BY JOY CHILDSCONTRIBUTING WRITEROn many a sunny Sunday afternoon, pairs and trios of friends grab a bite along Melrose Avenue, then enjoy a Sunday matinee at The Grove nearby before they return their attention to the stresses and strains that await them at home in preparing for the work week ahead.This past Sunday, roughly 80 of those girlfriends (and about five brave guys) instead filled up The Matrix Theatre in West Hollywood and joined "The Circle." They went to a production written by actress Tina Lifford about issues of interest to women.But it's much more than that: It's a Waking Up Fabulous experience. And by the time many had left "The Circle," they had, if only in some small way, been inspired to begin to find their ways home - to who they really are.At first, the experience may have recalled "The Vagina Monologues" or "Love Letters - or even evoked thoughts of "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf." But at its core, "The Circle" - also referred to as "The Tribe" and "The Boat" - is a metaphor for the journey that all women take to, as Lifford says, "navigate the choppy waters of life."Women intuitively know that in "The Circle" they are safe, they are totally accepted, and they can relieve their stresses and strains and heal their pains and sufferings. "The Tribe" of womankind agrees to always be there for, with and to love one another.This past Sunday, the audience shifted around in their seats with anticipation, waiting for the latest production of "The Circle" to begin, which it did - about 20 minutes late. But that may have worked to its advantage.With the actresses arriving on stage at varying times and assuming their respective seats, when actress/playwright Tina Lifford comes out, she's recognizable from her recurring roles on ABC Family's "Lincoln Heights" and NBC's "Parenthood"; you think you're about to be entertained.It's not until Lifford introduces herself as "The Circle's" facilitator, Terry - and welcomes not only the six multiethnic women onstage but also the audience - that you realize that an "experience" is under way and you're a part of it.You have fully stepped into the "experience" when you and the audience are later asked to stop and think for seven seconds about what you want for you - and you close your eyes and do it.The actresses masterfully played against type and switched roles and ethnicities, and even genders - most notably Camille Saviola, who's Italian and cracked up the crowd with her pitch-perfect impersonation of a fifth-grade Black youth.The set was nearly empty, except for the eight chairs and a piano bench the actors occasionally sat on, and they were in attire befitting one of the many memorable characters they portrayed.The exceptional crew of women, all with pathos, grace and fervor, took turns addressing intrinsically women's issues, such as first loves and breakups; teenage crushes and lesbianism; abuse and molestation; parents' domination over children and men's dominion over women; stereotypes and cultural differences; and breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease.Or "bags," as they came to be referred to. The audience was implored to get rid of those bags that weigh them down in order to relieve their stresses, heal their pains, and allow their journeys to take them to the land of IAE: "I am enough!"The project is the brainchild of Los Angeles-raised Lifford.In addition to her acting career, Lifford is the founder and director of Waking Up Fabulous, her effort to give health and personal development Life Tools to women's groups, organizations and corporations, her website says.
Two of her works include "Waking Up Fabulous - Life Tools That Work" and "365 Ways To Be Fabulous."Whether you become a part of the circle through seeing the piece when it's next performed, or by meeting the soft-spoken woman at its center, you will know that each of us is fabulous - in more than 365 ways.Interested people can reach Lifford at www.wakingupfabulous.com.