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Bonnie Henderson
Playwright/Performance Artist

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“There is no such thing as coincidence.” --Bonnie Henderson

I had the pleasure of interviewing a dynamic woman who is the co-writer and co-creator of a one woman show entitled “Come A Little Closer.” I say co-writer and co-creator because she credits God for the creation of her one woman show and through her prayers, she asked God to make it something that might touch the hearts of others who will see the play and learn through it pride in self. In fact, she says God is the Executive Producer of the play and GBB Productions stands for God, Betty and Bonnie.

From the emails she has received and the write-ups about the play, it is evident she has done just that. Her audiences span the gamut from young to old, rich and poor, people of varying nationalities, gay and straight, and people of varying faiths. It is a play that changes hearts, minds and lives and for some, dialogs have opened between themselves and those they may have once considered “other.”

The road to this point in her life was not paved with cheer or glory. She knows all too well the feelings of being ostracized as a woman, as an African American, and as a lesbian. Her relationship with her mother was estranged for a time. Bonnie and her mother owned a successful restaurant in San Diego. However, because she is a lesbian and the conflict created between them as a result, she sold her ownership interest in the restaurant and returned to Los Angeles. Though she thanks her mother for instilling in her pride in her race, she also knew they would have to part ways in order for her to live life fully. Being an out lesbian meant she was a “dead woman” in her mother’s house.

Upon her return to Los Angeles, she asked god “What do you want me to do with my life?” It was a simple question really, which led to a remarkable answer “write about your life.” With no experience writing except for the two occasions she wrote words to memorialize friends who had recently passed, Bonnie Henderson found herself stepping out in faith with only the affirmations she received from those who heard her speak at the memorial services. Initially she thought the words of praise offered by those in attendance at these services were a bit out of place, but in reality, they served not only as affirmations but were the confirmations she needed to write “Come a Little Closer.”

“Come a Little Closer” was six years in the making and during this time, Bonnie lost 35-40 friends. Of note, Marti and Gerald are the two people she credits for helping her, spiritually; get through the process to completion. Bonnie Henderson had not written anything of this magnitude.

Early on, as a young girl, Bonnie knew she was attracted to girls. However, she received a rude awakening when one of her teachers humiliated her for expressing her feelings. As a child, this was crushing. As a child, to learn you must hide who you are presented an added burden. It was something she learned to stuff down within, hide, if you will, and not let it be known or shown.

A particularly hurtful incident she recounted was one of a girlfriend who was thrown out of her home upon the discovery of their relationship. Though Bonnie was in another state at the time, learning her friend had been kicked out and living on the streets was particularly hurtful. Years later she would learn the girl’s sister, the one who told of the relationship, was herself a lesbian. The older sister had deflected attention from herself by using her younger sister as an unwilling sacrifice. Homophobia and self hatred, when you are yourself gay/lesbian, can be equally hurtful and destructive.

As a student at Hollywood High School in Los Angeles, she was introduced to racism of the most overt form. One morning, she heard her teacher remark that “All Africans (or Blacks) look alike.” Bonnie challenged her teacher’s assessment and asked how is it possible to distinguish between me and others if this is true? Needless to say, the challenge resulted in a visit to the principal’s office and suspension. To her credit, as a young woman, Bonnie Henderson was not one to lye down or accept anyone’s statement without questioning the logic behind it.

At Hollywood High, students easily accepted her as a lesbian. They could not, however, accept her as African American. At Hollywood High, Bonnie notes, she “caught hell.” If she was not dealing with being a woman, she was dealing with prejudices because she is African American, or dealing with prejudices from those who were homophobic. “Lots of kids are being abused, told they are sinners, will die in hell, cursed, or that God hates them. This is Societal child abuse.”

The burdens of life, homophobia, gender attacks and racism had its toll on Bonnie as she sunk into a world of self destruction through drugs and alcohol. She states, “it’s a hard task to look in a mirror and not even see yourself. But I got dressed in the morning and combed my hair and brushed my teeth not even seeing me because I was ashamed of what I’d become—a drunk, a drug addict.” She continues “I lost my dignity and my self respect” to drugs and alcohol and “I don’t want anybody to ever go through what I went though.” This is why "Come A Little Closer" exists today, to teach others, though her experiences, to love themselves and step out of their closets, whatever that closet may be for them. “I wrote this show so that people stop allowing people to snuff out their flame. So that their flames can burn bright.” Bonnie also made another ever crystal clear statement that is oh so true “If I can’t talk proudly about me, then I can’t talk proudly about God.”

When Bonnie Henderson walked through my door, I could see the spirit of love and joy within her and it filled my home. Meeting someone like her is rare indeed as most are comfortable with hiding “this little light of mine.” For her, however, I could tell a powerful spiritual force guides her, it resonates within her and honestly, it’s quite infectious. Thankfully, this spirit of love, this gift of God, pulled her through the hard times of life and through the oppressive nature of those who failed to understand. Her life, hard as it was, became the mission she would embark upon to teach others, through example, how to love yourself, unconditionally, and to accept others in spite of their differences. As she says, the play will inform “we are more similar than we are different.”

When Bonnie Henderson heard and heeded God’s call, she stepped out on faith, went out and had business cards printed with the words “Playwright” and worked night and day praying and asking God for the words that would not speak of bitterness of those persons or things experienced. Instead she asked to write something “that’s gonna touch the soul, that’s gonna the touch the heart of somebody so that they are not trying to strangle the life out of their own youngsters, out of their own kin so that people will allow other people to live, just live and love.”

God worked in mysterious ways too by putting people in her path to help her in many ways. A director, Iona Morris, stepped in when another pulled out. She credits Iona Morris (daughter of actor Greg Morris) for “making a fabulous show even more fabulous.” Others came along to either help put the show together or help promote the show, like Jackie Johnson from BET who helped with assembling the promo tape?a portion of which is featured here?to further promote the show. Many were either led to her or she was led to them.

The play will take you through a host of characters from Bonnie Henderson’s life. Through each character one learns, truthfully, how character assassinations, misunderstandings, misinformation, hatred and racism can destroy a life. You will also learn about renewal, affirmation, self love and perseverance. A number of issues are addressed, unabashedly, in this play as well and she notes, don’t look for her to “turn straight all of a sudden in the end.” She does not. She stands proud, victorious, self affirmed, and self actualized and it is clearly evident when you meet the woman.

Her life and “Come A Little Closer” is a testament to not allowing anyone to turn your face from the face of God. Know He will always love you and will ensure you make it through.

If you’re in Los Angeles one of the weekends the show plays in April, this is a must see show. I cannot emphasize enough, get your tickets early because opening night has already sold out and I'm positive more nights will follow in short order. I am personally looking forward to seeing it myself.  Incidentally, mention you saw it here on FemmeNoir to receive a 10% discount off the ticket price.  The following are the show times and dates:  

Theatre 68
5419 Sunset Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90027

Performance Schedule & Times

Friday, April 1, 2005 @ 8:00pm [SOLD OUT]
Saturday, April 2, 2005 @ 8:00pm
Sunday, April 3, 2005 @ 3:00pm -- (Question and Answer Session Follows Performance)

Friday, April 8, 2005 @ 8:00pm
Saturday, April 9, 2005 @ 8:00pm
Sunday, April 10, 2005 @ 3:00pm -- (Question and Answer Session Follows Performance)

Friday, April 15, 2005 @ 8:00pm
Saturday, April 16, 2005 @ 8:00pm
Sunday, April 17, 2005 @ 3:00pm - (Question and Answer Session Follows Performance)

To Order Tickets:

By Phone: 
626-398-4670 to purchase tickets with Visa or MasterCard.
By Mail:  Mail a check to P.O. Box 94118, Pasadena, CA 91109.  Please specify show date and number of tickets. Tickets will be mailed to you. 

Mention you saw it here on FemmeNoir and get a 10% discount. 

Website:  http://www.bonniehenderson.net
Email:  bonnie@bonniehenderson.net

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Segment 1:  Bonnie Henderson Interview [Preview]

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Segment 8:  Bonnie Henderson Interview