Book to Film
The Joy of Sisterhood
by Joyce Dixon
Those who were introduced to Rebecca Well's Ya-Ya Sisterhood in 1996, have been eagerly awaiting the feature film version of these life-long friends who are seen at three different periods in their lives. It joins "Steel Magnolias" as a women's ensemble film that blends the complex relationships of female friends as well as the mother-daughter relationship with the eccentric, drama queen qualities of Southern womanhood.
The film offers twelve strong female roles played by a cast including: Sandra Bullock, Ellen Burstyn, Ashley Judd, Maggie Smith, Fionnula Flanagan and Shirley Knight. At a time when Hollywood tends to shy away from lead roles for women over forty (dare I say, twenty-nine), "Ya-Ya Sisterhood" proves that a good script based on a strong novel can prove to be a winner. A director who can see the layers in female personalities helps, too. Callie Khouri, the screenwriter of "Thelma and Louise," makes her directorial debut with "Ya-Ya Sisterhood."
The soundtrack of "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" could do for Cajun and blues music what "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" did for bluegrass. Both soundtracks were produced by T Bone Burnett. The "Ya-Ya" soundtrack will present songs by the original artists, but it will also include songs interpreted by Macy Gray, Tony Bennett, Alison Krauss and Ray Charles. Lauryn Hill and Bob Dylan have written original songs for the soundtrack. Dylan's song, "Waitin' for You," is the first soundtrack song he has done since his "Wonder Boys" Oscar-winning tune "Things Have Changed."
Rebecca Wells and her publisher HarperCollins did something special for the film's release by offering Opening Night Movie Kits. Each kit included supplies for ten Ya-Ya sisters to create customized t-shirts.
Rebecca Well's official site has been a haunt of Ya-Ya sisters since it's creation. The site provides a gathering place for Ya-Ya sisters to share ideas and get to know each other. The media has been using the site to contact Ya-Ya groups as the film frenzy reaches it's height. Oprah's production staff used photos of several groups in an opening montage when the film's cast visited the show. They have also been thrown into the spotlight by local newspaper and broadcast reports. These ladies have done well under this microscope; after all, they're YA-YAs!!
Opening night will be an event for Ya-Ya groups across the country. The Ya-Ya Sisterhood of Nashville hosted the Nashville, TN premiere of "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" a couple of weeks ago. According to Alicia Duggan, they were given passes for all of their friends, and before the movie started, they introduced themselves to the audience and welcomed them to a evening of "Ya-Ya."
The Grand Casino Biloxi has donated two limousines to take the Dixie Divas to a movie theater in Gulfport. Mary Cantrell, Mistress of Laughter, says the Dixie Divas will be dressed to a tee -- boas and tieras will be required.
The Krewe of Ya-Ya (Baton Rouge, LA) will arrive at the theater as a group driving their vehicles bearing the "Ya-Ya" license plates. Roberta Farrell says they plan to get there early in order to get their popcorn, cokes and candy. Once the movie starts, Farrell imagines the Krewe will be nudging each other and laughing out loud as they relate to something in the movie.
The Southwest Louisiana Chapter of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (Lake Charles, LA) is taking part in two separate opening night events. Four members will attend the New Orleans premier dressed in boas and their "fancy smancy" clothes and toting a thermos of bloody mary's. Catherine Dudoit, Princess Ghost Walker, says that about 30 to 40 people are expected to attend the Lake Charles premier party. The evening will start with a bar-b-que, drinks, goodie bags, and a D.J. to play their favorite "French" tunes.
"We all worked together as preschool teachers and developed various friendships, but really came together as a circle of friends in the process of one of us getting married," says Laura Bilbrey (The Ya-Ya Sisterhood of Nashville). "They say it takes a village to raise a child. I say, we never lose the need for that community of support; and in my Ya-Yas, I have found that. I am healed and strengthened by this group and their spoken and unspoken support of who I am and who I am becoming. I guess we are just five very ordinary women who have been fortunate enough to find extraordinary friends."
Celebration of life plays a big part is these sisterhoods. "We love garlic and merlot-- our sacred essences," continues Laura Bilbrey. " We tried to have a Ya-Ya naming ceremony under a tree in a rain storm, which brought many laughs, but no names that stuck. We have destroyed our homes in shredded paper fights with our children and tried to create for them the same community of support we have found in one another."
At their first gathering and rites of initiation, the Southwest Louisiana Chapter of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood fought off huge mosquitoes as they held their ceremony in the berms surrounded by huge live oaks. The twenty-nine adults and twenty-five children on that August night in 2001 held a candle lighting ceremony, while dancing around a bon fire and playing home-made instruments (some filled with red beans and rice).
"We began gathering together in 1950 when we were young, but knew we had so much in common," remembers Catherine Dudoit (Southwest Louisiana Chapter of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood). "We just called ourselves soul mates. We realized we were Ya-Yas when the book was published."
When asked what they would like to say to Rebecca Wells, most wanted to thank her for recognizing the fellowship of women as well as creating an Internet community for them to interact with other Ya-Yas.
Rebecca Wells gave Bridget Tanner her own Ya-Ya name -- Bridget Ya-Ya Rouge, in honor of Bridget's red hair. Bridget has recently joined The Krewe of Ya-Ya in Baton Rouge.
Rebecca Wells has tapped into the core of Southern womanhood. Nancy Manlove of Galveston, sums up the experience: "We can all find ourselves in some part of this novel, the saga of times and the relationships it portrays to the readers. I laughed, I cried, I saw myself and then I handed the book to my treasured daughter, Julie, to read and hopefully discover the meaning of our mother-daughter relationship and see herself with her YA-YAs."
© 2002 Joyce Dixon, All Rights Reserved