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Who is Nona Appleby?

By Irma Kirkenstein

Last winter Nona Appleby made her debut to sold-out houses in a too-short season at the Playhouse. Hailing from productions in New York City and Washington, DC, Nona charmed local audiences with The World According to Nona Appleby.

Nona returns to San Miguel this July with a brand new show, The Nona Show, prior to preparing for her 2021 Australian tour.

I spoke to cartoonist/performer Victoria Roberts about the genesis of her Nona character, an Australian octogenarian.

Roberts started working weekends as a nurse’s aide at Mosman Nursing Home when she was sixteen.

“My mother and I had moved to Sydney from México City, and we were not as well off as in the old days when we lived in Lomas Chapultepec. It was terrifying work at first. I swore that I would become a health freak and I would not get old,” she explains.

After three years, instead of sadness, she had her favorites: Queenie, who when Roberts struggled to pull up her step-ins after her shower, telling her step-ins were no longer “in,” replied “I feel naked without them.”

Queenie tried to escape out the window one night, was restrained, but managed to get free. When Roberts’s friend, Vanessa, who was on night duty, asked Queenie how she did it, she answered “I’m Houdini’s daughter, darling.”

And a second Queenie shared a room with her husband Monte. “I never bought her a piano,” he said.

When she sold her first weekly cartoon strip My Sunday to Nation Review, an Australian national tabloid much like The Village Voice, Roberts was able to quit work at Mosman.

“What happened next I can’t explain,” she says. She started to draw nude dancing ladies. She stayed up late and listened to Music to Midnight on ABC radio that played jazz. The ladies danced to the music. Nona Appleby was born.

Roberts could “do” Nona, her Australian octogenarian, because she had been expertly coached by the Queenies at Mosman Nursing Home.

But what to do with Nona? By now Roberts was in New York, working for The New Yorker. Nona always had more dialogue than any of VR’s other characters, too many words for the magazine. So she wrote a show for her.

Canadian director Louise Fagan took Nona in tow and, before she knew it, designer Bonnie Deakin and wigmaker Maloo Veal had measured her and created Nona on stage.

“I had performed in experimental theatres at venues in downtown New York.  But there was nothing experimental about Nona. Nona is a star!” recalls Victoria.

“I haven’t figured this out,” says Victoria, fondly, “but Nona is smarter than I am. And funnier. And she can fly. I am loath to call her my creation. Mostly, I work for her.”



The Nona Show

Victoria Roberts

Thu–Sat, Jul 25–27, 7pm

Sun, Jul 28, 3pm


200 pesos

Online and at Solutions

Nona deer dance

San Miguel Playhouse, Av Independencia 82



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