BiographyRebecca St. Clair was born on a cotton farm in Alexandria, Louisiana in 1953. The oldest of four children, she attended Our Lady of Prompt Succor Parochial School where she got a Superior Plus at the Sonatina Festival in 5th grade and won the Religion Award in 8th grade. She also acted a cheerleader - calling out Go Prompt Succor! - and did not realize until she was older why the sound of that made her public school friends laugh. The day after she graduated from high school, she left to work as a waitress at Yellowstone National Park. Her parents gave her the first set of luggage with wheels in her hometown and she never really returned.
She attended the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University, where she studied theater and English with an eye to being a stage actress. While at LSU, she starred in college theater productions and was a founding member of the LSU chapter of National Organization for Women. In 1978 she left Louisiana to study Mind, Language, and Consciousness with Allen Ginsberg and Trungpa Rinpoche at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and to act with members of The Living Theater. Following that, she hung out on the island of Jamaica, then traveled the United States by train.
After her Amtrak pass expired, Rebecca lived in a duplex in Somerville, Mass., then across from an apple orchard on Pinnacle Road in Harvard, Mass., and did theater and voice-over work in the Boston area. She also protested at the Hanover Nuclear Power Plant in New Hampshire where the upper body strength gained in "yoga for actor" classes came in handy when she scaled fences surrounding the facility. Then, one summer day, while attending a workshop on the process of Psychosynthesis in Amherst, Mass., she heard about Maurine Holbert, who was teaching acting using depth psychology. Soon, she moved to New York City where she began to study acting with Maurine. She rode her bike to auditions at the Equity Building in mid-town, and jobbed out as an itinerant actress to regional theaters around the country. In-between acting gigs, she worked as a waitress, including a stint at a hotel where the servers wore brown and beige polyester uniforms and were instructed to introduce themselves as "waitrons." This was a turning point: she would never be a waitron again.
In 1982 she wrote her first theater piece, "Permanent Wave," which was presented at Theater for the New City. As a member of Riverside Church, she was inspired by Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr. to join the Nuclear Freeze Campaign and to begin a study of racism. She joined Performing Artists for Nuclear Disarmament, was part of planning a 100,000+ march for disarmament, and toured her work alongside Bread and Puppet Circus and The Talking Theater.
She the flew to Seattle to work with the Seattle Repertory Theater, where she developed a one-woman show, "Splittin' Hairs;" A Contemporary Theater; and the Empty Space Theater, where, as playwright-in-residence, she developed and created the title role in her play “Gloria Duplex,” an erotic dancer in the French Quarter who sees the face of God in the mirror ball above her dance floor. The character Gloria wore four-inch spike heels and when Rebecca as Gloria did a flying dismount from her partner during a dance number, unfortunately, Rebecca broke her foot. This side-lined her from acting long enough to make her sit on her butt and write stories which would later become her first novel, Little Altars Everywhere which would go on to win the Western State Book Award and become a New York Times Bestseller.
While living on Bainbridge Island, Rebecca wrote Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood that would top the NY Times Bestseller list for over a year, and every other bestseller list in the United States. It became a seminal book about mothers and daughters and the complex bonds of female friendship and introduced the word "Ya-Ya" into the lexicon, and spawning Ya-Ya girlfriend groups throughout the country and in several foreign countries. The book was nominated for the Orange Prize, received the American Booksellers Award, and became a feature film starring Sandra Bullock and Maggie Smith. It has been translated into 26 languages and continues to be one of the most beloved novels about women written in the 20th century.
In the early part of the 21st century, Rebecca contracted Lyme disease, which sidelined her in a way that made the broken foot look like a cakewalk. During this time, she lived with her former husband, the photographer Thomas Schworer, on a sheep farm on Bainbridge Island and published Ya-Yas in Bloom and The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder.
After divorcing and becoming healthy again, Rebecca moved to Nashville where she lives with Mercy, her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, attends two churches, one Episcopal and the other African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) She is a member of Nashville Organized for Action and Hope, an organization that works for social, economic, and criminal justice. She volunteers at a homeless shelter through Room in the Inn, and is a member of Nashville Non-Violent Communication community. She walks six miles a day, plays badminton does yoga She has recently written a new one-woman show based on the Ya-Yas, their real-life counterparts, and her memoirs. She is currently at work on a new book. She rocks when she wants to rock and rolls when she wants to roll.
Rebecca St. Clair knows that she has been saved from the alligators that haunt the bayous near her family's home, and she is one grateful love-child of Our Lady of Guadelupe, Jans Joplin, Flannery O' Connor, and Roy Blount, Jr.
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