Geri Becker and Yvonne Pinkerton met in 1971, and their friendship has grown over 40 years. They finish each others sentences and remind each other of the funny moments they’ve shared. You can see the warmth of their friendship in the way
their eyes sparkle when they hug, and in the way they laugh at each others jokes—even the bad ones.
When Geri Becker was a child, she used to put on plays in her garage and charge her parents to watch them. Her love of theater grew in high school and college, where she performed in her first full-length production, Peg o’ My Heart. For the production, she learned her first dialect—Irish—from a nun at the college. She graduated from St. Joseph’s College in Maryland with a degree in chemistry and pursued pharmacological research.
Geri couldn’t let her passion for theater die, so when she moved back to her hometown, Rochester, New York, she joined the community theater. After she married and had children, she found a community theater in each city in which her family lived. When she moved to Venice, joining Venice Little Theatre was third on her to-do list, only after finding a school for her children and a church for her family.
Like Geri, Yvonne “Pinky” Pinkerton was passionate about theater from an early age. She wrote plays in elementary school and loved going to the movies. She explored her passion on a deeper level when she majored in theater at what is now Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
Pinky would have loved to go to New York City to pursue acting after graduation, but decided acting semi-professionally in Cleveland was the best next step. Then, marriage and children shifted her priorities. She found community theaters wherever her family moved, including Illinois and Florida, where she taught drama at Winter Park High School before moving to Venice. When she arrived in the then-slightly sleepy beach town, Venice Little Theatre was the first organization she joined.
House Lights, Please
Geri and Pinky met in 1971 when they were both board members at Venice Little Theatre. In the 1970s, VLT board members had many roles, from play selection to set building to costume design.
“The theater solidified it (our friendship),” said Pinky.
They bonded through performing in shows together—their favorite was Dearly Departed, which ran in 1996 in Stage II to sold-out audiences and was brought back on Mainstage the next fall.
“The characters were so outlandish,” said Geri.
Not only have they played opposite each other, they’ve performed the same role on stage. Geri played Regina in Little Foxes in 1963 and Pinky played the same part in the 1980s.
Pinky got to wear an ornate gold dress and red wig. Geri didn’t.
After a hiatus in the 1980s, both women returned to VLT in full force in the 1990s. In 1991, Geri and Pinky sat on the board again together.
In 1993, Pinky started Troupe in a Trunk, a performance troupe that travels to elementary schools in the area.
In 1995, she began a partnership between VLT and the Loveland Center, an organization that promotes the welfare of developmentally challenged adults. Loveland students came to the theater to learn about performing and put on a show called the Loveland Follies.
The 16th annual follies were scheduled for this June.
“Geri is especially talented in comedy and musical theater,” said Pinky. Geri helped Pinky with the music in Troupe in a Trunk, and filled in as a volunteer music director for the Loveland Follies.
“She was the queen bee. I was the drone,” said Geri.
Geri is proud of Pinky for her work with the Loveland students.
“I cry every time I go to the Follies,” she said.
In 2011, Geri was honored for her 50 years of volunteering in community theater and Pinky was right by her side. Pinky surprised Geri at a hair salon with a balloon to accompany the award. There was a small problem—Pinky couldn’t find a “congratulations” balloon. The only one she found said, “It’s not over until the fat lady sings.” Both women were surprised to find out that when Geri tapped it, it sang “Happy Birthday.”
“We’ve cried a lot together,” said Pinky, “But we’ve laughed an awful lot.”
Geri and Pinky decided to take their friendship outside the darkened houses and green rooms of Venice Little Theatre.
They found that it’s worked quite well.
Traveling has become one of their favorite pastimes, besides the one that requires costumes and make-up and character shoes.
With these women, I wouldn’t be surprised if they packed their theatrical accoutrements in their suitcases. Or at least a boa or two.
They’ve gone to New York City five times and each time they have a tradition. On the plane, they each write down the shows they want to see and then match their priorities. When they arrive, they go to Carnegie Deli and then to the box offices, to see if they can get tickets for that night.
The last time they went to New York City, they saw six shows in five days.
“We always have a lot of fun when we travel together,” said Geri.
The women also laugh when they remember a recent trip to New York when they couldn’t find a taxi after a show. Instead, they found a rickshaw. It was raining, and Geri tried to help Pinky into the rickshaw because it was raised off the street and difficult to get into.
Geri said Pinky was laughing so much she wasn’t any help at all.
“I treasure the fun and the laughs we’ve had,” said Pinky.
Lessons from Each Other
Pinky and Geri feel their mutual interest in the theater and their similar personal experiences have kept their friendship alive over 40 years.
“She’s a lot of fun for me because I can always talk theater,” said Pinky, fondly.
In 40 years, Pinky and Geri have learned a lot from each other. Pinky admires Geri’s decision-making, leadership skills and her delicious Italian cooking.
“I wish I could say (I learned) cooking,” Pinky joked.
Geri feels she has an aggressive streak, but that she’s learned people skills from Pinky. And how to buy red wine.
Not a Performance
Pinky and Geri laughed a lot during the interview, and they cried, and they were moved. But it wasn’t a performance from these women who are as comfortable in front of a packed house as a small dinner party. It was real, honest, love.
“I want us to be friends until we get to the other side,” said Geri. “I don’t want her to go without me.”
“We’ll party up there too,” Pinky laughed.
As Geri gets up to leave, she forgets her purse and Pinky picks it up for her.
Now that’s what friends are for.