IndyFringe: ShMILF Life

This is part of IndyFringe 2022, Aug. 18-Sept. 4 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at

By Wendy Carson

“ShMILF Life” is the true story of Ms. Penny Sterling of Rochester, N.Y., and her journey of becoming a trans woman late in life.

She begins in a coffee shop writing on her computer. This is how she spends much of her time as her desk at home has itself transitioned to a makeup table and her cat insists on sitting on her keyboard whenever it is visible. Today, however, she is here awaiting a date.

We are now privy to her story of realizing, at the age of 54, that she was no longer happy living as a man and allowed her to exist as her true self. Some of her friends and family are confused about this, but she valiantly tries to make them understand.

My favorite example is when her male friend points to a lovely woman and says, “When I look at her, I want to have sex with her.” Penny at first echoes the idea, but then realizes that it’s not really true. She then launches into a long, detailed criticism of the woman’s fashion choices, both positive and negative.

She goes online to try dating and gets many short responses, sometimes accompanied by smiley faces, hearts and produce (think eggplants and peaches).

She is very open about the highs and lows of her explorations of being a totally new person. The scariness of putting yourself out in public whether at a bar, online or just in general. Beginning her transition at such and advanced age means that she missed a lot of the learning and growing encompassed in being a woman, still she is persevering.

Her talent as a storyteller and comedian helped keep the evening light and hopeful. I am honestly hoping that the sparseness of her audience was only due to being the late slot on a Thursday evening. She deserves a larger group to speak to, and her voice should indeed be heard.

Do yourself a favor and give this show a shot. Just two performances remain, noon Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 20-21, on the cabaret stage of the District Theatre, 627 Mass. Ave.

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