Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Iris in Thunderbolts and Dunderheads (Todd McGinnis)

This week takes us back to the ancient Greek dramas and comedies of Plato, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Aristophanes. Just kidding. But there are ancient Greek gods involved.

thunderbolts-dunderheads-logo-15370
Isn’t that a lightning bolt? Via here.

Todd McGinnis‘ play Thunderbolts and Dunderheads takes office downsizing to Mt. Olympus as this summary explains.

IRIS, the Goddess-Of-Rainbows goes to “head office” on Mount Olympus looking for a promotion. INSTEAD… She’s threatened with being “down-sized”—permanently!
Her only hope of survival is to take on the one job no one else wants, Personal Assistant to the most dangerous employer of all time—Zeus himself! NOW… ZEUS wants Iris to help him make a “love connection” with a visiting Nordic Goddess. BUT… ZEUS’S WIFE, the Queen of the Gods, has ordered Iris to ruin Zeus’s fun… OR ELSE! So what’s a poor goddess to do?

It sounds pretty goofy. Within this play, Iris has her own monologue – she wants more respect from mortals and hopes for a promotion from ol’ Zeus.

Which of the following Irises should mortals respect more? Thanks again to all the actors putting themselves out there!

A

B

 

C

 

D

 

These are some high-caliber actors. And just for fun there are a couple of bonus videos. If you want to learn more about Iris, there’s this explainer:

 

And for those curious about the supposed healing powers of rainbows, there’s always this:

 

Good times.

For a complete list of monologues, click here.

Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

Thanksgiving plays: Madalene Barnum and Carolyn Wells

Just when you thought Halloween had a lock on goofy plays, Thanksgiving pops up with its own brand of bizarre. And we have TWO Thanksgiving plays. We have much to be thankful for.

For those readers who didn’t grow up in the US, Thanksgiving is a holiday that (according to pop culture) involves eating turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin pie, rolls and a bunch of other stuff. Actual Thanksgiving meals can involve other foods such as collard greens, black eyed peas, sweet potato pie. potato salad with paprika and even lasagna. Heck, I’ve even had Korean food at a Thanksgiving meal. And some people even deep fry a turkey, resulting in sadly hilarious Youtube videos.

Thanksgiving isn’t just celebrated in the US and Canada, but also in the West African nation of Liberia.

It really isn’t all that different from other harvest-oriented festivals around the world.

Thanksgiving activities stereotypically involve interacting with long-hated family members, watching American football, eating as much as possible and passing out in front of the TV.

Some Americans pretend to care about homeless people around this time. And they make popular Youtube videos about it.

All this is in commemoration of some colonizers who didn’t die right away, so they had a feast.

Sometimes American schools have/had a Thanksgiving pageant. I don’t remember a pageant, but I had to make that stupid little Pilgrim hat with the buckle.

pilgrimhat-mainpic
LAME.
il_1140xN.1056117746_k1il
Much better. Buy yours today!

This is where the Thanksgiving plays come in. They would’ve been acted out by school kids across our great land.

The first play, from 1922, focuses on the harvest aspect of the holiday.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 9.41.00 AM
I got it for free, and so can you.

This play starts off…well…

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 9.41.51 AM
The Goddess of Grain finally has her story told, after being a supporting player.
Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 9.42.30 AM
Really digging the costume choices here.

Ceres and all the other immortals are just hanging out, complaining about how mortals aren’t really thankful. What’s the best way to fix that?

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 12.45.23 PM
Makes sense.

I particularly like that PEACE doesn’t know what a family is….because there is no peace on Thanksgiving bwahahah. PEACE seems like a leftover from the end of WWI.

Everything is in verse in this play. And there’s a bunch of songs set to tunes people actually knew back then. More of those later.

So PEACE and PLENTY run off and catch humans.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 9.56.33 AM

Why can’t the son be a “degenerate, out of style blob”???

And Lord knows what the “best type of modern girlhood” entails.

The immortals interrogate the mortals about Thanksgiving. Here is a typical exchange between MOTHER EARTH and the MOTHER on Earth.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 1.31.42 PM

Each human gives their response and everyone sings a song about it. Here is dear old GRANDPA…

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 1.37.55 PM

And the Thanksgiving Trio sing a song based on a song most Americans know as “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” but is actually named “America” and using the melody from “God Save the Queen” and about 1,000 other songs.

One can only imagine how much better the play would’ve been with Franklin’s stirring voice.

This is all fine and good until the nameless, yet “efficient, sensible and pretty” GIRL teaches everyone the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 1.56.25 PM

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 1.56.59 PM

So the brightest and kindest-hearted character is the GIRL. This is definitely a saving grace. And that is the play’s strongest aspect. We definitely need to learn how to give more than receive. I’d say a modern variation on that theme might make a suitable Thanksgiving play.

However, let’s go on a tangent about the air “My Maryland.”

TANGENT BEGINNING

This was the only video I could find without a Confederate flag. Why? This was a Confederate song that referred to Lincoln as a despot, called Northerners “scum” and had the phrase “Sic semper tyrannis” – the same phrase that actor from Maryland used right after he shot Lincoln. You can read all about it on the Wikihole.

So what did the brave lawmakers in Maryland do when they woke up in 2018 and realized they had the song of a bunch of traitors who got their asses beat 153 years before? Only the most limpdicked thing possible.

And “O Tannenbaum” is forever ruined by this.

TANGENT OVER

The play basically ends with everyone saying “What an awesome girl!”

1914-thanksgiving-pageant
Thanksgiving Pageant from 1914. Note lack of Pilgrims and abundance of child-sized veggies. From here.

The play’s author, Carolyn Wells, was indeed quite popular for the time, writing more than 170 books, specializing in mysteries. She also married the heir to the Houghton-Mifflin publishing firm.

*Note to self: Marry heir to Samuel French publishing firm. Write 170 plays.

Please don’t judge her on the silliness of this Thanksgiving play. Instead, feel free to judge this accomplished woman based off of her vast, vast work.

220px-Argosy_19171229
She even serialized her work in the famed Argosy magazine. My new goal is to re-add “fascination” to the mystery suspense genre.

Links to work by and about her will appear at the end.

CWells
Judge her for her hat. Via here.

 

Now for the second part of our play-a-thon.

The First Thanksgiving Day from 1907, written by Madalene Barnum, is hilarious. It appears in A Book of Plays for Little Actors

The plot is pretty simple. It’s 1621 and the one-year anniversary of the Pilgrims totally not dying is coming up. The Pilgrims invite the local Native Americans over for a party. They use a Native American, Squanto, as interpreter.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.25.11 AM

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.25.35 AM

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.25.52 AM

The play neglects to mention that the real Squanto spoke English because he’d been kidnapped to England years before.

Americans to this day continue the tradition of just showing up someplace and not bothering with the language.

The Pilgrims properly prepare for their party –

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.26.39 AM
Clams for Thanksgiving! YESSS!
Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.27.22 AM
Myles Standish, badass.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.27.37 AM

As usual, women get the drudgery work.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.28.31 AM

The women don’t get to shoot stuff, but also they don’t have the humiliation of simply saying “Bang! Bang!” in the woods.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.28.55 AM

Mary, Priscilla, Mrs. White – to the ovens!! Mrs. White is impressed by Standish’s huge…turkeys.

And the Native Americans show up, ostensibly speaking a real language.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.30.39 AM

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.31.10 AM

Well, Elder, there’s no football on the tube…

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.32.02 AM

Should’ve thought of that before everyone said “Yes, yes!”. Sigh.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.32.35 AM

PLEASE, GOD, NO!

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.33.13 AM

White men are good at war stuff. Got it.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.33.57 AM

Don’t listen to them, Squanto! Poor Squanto cannot distinguish between a cannon and thunder.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.35.32 AM

Good-by really strange play from 1907!

397f2e-20141126-thanks01
Thanksgiving pageant, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1904. Probably not much different than our play.

Madalene Barnum didn’t quite have the career Wells did. She was born in 1874, but I haven’t found a death date for her. I doubt she’s 144 years old.

Her career included educational books and plays.

91lPdsFjujL
She co-authored this sexy tome in 1911.
Screen Shot 2018-11-15 at 11.21.45 AM
You can buy this.

At the time she wrote this, she was an English teacher at the Brooklyn Training School for Teachers.

Screen Shot 2018-11-15 at 11.27.11 AM
Holy crap, she got a play with Samue French!

It’s obvious these writers were going for what was popular and acceptable by the dominant society at the time. And they appear to have succeeded.

What should be in a modern Thanksgiving play??

For a list of all our playwrights, please check here.

Before we leave you, I’d like to add a video which is kinda related to today’s topic, but it is an important one. And she’s funny.

 

And here is the link dump:

The plays

The Meaning of Thanksgiving Day.

The First Thanksgiving Day, right here

The authors

Madalene Barnum at archive.org

And more!

Carolyn Wells at Wikipedia,

Wells at Britannica. And Poetry Foundation.

Works at Gutenberg.org

Works at archive.org

Wikisource

Review and bio on a blog

Fantastic Fiction.

Another overview

Another book review on a blog. The comments are vicious.

 

 

Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Lacey’s Last Chance by Gabriel Davis

Serial killling? Check. Serial dating? Check. Strong female monologue? Check. Serial killing + serial dating + strong female monologue = destined to be on this blog. (smiley face)

This week brings us a lovely play by Gabriel Davis, Lacey’s Last Chance.

41+JSTZPAjL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_
I bet Aphra Behn wasn’t hung up on cover art. Just a random thought. Via here.

Davis’ canon seems to contain some interesting titles: Unbearable Hotness, Quiche isn’t Sexy (says who???) and Yoga Fart.

The monologue we’re using today is generally called “Serial dater” or “Serial dating” and originates from Lacey’s Last Chance.

Here’s the Amazon synopsis:

Lacey yearns for lasting love but has the unfortunate habit of – when the going gets tough – killing her partners. Hoping to attain a more peaceful life, Lacey takes up origami and begins dating Trent who, despite learning of her crimes, adores her and believes she can change. But will his faith in her be enough to keep their love – and him – alive?

Because romantic comedies about serial killing are severely under-represented in the blogosphere, here’s Serial Dater, not Killer. This is really fun.

So happy actors are taking a chance on works like these. Who stands out as particularly serial killer-y AND serial dater-y?

A

 

B

 

C

 

D

 

E

 

And those are some killer monologues! See you on Thursday with the Thanksgiving edition of Unknown Playwrights!

For another Gabriel Davis’ monologue Almost 16, click here. For Coffee Slave, click here.

For a complete list of monologues, click here.

 

Current Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Denise O’Neal

Today we will be profiling a Houston-based playwright who not only comes out swinging when it’s time for her own work but also contributes to the greater playwright community.  

37923362_10212892252077237_6556646333329965056_n

Denise writes full-lengths and shorts and also directs plays.

Denise O’Neal has lived in Houston for over 20 years and studied Business Finance at the University of Houston.

She hails from Shreveport, LA and was raised in a military family. She caught the playwriting bug at the age of 20 when she assisted in the production of her church’s She believes it was creating papier-mâché props, helping with script edits and splashing all that stage blood on the poor guy playing Jesus that really opened her eyes.

Denise was named a recipient of the Mary McCloud Bethune Award (National Council of Negro Women, 2015) and one of the “100 Creatives” of 2014 by the Houston Press, She has been a writer, director, and producer for over 20 years. She is the executive director of Shabach Enterprise, a non-profit theater company based in Houston, TX and the owner of Watch My Groove Ent., LLC.

She’s also in charge of a really amazing festival that we’ll talk about after the plays.

In 2014 she served as the assistant director for the Pulitzer prize winner Ruined written by Lynn Nottage in its Houston regional premiere. She directed the production of Intimate Apparel, also written by Lynn Nottage in 2015. She is currently a member of the Dramatists Guild, a former board member of Scriptwriters/Houston and is very active in the Houston theatre community.

In this post we’ll look at some of her short plays in detail.

On the Other Side is a funny short with a self-explanatory title: these are all ghosts on the other side.

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 1.06.12 PM
Roles for seniors? Check. Psychopath? Check. Someone named Myrtle? Check. Everyone dead? Check. Love this character list.

The humor starts early on this one.

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 1.08.08 PM

Ted gets a bit defensive when Myrtle talks about how he died.

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 1.10.09 PM

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 1.10.38 PM

I mean, everyone knows he’s dead, right? Uptight.

Meanwhile, Misty, our resident psychopathic ghost, explains how her husband got cut up into itty-bitty pieces in a bag she’s been lugging around.

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 1.13.07 PM

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 1.13.22 PM

Gotta love any play with the line “A wood chipper, huh?” And gotta love that wood chipper trope,

The play ends how any play involving dead people should end, but I won’t spoil it for you.

Moving on to Sorry, Not Sorry – this also has a fun cast list.

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 1.17.30 PM

Basically Ray is a grade-A douche-nugget who is addicted to video games. He thinks he’s gonna have a hot ‘n’ heavy bone-a-thon with gal pal Greta…but he is a contemptuous ass.

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 1.29.42 PM

Ray’s kinda dense. 

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 1.31.41 PM

Did I mention Ray was a jerk-face? Another man and woman show up and this weirds Ray out to no end, but it turns out they’re not there for sex. A very good twist by O’Neal, but I won’t give it away.

Here’s a video of the cast members of Sorry, Not Sorry talking about the play as well as the night of short plays it was featured in:

 

The final short we’ll cover is Fragile, from Phoenix. Typical trope of a mystery package showing up. And a marriage already on the rocks.

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 1.34.52 PM

But as with the other plays, there’s a twist. Said box is not from some sweet young thing in Phoenix…inside the box is…

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 1.37.09 PM

Stephanie takes second place to Barry’s burgeoning butterfly collection. 

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 1.42.53 PM

Stephanie may need some counseling. Which brings us to the next play.

In addition to writing some off-beat comedy, O’Neal has also penned a full-length play that tackles the demons of addiction as experienced by various men in a treatment program run by a pastor.

A Fly in the Windshield has been relatively successful, and is available from Amazon. O’Neal spent hours asking questions of real men who were involved in treatment programs and used her research to craft this play. Here’s Denise and some of the cast talking about the play.

 

I’ll put a boatload of links about this play below.

A wonderful contribution Denise has made to the playwriting world is the Fade to Black play festival in Houston. This is definitely a labor of love for O’Neal. And provides a unique opportunity for African-American playwrights.

Lack of representation is a real problem. For example, in the 2016-2017 season in Washington, DC, African-American playwrights made up less than 10% of playwrights produced that year. African-Americans make up about 50% of the DC population.  Also, the national population seems to be 12-14% African-American, so DC theatre, you’re sucking on that end, too.

Recently the Dramatists Guild tried to quantify this disparity. I do have issues with how some of the study was conducted, namely the narrow sample size and the fact that they included one of the worst theatres in the world [I’ll keep that theatre’s name to myself for now]. BUT…I totally agree with the point they’re trying to illustrate.

Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 10.44.37 AM
Pretty much looks like America. From here. 
Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 10.58.25 AM
This is the breakdown of produced playwrights they give. Pretty much looks like theatre in America. Sigh.
Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 10.57.22 AM
Apparently if we include Baltimore with DC, the percentage of plays by people of color skyrockets.

On that last statistic, they’re including all people of color and not just African Americans.

Either way, the need for festivals like Fade to Black is strong.

Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 11.14.27 AM
First stat is a couple years old. Second stat is now. If we ever follow my proposal to ban Shakespeare for a generation, the green could fall to zero.

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 11.14.47 AM
The first stat is from a couple years ago. Second is now. When it comes to foreigners of color, things are actually equitable between genders. Also, that feeling when you’ve gained 75% but are still under one percent overall.

This is a video promo from 2013.

The festival has been a success. This year’s winners include:

Calley Anderson, Yunina Barbour-Payne, Maya Critchlow, Vincent Terrell Durham, Peter Fields, Ken Green, Lionel Hilliard, Eric C. Jones, Brandon Riley and TJ Young.

Past winners have included: Markietha Ka’Von SIngleton, Angela Y. Rice, Melanie E. Burke, and Angela Batravil.

Here’s a great radio interview with Denise about this year’s festival:

In addition to doing TV and radio interviews, Denise has kindly answered a few questions for us.

1. How did you start playwriting?
I have always loved to write. I started writing poems and essays when I was grade school and since I was heavily involved in my local church, I moved quickly into writing skits for them. When I was 21 or so, I was part of a large Easter Sunday theatre production at our Chapel. The experience was life-changing and instrumental in encouraging me to start writing full-length plays. I have been at it ever since.
 
2. What are your influences?
No particular playwright. Lynn Nottage does great work. August Wilson story of his rise to fame is amazing.
 
3. What is your most memorable production and why?
Fly In The Windshield’s 1st production was a hugely successful milestone for me. After many readings and rewrites, when it was finally mounted on stage, it did extremely well! I had been commissioned to write and direct the piece and endured a lot of hard work, but it was worth it as it received an amazing reception. The play got very positive reviews and was named 2013 Best Original Play by Broadway World. Soon after the closing of the show, the piece was published. 
 
4. What is your least memorable production and why? [you can leave out specifics or names]
Just A Few Feet Away was a piece I loved, but greatly divided my audience: they either loved it completely or hated it completely or didn’t get it or totally got it. The actors loved the work, but it just never took off as well as I’d like. The story was an attempt to weave the separate, disconnected lives of various individuals into a plot revealed just how connected the really are. I learned a hard lesson in remembering the value of being true to yourself because you simply can’t please everyone.     
 
5. What’s your funniest theatre story?
Not one of my own work, but one where I was directing A Lesson Before Dying. Apparently a firefly had made its way into the performance studio and wanted to take center stage, but he had bumped into the theater lights and was now dying. Center stage in and out of the audience seating was where he was chose to have his swan dance ushering in the last few moments of his life. Just then, a sympathetic (and annoyed) audience member, decided to use his hat to swat Mr. Firefly out of the scene, but he missed his aim and his hat went flying onto the middle of the floor. Because the audience member wouldn’t dream of leaving his hat on the floor, he decided to retrieve his hat right then and there, firefly and actors be damned. The show went on, but with a bit of distraction. The actors had a good chuckle about that for weeks to come.  
 
6. What are your writing habits like?
I can’t say I have a “method”, but usually when I have a good story line for a play everything else in the world shuts down until it is done. I still get through the tasks of the day, but I am not really truly focused on anything else but the completion of the piece. It consumes me and I inevitably end up writing into the early hours of the morning losing all track of time. It is a wonderful place to be! I write best when a story (or a life lesson) has greatly impacted me or when there is a message I believe the world needs to hear.  
 
7. What advice do you have for new playwrights?
Write and Rewrite. Do readings and rewrite again. After you’ve put out your best work remain humble and open to suggestions, but learn to know the difference between sound counsel and the simple tongue-wagging of a fool. Try not to let everyone’s opinion about your work bother you. Lastly, do what you can to find your own voice. It can take a lifetime to do it, but it’s worth it. 
 
8. Who are some other writers you feel should get more attention?
Every African-American playwright I know.

9. What are common themes in your work?
The beauty and immense intricacies of the human spirit. I also like story that have a bit of a shock value in its plot.

10. What is one thing you wished you knew now, that you didn’t know starting out?
That theatre is a great outlet, but it’s a lot of work.

11. Where did the idea for The Other Side come from?
I was in a place where I found death and the afterlife particularly fascinating probably because I had been watching a lot of crime television. In keeping with this new found pastime, I wanted to write my own version of events of the back story of a tragic life’s end but I didn’t want to tell a dreary tale so, I made it funny. Aside from the excessive amount of television I was watching, the story might have come from the fact that I often lament about things I feel could be done better if they were done “my” way to begin with (just kidding).
 
12. What have been the most rewarding aspects of the Fade to Black Fest?
It is hard to explain how personally rewarding this project is. It does so many great things for the underrepresented African-American playwright and the Houston community. We are now in our 7th year and are growing stronger every year. We are highly anticipated and respected among theatre enthusiast around the world. If I had to say what is most rewarding is the sense of validation and recognition we provide for African-American playwrights. We are also putting Houston on the map in this arena because it had never been done in the history of the city.
 
13. What advice do you have for writers who want a strong twist in their play or story?
I would just say go wild. A good playwright should have command of a vibrant imagination. Create an outline of various scenarios and pick the one you can sell the best. There is nothing worse than a poorly executed twist. Or you can lay the project down until some spectacular revelation comes to mind.
 
14. How is writing someone else’s story (like “Fly”) different from writing your own (like “The Other Side”)?
From my side, there is no difference. There’s always a lot of character research and development in every play I write. I’d never hear the end of it if I made it about my own personal life.
 
15. What’s a question you’d like to be asked? Go ahead and answer that question.
None come to mind. 

 

Thanks Denise for sharing your time and talent with us!!

For all of our other playwrights, please check here.

About Denise:

Her page at the New Play Exchange.

Profile in the Houston Press.

Theatre Online profile.

Denise’s diecting:

Broadway World interview about directing A Lesson Before Dying.

About Fly in the Windshield:

Interview with Broadway World regarding the play.

Another video interview.

Review

About Fade to Black:

Their homepage

This year’s Facebook event

From 2013

Broadway World piece from 2015

Short plug on Houston TV (you will also learn about dead butt syndrome) 2017

From 2018

More from 2018

Nice review from 2017

Profile from 2015, focusing on a gay-themed entry.

 

 

 

Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Rather Be a Man by Joseph Arnone

Time to shake things up a bit. Joseph Arnone is a playwright with a site that seems exclusively dedicated to plays and monologues written by Mr. Arnone as well as some public domain work.

It’s obvious he’s put a lot of work into his craft. One of the monologues is taken from a one act play entitled Rather Be a Man. 

Rather-Be-A-Man
The play comes with this image, via the author’s site.

According to the official synopsis…

“A comedic one act play involving KIM and PAM, two friends who are sick of guys trying to pick them up.”

The monologue itself also has a synopsis:

“Kim is so fed up with men approaching her with their one liners. In this comedy monologue, she talks to one of her good friends about the annoying men she randomly tolerates.”

The just-over-a-minute-long monologue makes good points about how our culture treats women and the sometimes limited choices available to women.

This monologue seems popular on the high school audition circuit and there were a good selection of videos on Youtube. And there’s a bonus monologue!!!

Thanks again to all the actors for being so brave!!

For another Joseph Arnone monologue on our site, please check out Coffee Table.

A

 

B

 

C

 

D

 

E

 

 

G

 

H

 

One of the above monologues was from an Aruban actor. Can you find her?

And for the special monologue…here is the same monologue, but in German! This version is edgier, even if you don’t speak German (hint: it’s at the 2:13 mark).

I

 

Join us Thursday, we’ll be profiling a wonderful unknown playwright! And new monologues every Monday.

For a complete list of monologues, click here.

Ciao.

Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

María de Soto y Sáez

A beautiful milestone has ocurred today: we’re finally profiling our first foreign language playwright! It is also the first time we profile the author of plays for children.

Her name is María de Soto y Sáez and she truly is exceedingly unknown.

Paraphrasing from the only bio I could find, her birth and death dates remain unknown. She was active in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century in Spain and there are at least six works that she authored.

Her first play, El robo de anoche [The Theft of Last Night], survives in manuscript form.

Screen Shot 2018-11-07 at 10.22.01 PM
It survives right here. Note that it is a one act play. Her co-author was kinda prominent.

It’s possible this play was never performed (something this play has in common with 95% of my plays…teeheehee). The play was written around 1890.

On December 6, 1890 she had a one-act play, La Esperanza [The Hope] debut at Teatro Variedades in Madrid. The comedic plot concerned jealousy in a marriage and relies on puns and misunderstandings for its source of humor, which would probably qualify it for an Amazon series now, but would still be light years funnier than the worst sitcom birthed by Satan. The play was subsequently published by José Rodríguez.

It’s possible she co-authored a play, Don Juanito, under the pseudonym of Modesto Aria –

Screen Shot 2018-11-07 at 11.32.43 PM
No preview for you – from here.
Screen Shot 2018-11-07 at 11.25.17 PM
Someone compiled a bibliography of Don Juan.

In 1909, the prominent printer Saturnino Calleja y Fernández printed six of Soto’s works together in one volume, El teatro de la infancia [Childhood Theatre]. All the plays are one acts, in verse, and for children. The volume consists of:

La banda de honor [Sash of Honor] – One act. Kids competing for a “sash of honor.”

El manojo de claveles [The Bundle of Carnations] – One act comedy.

El Portal de Belén [The Entrance of Bethlehem] – One act drama, in verse. 

ff4f62c0-82b1-11df-acc7-002185ce6064_1
Welcome to Bethlehem, via here.

El recreo [The Recess] – One act comedy. Verse. Kids hanging out at recess.

El Día de Año Nuevo [New Year’s Day] – One act comedy.

ff4fb3ec-82b1-11df-acc7-002185ce6064_1
Why isn’t it Old Year’s Day? From here.

La revoltosa [The Troublemaker] – One act comedy. Verse. An interesting study of the title character but also the kids who surround her. 

This is pretty much all that’s known about this author.

Several of her youth plays were also published again in Chile. This has led some Chilean sources to suggest Soto y Sáez was a Chilean author. This doesn’t appear to be the case, but with what little is known about her, she may have been.

From these one acts, we’ll profile two: The Sash of Honor/La banda de honor and The Recess/El recreo.

The Sash of Honor’s plot is pretty dang straightforward: Set in a school for girls, apparently a school for excessively cruel girls, all the girls want the sash – for which they have to be examined by a panel of teachers. Most of them are arrogant, except for poor, humble Carmela, who prays and also has a rich, kind friend in Rosa who helps her gain confidence and, and, [spoiler alert] – wins the sash!

It’s like Mean Girls set in a Spanish Catholic school in 1909.

Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 11.05.01 AM

HIGHLIGHTS:

  1. There are parts for eight girls here. And no boys. Hehe. Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 11.05.15 AM
  2. There are some genuinely funny bits in the play.
  3. It’s in verse, specifically silva arromanzada. For those heavy into meter, these are lines, usually between 7 and 11 syllables, including 7 + 7 alexandrine schemes and assonant rhyme in even lines. All for a children’s play. Thank you to  Professor Enrique Gil Miguel for helping me with this and thanks to my playwright friend Beatriz Cabur for introducing him.
  4. It tackles the subject of bullying.

LOWLIGHT:

  1. It’s kinda cheesy and simplistic.

OTHERLIGHT:

  1. It’s exceedingly Catholic. Modern schools may welcome that, others not so much.

Let’s do a walk-through of this play. Before we start, translating Spanish isn’t something I do every day and I want to thank my friend and fantasy writer (and Spanish speaker) Kristin Jackson for answering all my questions. Nevertheless, any mistakes in this translation are mine and mine alone. I tried to convey the meaning while maintaining some semblence of faux-poetry. I didn’t attempt a silva arromanzada.

Carmela is lamenting the fact that everyone is mean to her, but she has Rosita’s friendship:

(I cut some stage directions for fun)

CarmelaSceneIV

CarmelaSceneIVpart2

Scene IV

Carmela

I do nothing to them, oh my!

They make me upset …

Nobody has affection for me.

Except Rosita, Yes she

the most noble, who is a duchess,

the richest and most elegant,

That speaks to me so happily

and she even hugs me and kisses me.

I do not know what I would give

for being able to pay

She knows how to treat well

Those who were born poor.

[break]

My God, if I go wrong

How they are going to laugh! (kneels before the image of the Virgin)

To you, blessed Virgin,

day and night we acclaim you,

before you we prostrate ourselves,

and fix our gaze on you,

we ask in the affliction

the same as in joy,

May you be, Virgin Mary,

always our salvation.

(At the end of the last verse appear behind Clara, Luisa, Paca and Sofia mocking her)

 

Now the bad girls, aka demonic hellions, show up.

SceneV

Scene V

Carmela, Luisa, Paca and Sofia

Clara. Look at the poor thing’s fear

Paca. Pray, girl, pray,

God does not hear you

Sofia. You win a prize?

Luisa. What a shame!

Paca. Poor thing!

Clara. Do not make yourself up …

Sofia. Don’t deceive yourself …

Clara. You do not know anything …

Paca. You’ve been a fool …

Clara. You should leave

before they see you.

Paca. With that dress

You are going to get hit …

Sofia. Poor girl.

Luisa. But how poor!

Carmela. But, my God,

I have to put up with this! (cries)

Clara. How fragile!

Sofia. No, girl, do not cry!

(the four of them surround her, mocking her)

 

Carmela isn’t having the best day.

But then, her pal Rosa shows up and DISHES IT OUT!

SceneVI

Scene VI

[Others from before] Enter Rosa, from behind. 

Rosa. What’s this, why do you enjoy yourself?

in bothering Carmela?

That is not worthy, nor is it noble,

nor good friends.

Clara. She has such a sad face!

Sofia. That seems to be punched ..

Paca. Or her cat has died …

Rosa. Shut up and go outside.

Clara. Whose order?

Rosa. Mine,

and woe to the one who does not obey …

Luisa. Well, she’s fuming! …

Clara. As the daughter of a duchess!

(The four exit.)

Carmela, despite being high-born (a duchess or daughter of a duchess) is kind and warm-hearted to the poverty-stricken [apparently] Carmela. She even gives Carmela a beautiful necklace to wear at the competition…

Later Rosa tells us exactly how the examination goes –

Scene XI pt1

SceneXIpt2

Rosa. You will see. She came in and, waving

to the audience,

it was before the teachers

Waiting for them to speak to her.

She firmly replied,

without hesitation, with a clear voice,

admired by the whole world

for her sweetness and her grace.

There were many questions.

difficult, risky,

the schoolgirl replied to

all with aplomb

And seeing such a brilliant test,

the court stood up

Until she walked to them

after congratulating her,

and lavishing Carmela

a thousand words of praise on her,

On her noble chest she puts

as a great prize the sash.

All hands applauded her

before the exciting act,

and everyone congratulated her

and all admired her.

And look, the classmates

that mocked her before,

in triumph until here they bring it.

and one after the other they embraced her.

 

Yay for Carmela! Sadly, the mean girls weren’t boiled in oil at the end. Our next play is The Recess. The summary of this play is basically kids hanging out at recess.

ff4fac3a-82b1-11df-acc7-002185ce6064_1
50 céntimos and it’s yours! Via here.

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. An all-girl cast. No boys allowed. Large cast of 14. How fun is that?

Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 12.23.29 PM

2. Positive messages about appearance and body image. More on this later.

3. Very in-depth characterization.

4. Still in verse.

5. A lot of the play is like a series of monologues, with several characters getting their own solo pieces.

6. Ample use of humor.

LOWLIGHTS:

  1. That in-depth characterization comes at a price, namely plot. The closest thing to a plot is Paca/Paquita’s struggle with Sagrario over Sagrario’s slavish fawning over the mirror.

OTHER LIGHTS:

  1. Still very Catholic.

We’ll take a brief cruise through this play. Again, I want to thank Professor Enrique Gil Miguel, my playwright friend Beatriz Cabur and my fantasy writer friend and Oaxaca native Kristin Jackson.

Again, if the translation sucks, it’s my fault.

The play opens with the recess bell. In scene 2, we see Elvira has a poetic streak, but her friend Rosario has other things on her mind. This is some of that characterization I mentioned.

 Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 12.15.53 PM

Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 12.16.13 PM

Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 12.16.27 PM

 

ELVIRA

What beautiful flowers!

The view is refreshing! 

Delightful gardens,

Who does not dream to see you?

MAGDALENA

You feel romantic.

ELVIRA

And who didn’t feel so

on hearing the chirps 

of those birds that fly;

by breathing the air

that comes embalmed with

of tuberoses, of jasmine,

of roses and violets … 

to see the butterflies

how happy they play

Kissing from flower to flower

a thousand, if a thousand are there?

Here the soul widens, 

and full of illusions

the mind was ecstatic …

If I were a poet!

ROSARIO

You would be a boy

with blonde ringlets 

long and curly,

fine as silk;

you would play the lyre,

when your governing muse

inspires you, in the hours  

in which others dream.

MAGDALENA

That is very well said!

ROSARIO

You do not have to be a poet

to say two pretty sentences,

If you’re stubborn.  

ELVIRA

You have a noble soul!

ROSARIO

Also yours is beautiful.

ELVIRA

Come see the flowers;

the view is refreshing;

white butterflies  

like the lilies;

the crystal-clear springs;

the birds that fly.

MAGDALENA

Wow, it’s a pity

that you were not a poet!  

ELVIRA

I die for art.

ROSARIO

I prefer a snack.

(All three exit.)

 

“You go do your poet stuff, beatnik. I wanna eat.” I like Rosario’s style.

Later in the play, we learn that Sagrario is obsessed with her looks in particular and mirrors in general. We also learn that Paca hates mirrors. She tries to convert Sagrario to non-Mirrorism. The conflict arises.

Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 12.42.39 PM

PACA

I want to take away that vice,

which is very ugly, dear Sagrario.

Holy and good that you, in fixing yourself,  

you study yourself alone in your room,

and ask the mirror for advice

to thus enhance your charms.

And once you get an answer

and be as beautiful as a day in May,  

you do not remember that there is a mirror

Don’t worry about bows and ribbons.

The woman who is honest and simple,

is the angel that God has created

to do what in his eyes of glory  

is considered in a clearer mirror.

And having that mirror in your eyes,

it’s not good to see it in your hands

a mirror that is worth very little

compared to the one I talk about. 

But there is something deeply pathological about Paca’s mirror-vengeance. As we learn through more characterization:

PACA

Mirror1 2018-11-08 at 12.46.29 PM

Mirror2 2018-11-08 at 12.47.01 PM

PACA:….and it produces dislikes

Like someone gave me once and I won’t forget it

And it was a day that I, playful

and greedy, I took out of a closet 

a large jar of sweet syrup

that I had long ago besieged.

And that seeing the square undefended

I decided to attack,

and capture it without them knowing

because nobody came to save it.

I had eaten at least

More than half of that jar,

When I heard a … Holy Virgin! and my eyes

they turned and, speechless with horror,  

reflecting, they looked at my image

in the mirror of a golden frame,

so grotesque, so sad and ridiculous,

that until this time I have not forgotten it.

And my mother following me,  

and my afflicted face and my lips

all filled with sweet syrup

that the mirror inhumanely reflected.

I fell at the foot of my mother, tearful,

promising not to do such a sin, 

and throwing the mirror

It cracked into 20 pieces like sabers.

Since then, seeing a mirror

I look at it on two or three sides,

and bringing my mouth to her mirror  

I repeat furiously … What a fake!

And that’s why I want that she

not look in the mirror anymore,

that I have declared war

on mirrors of all sizes.  

(Exit.)

Even though Paca is helping her friend, she has some serious latent reasons why.

Later Emilia tells a story about a grandpa, boy and donkey.

Summarizing the story: When the grandpa rode the donkey and the boy walked behind, the villagers said it was too cruel to make the boy walk. They switched. When the boy rode and the grandpa walked to the next village, the people said how cruel to make the grandpa walk. So they both walked and the next village told them how sad it was that the donkey didn’t have a load, etc. The point being people will complain no matter what you do. (Good point)

Then Emilia tells Amparo the evils of slander, using old snowball/sun metaphor:

Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 3.24.51 PM

EMILIA

It is envious like slander,

as a snowball that, unsuspecting,

they are making, so that they

those who only hurt the world

enlarge it

But the Sun, shining in the sky, 

he undoes it with its pure rays,

and it turns into foam bubbles

what bad hands had made.

See how they all went

when they have seen how I speak to them.  

The truth is bitter to the people,

who in the world live with deceit.

(Very slowly the last quatrain, after which she wraps the waist of AMPARO with her arm, and they disappear slowly.)

It seems Emilia really, really likes Amparo.

Meanwhile Amelia and Teresa have a scheme worked out where Amelia cheats for Teresa in exchange for candy.

Towards the end, Sagrario has learned her lesson about looking in the mirror and society’s treatment of women.

Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 3.37.03 PM

We live to please,

since we are born, 

and the kindness of girls

It is a gift from heaven.

If you chatted to your devil

your false mirror,

it was to correct you 

by that means.

(She takes out the mirror and brings her face closer to PAQUITA’s, making her look at it at the same time as her.)

I love you, girl

how I love you …;

look with what affection

They send us a kiss!

(They both smile in the mirror and go arm in arm.)

Looks like Sagrario and Paquita are the best of friends.

The following scenes do a brief wrap up, the bell rings and recess is done.

 

In preperation for this I also read La revoltosa and parts of Don Juanito.

There’s no evidence of these plays ever having been performed.

In writing for children, Soto’s has several themes in common: the plight/situation of girls in school, the role of religion and humility rewarded and there are some vicious, vicious girls in Spanish schools circa 1910.

I’m not sure what relevance these plays would have to a child of today. Perhaps some of the monologues could be used/adapted for an actor wanting to do a legit period piece.

However, these plays offer an interesting glimpse into children’s theatre in the early 20th Century in Spain. As such, they definitely should be studied and translated into languages besides Spanish. I believe theatre aficionados, scholars, teachers and playwrights could learn a lot by reading these old plays.

A couple thoughts regarding children’s theatre – it really gets no respect. Despite awesome playwrights like Don ZolidisClaudia Inglis Haas and Daniel Guyton building careers in the subgenre, there’s still not much respect. Hopefully by knowing the history of children’s theatre across cultures, languages and centuries, we can understand it more and make better theatre.

For all of our playwrights, please click here.

Before adding a link dump for Ms. Soto, let’s see what Madrid looked like in 1910:

 

And you can rock out to one of the most popular singers of the age, La Fornarina.

 

Here’s most the stuff online related to María de Soto y Sáez, all in Spanish:

Her life.

El robo de anoche

Don Juanito, a play she may have co-written under a pseudonym

El portal de belén

El recreo

La Revoltosa AND La banda de honor are here in this Chilean anthology.

El día de año nuevo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Laurencia in Fuenteovejuna (Lope de Vega)

And we’re back for Monologue Monday. This week’s monologue comes from the seriously prolific Lope de Vega. And prolific is an understatement – he’s credited with 500 plays on Anglo Wikipedia and his own museum credits him with up to 1,800 plays. FWIW Britannica gives him 431 extant plays. Lost works of his are still popping up.

At some point in the future we’ll probably profile him.

Meanwhile, Fuenteovejuna remains one of his most popular plays and is one of the few available in English. It is supposedly based on a true story and is set in a real town.

Summary: The Portuguese capture Ciudad Real. Two lovers from the nearby village of Fuenteovejuna, Laurencia and Frondoso, meet in the forest. The local Commander tries to rape Laurencia, but Frondoso takes the Commander’s crossbow and Laurencia.

The Commander demands Laurencia’s father allow him to have her. The dad refuses. Ciudad Real has been attacked. The Commander goes back there. Laurencia and Pascuala escape the village with a peasant, Mengo. They meet another peasant gal, Jacinta, who is escaping the Commander’s servants.

Soldiers capture Mengo and Jacinta. Mengo is whipped, Jacinta is raped. Pleasant stuff. Frondoso and Laurencia have a wedding, but the Commander interrupts it and arrests Frondoso, the dad and Laurencia.

The villagers decide what to do. Laurencia is beaten and nearly raped – she escapes and joins the villagers in disguise. She berates them for not trying to rescue her. The villagers plan to kill the Commander.

While Frondoso’s execution is being readied, the villagers kill the Commander and and one of his servants.

Flores, the surviving servant, escapes and rushes to the king and queen to tell what went down. The rulers order an investigation. The investigator tortures men, women, and young boys, but everyone just says “Fuenteovejuna” (i.e. the village) killed the Commander. The monarchs pardon the villagers when they tell their story.

Here is a TV adaptation from 1972:

Here is a site-specific production from Mexico in 2011. I wish I’d thought of restaging the play in the Mexican Revolution. Brilliant.

 

fuenteovejunaflyerhome
An adaptation by Thalia Hispanic Theatre in Queens, NY. In this version, set in modern Ciudad Juárez, Laurencia is one of the disappeared women of Juárez.

But we’re here for the monologues! This is a powerful monologue. After Laurencia has escaped the bad guys and returns to the village, she’s rightfully angry and tears into the so-called “men” of the village (you know, the ones who didn’t try to help her and stuff).

Note: In the beginning of the monologue her dad calls her  “my daughter” – she then replies with something like “Don’t call me daughter!” — then like a dork-face he says “Why?” Then she tells them off. Some of the monologues retain the beginning and some start after the dad has spoken. That’s why they’re different. And bear in mind that multiple English translations exist, so variation in text may occur.

I’m so excited…I’ll tell you why later.

A

 

B

 

C

 

D

 

So remember that part where I said I was excited? That’s because this is our first multilingual Monologue Monday – there are quite a few Spanish versions of this monologue. Let’s start!!

E

 

F

 

G

 

H

 

I

 

J

 

K

 

L

 

M

 

Those were intense. I really love studying theatre from outside the US and especially outside the Anglosphere. There’s really so much we can learn.

What do you think? Is there a difference in performance styles between languages? What can Anglophone theatre gain from studying foreign-language drama and performance?

Thanks again to all the brave actors who put themselves out there. Great stuff.

To conclude, here’s a nice video someone put up talking about the Spanish Golden Age of Theatre in general and Fuenteovejuna in particular. Join us on Thursday for an interesting playwright of years gone by.

For another Spanish playwright’s monologue, check here.

For a complete list of monologues, click here.