8 Million Stories: The Name Game

Written by Roxanna Font on . Posted in 8 Million Stories, Posts.

Before I started a new job at a stuffy nonprofit, a coworker Googled me. One of her first questions when we met was what had become of the hot-pink streak in my hair. Extended unemployment had inspired a wannabe punk-rock phase, and I had sprayed on a normal hair color in an attempt to keep this job.

So, with a bit of Catholic shame, I Googled myself for the first time. I was searching for photos of a debauched Coney Island Mermaid Parade for which I’d donned a starfish bikini top, large bubble sunglasses and blue body paint. The snapshot truth had landed in the Daily News, but fortunately, the evidence had been lost somewhere in cyberspace— or so my inexperienced Googling deduced.

But the more I did it, the bolder I Googled. Not just my full name but my nickname and descriptive bits. There was the pink hair. There were a few poems. And with a name like Font, you can imagine how many pages of code came up. It was around page five I came across a play called Roxy Font. Not just Roxy or even Roxie Font, but my actual name. For those of you with more common names, this may not seem like a big deal, but considering I spent most of the ’80s pining for a barrette personalized with my name, I was shocked.

The Google find led me to the resumé of an actress who’d played the role of Roxy Font. After emailing her, I got the name of the play’s director, and after emailing him, I got the name of the playwright, Liza Lentini. And so I emailed Liza to find out how she’d come up with the name.

It took Liza two weeks to write back, weeks in which I worried she thought I was some prankster. I Googled Liza and discovered that she was just a year younger than me and living in New York, which I’d recently left. And when she finally emailed me, it was with just as much wonder. Turns out she’d just invented the name, something she called "sassy and darling at the same time."

I told Liza I’d been involved in the New York theater scene in the late ’90s, and later pursued an MFA in poetry at NYU. She wrote back that she’d started out writing poetry and that yes, she too could see the physical resemblance between us. For a minute I entertained the thought of relaunching my blip of an acting career by playing the role of Roxy Font on Broadway. (She mentioned a producer had recently called and the play had made it to the New York Fringe Festival.) We wrote furiously back and forth over several days, and then she sent me her play.

And then we didn’t email each other for the next few days. And then the days became weeks and the weeks became… well, you know how it goes. I read the title page and cast list ("Roxy Font: A Modern Folktale about a girl, a gun and a somewhat scandalous adventure") and then the first few pages, through which I discovered that Roxy was born with a parasitic twin (a foot, to be precise) growing out of her stomach.

After more time lapsed, a friend suggested that Liza by this point was probably worried I was planning to sue her over the use of my name. The thought hadn’t crossed my mind, though it did for about 10 seconds after he mentioned it. Then a few more months passed and, before I realized it, an entire year. A year in which maybe I preferred to have just the story of Googling and the play of my imagination to contend with. But is that what the "sassy and darling" Roxy Font would’ve done? It was high time I got to know her better.

Reading the play easily exceeded the narcissism of a few self-Googles, and it was unlike anything I could have imagined. It even had a happy ending: Roxy ultimately enjoys fame and success as a freakish murdering prostitute, so the third appendage makes perfect sense.

Liza and I eventually became Facebook friends; I’m one of her 671. In 2009, the Manhattan Repertory Theater produced a retrospective of her plays called LIZAFEST!, and Roxy Font wasn’t in the line-up. But for some reason the play has made its way up the ranks of the Google engine and now pops up on page one of my search. Some day maybe I’ll elbow the homicidal streetwalker off center stage, but she’s a tough act to follow. It might take a while.