celebrated to the same degree as those in the athletic department. This was (is?) typical in schools across America and I can rattle off a dozen movies/television shows where this theme is depicted.
My daughter is a current seventh grader at Northwood Junior High. She surpassed her mom’s athletic abilities at age two (trust me, the bar was quite low), but she is more interested in the performing arts than she is in sports. Her sixth-grade highlight was getting cast in the school play and she is beyond excited to be part of this year’s play as well. One of her favorite teachers at Northwood happened to have been Rachel Brosnahan’s drama teacher. This incredible educator got to make a 30 second congratulatory video for Rachel to view at the Golden Globes (can you imagine!). Brosnahan’s former drama teacher cast Rachel in Northwood productions and has shown my daughter and her friends pictures of Rachel performing on the Northwood stage.
Having my daughter see images of Rachel standing on the same stage where she herself has performed makes my heart happy. Let me be clear. I don’t think my daughter is the next Rachel Brosnahan -she’s not, nor does she aspire to be. I’m also not under the delusion that any of Rachel’s magic is still left on that stage and will be cosmically shared with current Northwood actors. Rachel’s success means my daughter has a strong female role model who happens to also be portraying a strong female role model.
Midge Maisel is a woman with a voice, a vision, and the courage to overcome near impossible odds to pursue her dream. She is also flawed, vulnerable, and authentically human. In short, she is a woman to emulate. Rachel Brosnahan has brought this character to life with profound dimension and simultaneously provided so many children and adults with a brand-new role model.
When figure skater Jason Brown went to the 2014 Olympics, his hometown of Highland Park went all out (as they should). Banners were hanging in the streets, at the ice rink where he skated, and the whole suburb was buzzing with pride. My daughter was in second grade at the time and happened to have Jason Brown’s former second grade teacher, which was like the cherry on top of a double fudge sundae. Both my children were exhilarated as they watched Jason compete. I sincerely hope Rachel Brosnahan’s success is met with the same level of excitement and pride- it already has been by one girl I know.
- I am not athletic, but I do appreciate athleticism. This piece is not a jab at athletes, the positive impact of sports, competition, or high school pep rallies.
- To anyone reading this who knows Jason Brown and his family- Let the record show that I love Jason Brown! He happened to have been one of my campers a million years ago and I know his Aunt very well. I know how hard Jason worked (is working) and he deserves every ounce of praise and attention he receives.
- Grouchy Dave wants it to be noted that this article was his idea, as was the opening line of the piece. Anyone who sees Dave should shower him with compliments/ blame him.