Amy Erbe remembers the first article of clothing she got with her own money.
“I bought a jean jacket when I was 16,” says Erbe. “I proceeded to rip it up and put as many buttons on it as I could.”
Erbe, the director of Arizona Onstage Production’s “Love, Loss, and What I Wore,” didn’t realize it then, but that purchase and her personal-style stamp was a show of strength and independence, the beginnings of the woman she was to become.
That’s the thing about clothes — we recall them and we recall important times in our lives — joyous ones, embarrassing ones, sad ones.
And that’s the idea behind “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” by sisters Nora and Delia Ephron. It was inspired by and pulls from Ilene Beckerman’s book of the same name. Nora Ephron — “Sleepless in Seattle” and “When Harry Met Sally” are among the screenplays she penned — wrote the foreword to the book, but that wasn’t enough. She and her sister augmented the tales in the tome with others they had gathered and the play became a smash off-Broadway hit and has played around the world.
The setup is deceptively simple: five women use clothing as a launch for monologues about pivotal moments in their lives, such as death, childbirth, cancer, love, Madonna, high school proms.
And it’s written by the Ephrons, so, of course, it is funny.
We spoke with Erbe about the production. Here’s what she had to say:
It’s not a chick flick for the stage: “For women, it can be a girl’s night out, but it doesn’t exclude men. ... I think they would get a kick out of it, too. And maybe get a little bit of understanding about the women in their lives.”
Honest, guys will get it: “I think they will be laughing just as hard as the women. And they will be moved just as much as the women.”
You may not have the same stories, but they’ll resonate: “There isn’t anything that separates us in terms of how we find inspiration. These moments in our lives may not be the same moments (as those in the play), but they have the same impact on us.”
Simply simple: “A woman thinks about a dress she wore, then another, and realizes these dresses tell the story of her life and she wants to pass these on to the women who love her. ... I love the honesty and simplicity about that.”
Her favorite dress memory: “I was in San Diego with friends and we went into a shop and I found a dress that was perfect, though I had no idea where to wear it. I had it almost a year and I ended up wearing it for my surprise wedding in Bermuda. I hadn’t worn it before and haven’t worn it since.” (A little more info on that wedding: she and her then-boyfriend, Catalina Foothills High School theater teacher Terry Erbe, were on a Bermuda cruise with her parents. Unbeknownst to her, he planned a surprise wedding on the island, even bringing in friends. She packed the dress thinking she’d have occasion to wear it. Luckily, it was a good surprise for her, and the two were married.)