Latifah Taormina Memoir (Ha Ha Among The Trumpets)
SICA Co-Founder Latifah Taormina is approaching 90 and not slowing down too much. From her:
Here is an ad and book release announcement. This wonderful book design — as well as the book’s formatting and this release — was done by Marcus Bolt in the UK. There is an accompanying website designed by Andrew Hall that book buyers will be able to find that has been designed and set up by Andrew Hall, former chair of Subud Canada and a true online film and presentation magic-maker.
A New Book
Here is the Prologue from ex-SICA Chair Latifah Taormina’s new memoir, called Ha Ha
Among the Trumpets. The book is in two parts; the first chronicles the sixties in San
Francisco when she and her husband set up The Committee, a comedy improv group that
paved the way for the improvisation and satire genres, and how they discovered and joined
Subud. The second part is the story of her move to Wisma Subud, Cilandak, and her
personal Subud story while teaching drama at the Jakarta International School…
In many ways, I’d not have a story to tell had it not been for a phone call from Alan Arkin.
And he had no idea how prophetic his advice became when I called him back to let him
know Second City had hired me: “Stick with it,” he had said, “it could be your life’s work.”
In his sweeping history of improvisational theater, Improv Nation: How We Made a Great
American Art, best-selling author Sam Wasson calls San Francisco’s The Committee
“improvisation’s answer to the 60s.” Indeed, when Alan Myerson and I began it all—and we
knew in our bones it just had to be in San Francisco—we had this inescapable passion to
create a theater where personal authenticity and political urgency—not just discourse, but
real action—would characterize the improvisations. And. . . we were very much in love!
Fresh, zany, irreverent, and needed, the critics said of our improvisational satire. An instant hit, we became a San Francisco institution. The place to be. The place to hang out. Then what we call ‘The Sixties’ hit, and we became part of creating its new narrative. From civil rights protests to Vietnam War protests, teach-ins, censorship challenges, and the Artists Liberation Front; from the founding of The Fillmore to the Trips Festival to The Human Be-In; from local and national elections to beauty contests and anyone who liked to throw pies—we were there.
More than a chronicle of how we began The Committee and the ongoing adventure of
creating our own brand of improvisational theater, my book is also a woman’s story—and a
personal one. Betty Freidan’s wake-up call to women of my generation, The Feminine
Mystique, came out the same year The Committee opened and ignited a new wave of
feminism that both asserted and questioned a woman’s role in the world, her personal
agency, and especially, her right to personal fulfilment.
Up to that point, society, in general, felt a woman’s most important “job” was to be her
husband’s “helpmate.” Even the roles women played in improvisational companies
then—the chick, the mom, the teacher, the sister, the secretary, the prude—almost always
set up the man to be funny. Then, as we moved into the counterculture of the 60s,
everyone’s “roles” were in question, and everyone was improvising.
Ultimately, my story is a spiritual journey of challenges, forgiveness, and redemption I never
expected to have and that I’ve never really shared beyond my close friends. Outwardly, it
began when I joined Subud, a spiritual practice that had initially attracted Alan as well as
people like Alan Ginsberg, Aldous Huxley, and the founder of EST. I didn’t think of myself as
a seeker. I challenged what I was experiencing every step of the way until I came to
experience a kind of inexplicable grace that gave me my reason for living just when I felt I
didn’t have one anymore, and that began a whole different journey: a journey to myself. A
journey that very much included improvisational theater in oh so many unexpected and
If good improvisation reflects the spontaneous interplay of “yes, and” among the players,
my spiritual journey reflects the spontaneous interplay of “yes, and” between self and soul.
That’s a lot to swallow, dear reader. So take it a chapter or two at a time. And forgive the
interruptions. I used to quip that what caused the failure of my first marriage—there were
three of them—was that he spoke in paragraphs and I spoke in interruptions. But then, like good improvisation, it’s often the interruptions that begin what you’ve been looking for.