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Nona’s Happy Hour

By Victoria Roberts

Nona Appleby made her San Miguel debut with Maritza Bratt at the Shelter Theater last season, and now she is hosting her own Happy Hour at Microteatro San Miguel, a new theater in town that features 15-minute plays and serious Spanish tapas.

Nona’s Happy Hour
Wed, Jul 6, 8-9pm
All Wednesdays of July
Microteatro San Miguel
Reloj 70
50 pesos

Nona’s Happy Hour begins on July 6. Join her for a beer, and she will answer most of your questions about living in Mexico. Not all of them. Nona, an amateur mycologist, will also be speaking about “the mushrooms of Mexico.” In English—Australian English!

Who is Nona? Nona Appleby is an Australian octogenarian, and my oldest cartoon character. I started to draw her in my teens, when I lived in Sydney, Australia, after a childhood in Mexico City. I was at art school and I worked as a geriatric nurse at Mosman Nursing Home on weekends. The Australian voice and language of my patients, who had been through the depression, stuck, and Nona emerged.

Nona had gigs in The National Times and in The Age newspapers, but didn’t get into The New Yorker when I began drawing for the magazine in 1988. Instead, a couple emerged, New Yorkers, again with a voice that had stuck, the voice of my stepfather Bob Benjamin. Oddly, drawing feels incidental to my cartoon work—the cornerstone is dialogue, and mostly the characters do all the work.

Twenty years went by, and whenever I tried to work with Nona, she had too much to say. There were too many words for a strip—so I began to play her on stage. I took the drawing of Nona to a wigmaker from the drag world who plays Barbra Streisand annually at the Drag Ball. The wig came back. It was a perfect replica of my drawing, but it was somehow wrong. When Canadian director Louise Fagan arranged for a workshop with Nona in London, Ontario, he “got” that Nona was everybody’s auntie, not a waitress in a donut shop. He dispatched designer Bonnie Deakin and wigmaker Melissa Veal to the rescue, and Nona flew. We built Nona’s first solo show that played in Washington DC and in New York City. She has never looked back.


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