One might say Ann marie Houghtailing’s life has been a series of potential disasters — a divorce and single motherhood, a job loss at the height of the recession, the near-loss of her home — transformed into serendipitous events.
Houghtailing chronicles those events in a one-woman show titled “Renegade Princess” at the Garage theater in The City this week.
The “Princess” refers to a character Houghtailing played during her “I’ll-take-any-job-that-pays-the-bills” period.
“I was doing strange corporate jobs. One was a 10-day gig for the Four Seasons hotel as the Peppermint Princess for a little girls’ Christmas tea,” she says. “When I realized I was propagating the myth of the ‘princess,’ I started inserting a lot of subversive feminist ideas. Little girls would ask if I had a prince and I would say, ‘Oh no! I’m living a fabulous life traveling the globe, being an ambassador for the North Pole — I don’t have time for princes.’”
Once a high-powered national sales trainer, Houghtailing made it through the roughest times by enduring a string of similar employment indignities such as being the cigarette girl at conventions and a stint as a table “head,” as surreal as it sounds.
Eventually, with an abundance of chutzpah (“I was the girl with a MacBook and five dollars in the bank,”) and a master’s degree from Harvard in American literature, she created a position for herself at the University of San Diego’s Institute for Sales and Business Development.
Recently she founded the Millionaire Girls Movement, a website that helps encourage women to earn their own $1 million.
But it was the temp jobs that became the fodder for a series of short stories that are the basis of her show. “I was really busting my ass for a couple of years there and decided I wanted to do a couple of things that came from my own experience and passion. One was to go to the Aspen Institute, which I did, and the second thing was to write my one-woman show.”
The show runs a gamut from self-deprecating humor to poignant admissions about marital dissolution and maternal failures, all without a hint of self-pity. With a successful off-Broadway debut and performances in Santa Fe, San Diego and Chicago, Houghtailing one day hopes to turn “Renegade Princess” into an HBO special.
Based on enthusiastic reviews the show has garnered, she may not have to beat down HBO’s door — they may soon be knocking on hers.
IF YOU GO
Where: The Garage, 715 Bryant St. (at Fifth Street), S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday
Contact: (415) 518-1517, http://renegadeprincesssf.eventbrite.com/