Current Playwrights, Dude Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Asher Wyndham

Mr. Monologue Man AKA Asher Wyndham is a prolific playwright capable of approaching his craft through a multitude of perspectives.

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Our dashing playwright hero and crusader against fascism, Asher Wyndham.

The first monologue/character of Asher’s we’ll check out is “Barsha Badal” which focuses on an Indian American motel owner. For those readers who haven’t been to the US, Indian Americans own half of the motels in America. A fact that impressed National Geographic so much they wrote an article about it. And the New York Times did like 20 years ago. That writer gets the article title rhyming award for 1999.

But while the NYT and National Geographic suck at writing plays, Mr. Wyndham does not. The monologue details immigrant Barsha’s perspective on her lot in life after living in America.

This monologue starts off with one heckuva BANG:

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Niraj is her husband, BTW.

Let’s take this apart for a second. Wyndham just drew a line between a Native American, Sacagawea (who by the way, was purchased by her husband) aka an American Indian and an Indian American. Two Americans connected by location, both physical (the US of A) and grammatical.

The beauty of this exists in the overload of “famous stuff to visit in America” – places that somehow imply greatness, despite the fact that the  bigger place they belong to (America) may not be so great. Even Wall Drug is there. Out of that list, only the Black Hills and the Great Salt Lake are worth checking out.  Just my opinion, though.

Don’t you just love Barsha’s sense of urgency???? She really goes out of her way to convince herself that life in Nebraska has meaning.  And she’s ever-so-patriotic.

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As if it weren’t political enough, Wyndham tosses the GOP under the proverbial bus in the form of a fly…and Barsha has already adapted America’s culture of looting food from immigrants (the chimichanga/pudding combo).

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I googled “chimichanga pudding” and this came up. You can buy it here.

If you could not guess the setting, it is here:

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I grew up in a somewhere that doubled as a nowhere. Apt description.

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Miland is her coincidentally-named son. Between popcorn, daiquiris, Loretta Lynn and Missy Elliott Barsha’s get pop-culture America down, minus a few years and pounds.

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I love this postmodern experimentalism Wyndham has going on here. The room numbers look like…room numbers!!!

Again, America and all the culture references: Magnum condoms, dead rats, dogs, marijuana and popcorn. And bloody Shrek.

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Finally, the real America shines through Barsha’s self-imposed blinders. Xenophobia is sadly one of those tropes that exist in real-life as well. For depressing news stories about American hatred towards Indians and Indian Americans, look here, here and here.

What can you do to help? Be like Asher. Write something. Make something. Be the change. And be tough like Barsha, once your blinders are removed.

Up next is a similar, yet distinct monologue, FAWZIE, which concerns an Iraqi immigrant who must clean the hotel some evil douchepunk Nazis are having a wankfest convention at. And just who is Fawzie?

 

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PAY ATTENTION TO THE BLACK EYE! It’s gonna come up later.

Fawzie is hosting a fake game show – to herself…Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 1.10.58 PM

Hmm. Two plays, two dead rats and two condoms and zero G-strings.

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BUT this time it’s a grand set up for a brassard/armband/Nazi cosplay regalia… Again Wyndham points out the absurdities of the social sciences and pop culture by reminding everyone Nazi armbands appear in beloved Hollywood musicals.

And the comedy kicks in with the bad restaurant, tomato sauce and food babies. She then explains where she seeks peace: the supply room.

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I’ve never thought about Conan O’Brien in a yummy sort of way, but I imagine when it comes time to anoint Conan king make a Conan stamp there should be two like the Elvis  stamp.

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Can this be a stamp, please???
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Wait, wait, this one too!

Don’t worry, not gonna link you to any racist websites. WARNING: I’m not saying that website is racist, I’m just saying racists really like it.

So Fawzie has learned about pudding, Conan and Nazis. Let’s see…Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 1.18.54 PM

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Like this, except Iraqi and female.

Here is where Wyndham breaks Brechtian and shows us how things should be. Immigrant Iraqi maids should be able to defeat American Nazi hordes.

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I am pleased…and I love my cigar.”

“Godless ugly men with mini blueberry muffins and mini oranges.”  Alright kiddos, that’s Imagery 101 for ya. Fawzie continues her reign of awesomeness:

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Let’s digest the above selection (mentally). What can Fawzie teach us???

  1. Syrup based on stereotypes can still burn Nazis’ eyes.
  2. America is for everyone (wait, already knew this – more like a review)
  3. Krav Maga is a very effective martial art. (knew this)
  4. Fantasy worlds can be interesting as Hell. (review)

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Now we know who gave her the black eye. And we also know she interacts with Satan on a personal basis [probably because he’s jealous of her awesomeness] –

And people throw profanity and slurs at her.

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God is greater than your hate. Deal with it. 

Since we’re dealing with an Iraqi in America, let’s see the cause of her violent removal from her motherland – the whole Iraq War personified by YOUNG VETERAN ADAM AMERSON, whom Wyndham has also chosen to write about.

Young Veteran Adam Amerson aka this guy:

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This dude served his country, ruining another country in the process. He’s back home now where he’s trying to sell his home in a limp economy where nobody gives a damn about him. He drinks a bit. “Connie” is the realtor.

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“Like tattoos on the eyeballs.” Gotta love it. By the way, that’s a real(ly painful) thing.

Wyndham varies his style between pieces and this is no different, containing some rather fun directions:

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And there you have it. The Word of God. Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 1.28.34 PM

Did you notice something??? The play comes with visusals/illustrations/enhancers/incredibleness —

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Pella windows you say? I need a cold shower…yesterday. From here.

Again Wyndham’s characters are turning the American Nightmare upside down and all around on its stupid little head. I weep for the person whose determining factor in buying a home would be plasticized windows. They’re not even stained glass.

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Let’s see Pella do this.

Wyndham takes these illustrations to an inventively absurd degree when stuff like this happens:

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Yep, the script contains wrinkled children’s drawings of the main character. But it’s not all razzle-dazzle in Amerson’s homefront battle against evil realtors:

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He’s gotta go shoot stuff for Thanksgiving.

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He spills beer and doesn’t clean it up. Like his style.

Similar to other Wyndham plays, the monologue devolves (or is it “hyper-evolves”?) into a burning indictment of the land of the free graft and home of the brave slave. Check it:

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True to his smashing-of-Americana roots, Wyndham references Dr. Suess, Hurricane Gustav, Nazis, Adam Sandler, Netflix , the Klan and even himself.

Wyndham provides a useful glossary:

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Walmart hunters.” Hehe.

Asher’s next monologue is short (and good) enough to post in its entirety. Let’s check it out:

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There’s not much I can add here except that if you’re unfamiliar with US politics, what these horrible young lads are saying came right out of our current president’s mouth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the play, the school could be America and the dad American men, oblivious to what’s happening to their daughters/mothers/sisters/aunts/coworkers/friends/wives/girlfriends/favorite playwrights.

Let’s see what Asher has next:

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Oh this looks exciting! Again, this one we can post in its entirety. Here’s the first bit:

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Phoebe isn’t happy. 

Now as a little project, let’s illustrate everything pop-culturish that Wyndham throws at us:

  1. “Get the selfie stick away from me!”

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These dopes.

2.

“I will snap it–and chuck it into the Grand Canyon!”

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In 1914, the parking was good.

3. “Y’know, I’m in cheerleading,”

 

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Ferriday Junior High has three cheerleaders apparently.

 

4.

“I’m jacked for a thirteen year-old”

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Made the mistake of doing a “jacked” image search. The article that accompanies this is entitled “How Do You Know When You Are Jacked?” Errr…maybe when you’re not Jilled? It all goes downhill from there.

5.

“down, down, down like Wile E. Coyote”

 

 

6. “a friggin’ mini blueberry muffin”

 

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Via another WordPress blog. GASP!!!

 

7. “thank-you Economy Lodge”

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The microwave at a crappy Econolodge in Lincoln, Nebraska.

 

8. “I hate outlet malls”

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Hopefully Asher can write a monologue about Stanley the Big Red Moose with a Scarf and a Tote Bag in his Mouth at an Outlet Mall. He’s in Park City, kids.

9.

“(I don’t wear Aeropostale or Old Navy anymore)”

 

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No wonder. I’d look like a bigger douchnozzle than I already do.

For a second I thought it said “find magic IN the Old Navy surplus pants” – does that make  me a bad person? We miss Eartha Kitt.

10.

“I hate railway museums (they’re borrring)”

“Traffic’s never bad out here” << because nobody wants to see your national historic site. (As Phoebe would say).

11.

“I don’t want to see Laura Ingalls Wilder house-wagon-whatever,”

There are SIX different Laura Ingalls Wilder houses, take your pick…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I finally got to use the “insert all your pictures at once” function on WordPress.

I wonder if she moved so much because her neighbors got tired of her wholesome stories about her youth. Pictures and article here.

12.

“I’ve seen every friggin’ episode of Little House on the Prairie”

13.

“sucking on a Fudgsicle”

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Meanwhile, back in 1959….

14.

“I’m some Kardashian wannabe in a thong bikini”

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E Online. Where’s Ray J???

15.

“this fake smile doesn’t have to be on Facebook and Instagram every day!”

You know how Thailand is “The Land of Smiles“? Maybe America can be the Land of Fake Smiles.

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Pretty much every shopper’s experience in the US.

If you’re reading this, you probably know about Facebook and Instagram.

16.

“You don’t have to take a pic of me in front of Waffle House”

 

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Amazingly, I’ve never eaten there.

17.

“I will call a lawyer like that celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred and sue your ass for millions!”

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1977. Gloria Allred and Jerry Brown.

From the above, we can see that Wyndham is a master manipulator of American kitsch, pop culture and general Americana, speaking of which we should finish that monologue:

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“A boner as big as my forearm”

Yeah, you’re gonna have to go private-browse that one yourselves…

Last but not least, we’ll take a look at a monologue that should stand near and dear in our hearts:

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Yes, yes, yes. We all know this person! In fact, we may be this person!!!! (GASP)

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Okay, so it’s not me. Whew!!!

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Ahh, yes. Theatre, the realm of the cell phone.

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Well, the Theatregoer certainly has a valid point on this one.

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I didn’t steal your popcorn. Popcorn is disgusting. But the Theatregoer has deeper issues to work out.

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And then there’s pulling the wool AWAY from the audience’s eyes and exposing them for the naked, needy and desperate people they apparently are.

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Tell ya what, this character will be stuck in whatever comes before “friendzone” – maybe “creepy coworker zone.”

And there you have it, a small sampling of the hundreds of monologues Wyndham has produced.

Asher was kind enough to answer a few questions….

1. How did you start playwriting?

I would say the start, the beginning of my playwriting, happened over a period of time, over two years or so. So I hope the following answers your question…

Playwriting started shortly after I graduated from the University of Sioux Falls, SD. My experiences as an openly gay student facing bullying and dealing with homophobia didn’t give me much confidence after graduation. I was depressed, so one way of dealing with that was escaping reality through reading. I spent much of my time in my bedroom which was also my library. (This personal library wasn’t in Sioux Falls, it was in Arizona.) I started buying more dramatic literature from library book sales — all that you can fit into a grocery bag for a dollar – why not? I would spend hours reading play after play — Ibsen, Pinter, O’Neill, Kushner, all the classics, and one day I started imitating some playwrights by writing plays of various lengths. After almost two years of reading dramatic literature and writing crappy pays, I came across a notice on a library bulletin board advertising a local playwriting group — Old Pueblo Playwrights. Joining that Tucson group, having my work read by other playwrights, learning the craft from professional playwrights, changed my life!

I think playwriting appealed to me in two ways:

(1) It connected me to a community of playwrights and other artists. It gave me a sense of belonging which was difficult to *feel* in a community/city where bullying and homophobia wasn’t a big concern and where you didn’t feel equal.

(2) It was a creative and liberating way for me, mostly through the immediacy and intimacy of the monologue form, to address some personal issues, fears, hopes, anger, dreams, political concerns, questions about Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness, and the American Dream through voices of different people.

2. What are your influences?

Theatre– The complicated women of Ibsen’s plays have had a profound impact on my writing of my character Allegra in my full length THE PLAYTPODES. Tony Kushner and Luis Valdez continue to remind me that all theatre is political. Caryl Churchill and Suzan Lori-Park’s plays encourage me to think outside the box in respects to structure. The language of Harold Pinter, Tennessee Williams, James Purdy, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Sheila Callaghan have had a profound influence on me. Lanford Wilson, who was a teacher of mine at the Edward Albee New Playwrights Workshop at the University of

Houston, gave me some pointers. Young Jean Lee’s work reminds me to not censor myself and embrace wacky ideas.

Monologue/solo writers such as Danny Hoch, Nilaja Sun, Alan Bennett and Dael Orlandersmith. The monologues written by Donald Margulies, included in his collection MISADVENTURE AND OTHER SHORT PIECES has been one of the biggest influences on my monologue writing. (The monologue Lola is AHMAZING!)

Poems that are really monologues written by Robert Browning and Ai (read her collection Vice). I read Browning in undergraduate college and I was immediately intrigued by the poet using a persona and writing from that character’s perspective.

The multiplicity of voices and perspectives in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the ancient Greek manual on rhetoric Progymnasmata by Theophratus, and Aristotle’s Rhetoric(read that before Poetics).

Playmobil.

Novelists and short story writers that play with text, structure, including pictures, dream maps, doodles, different fonts and font sizes: Ann Quinn, BS Johnson, Donald Barthelme, and Kathy Acker. I like to include pictures and doodles and other artwork into some of my plays. My monologue Young Veteran Adam Amerson includes a large black square and my niece’s doodle.

Overheard conversations at bus stops, coffeehouses, the park, wherever! Every week someone is delivering a monologue for more than two minutes! One time a guy was setting up his drum kit in a park while talking on and on about his girlfriend. Strangers love opening up to me, for some reason, they speak uninterrupted for a long time.

Different ways people of various backgrounds, life experiences, cultures, jobs, regions of the United States use American English. I pay attention to diction, sentence length, fragments, tone, etc. I enjoy learning slang.

3. What is your most memorable production and why?

My most memorable production was the New York City production of my monologue Barsha Badal at Shetler Studios, part of the spork Festival in February 2008, produced

by Theatre 54. It was memorable because of the professionalism of its producers and the incredible collaboration with actor Shetal Shah. It was my first professional production of a one-act monologue, and it’s one of my first monologues ever written (from 2007) and one of my favorites. It was a bare bones production — and a smashing success!

4. What is your least memorable production and why? [you can leave out specifics or names]

If you’re meaning awful production, then I wouldn’t consider it “least memorable.” Even an awful production or certain aspects of a collaboration could be memorable.

A production that I didn’t see? A world famous short play festival chose a ten-minute play. The producer/director emailed me back the Word Doc of my play with changes — text was removed from the play. He cut almost two pages of text. Text was cut to keep it at 10 minutes and the changes came AFTER sound and lighting design were plotted. I can understand suggestions for cutting for time restraints (I am totally open to that!), but to contact me at what seemed like last minute was not OK. The director didn’t want to collaborate. Even if 100s of miles are between the director and the playwright there is still an opportunity to collaborate. I should’ve spoken up, I should’ve said No to some of the changes, but I didn’t know better at the time — I just wanted my play produced at this festival.

4A. Tell us some of your thoughts regarding collaboration? 

One of my earliest experiences with a large group of artists could’ve been more intense. Maybe budget and time constraint resulted in the type of collaboration.” And then after that “Some questions that I had after the collaboration:

Some questions that I asked myself after the production:

How does a playwright collaborate with a prop designer? (That would also include the director!)

How does a playwright collaborate with a lighting designer?
…media designer?

…fight choreographer?
…the person in charge of making the trailer?
…costume designer?
…make-up designer? etc.

What is the beginning, middle, and end to these collaborations?

Where does it happen in the schedule of a production?
What questions, what kind of conversation is possible before first rehearsal?
Are these types of collaborations lacking in some theatres, in college theatre?
Are there study cases, for example, of collaboration between media designers and playwrights?

How can such intense collaborations influence new play development and production?

5. What is your funniest theatre story?

During a production of Heartbreak House by Bernard Shaw there wasn’t enough little slices of lemon poppy-seed cake. Because they were eaten. By me. I was a co-stage manager and I got the munchies. That is a long-ass play. That was the last time I stage managed a play.

6. What are your writing habits like?

I usually write something every day, sometimes a page, sometimes just a few words, sometimes after work until I go to bed.

Usually on Sunday, I wake up with an idea for a monologue or voice of a character in my head and write five to ten pages of a first draft.

I scribble down ideas for monologues on scraps of paper and fold them up and add them to a baseball cap. I select a scrap of paper from the cap and attempt to write the monologue.

I “perform” my monologues. Because for me playwriting, especially monologue writing, is a performative art — it involves the ENTIRE body — the lungs, the legs, the arms, the ass, the ears, etc. — and moving around, crawling, jumping, dancing, etc. Each draft involves me getting on my feet, inhabiting the character, attempting to become this other person in my kitchen or on my living room floor. I am not an actor, I’ve never been trained, I can’t remember many lines — so I basically read a few lines from my computer and act it out, and then move to another section. Sometimes I speak for five or ten-minutes to myself (don’t care if anyone hears me) and then after that try to write down what I remember saying.

7. What advice do you have for new playwrights?

 

Read not just plays: read comic books, philosophy, poetry, novels, short stories from different cultures and viewpoints, message boards, blogs, read from multiple sources of news.

Join New Play Exchange NOW — it will change your life!

Attend play conferences. (If you don’t have the $$$ like me right now, then get your plays read.)

Get out of your pajamas and stop eating cereal three times a day.

Be a fucking amazing human being. Introduce yourself to strangers, go to art galleries, dance until 530 am with beautiful people.

Create art that uses various facets of your personality.

If it seems like a stupid idea for a play, a silly or sick or weird idea for a play — write it! Don’t censor yourself!

8. Who are some other writers you should get more attention?

Ricardo Soltero-Brown, Rachael Carnes, Nelson Diaz-Marcano, Matthew Weaver, Jordan Elizabeth Henry, to name a few.

9. What are common themes in your work?

I generally write from the perspective of people that are marginalized, on the periphery , “othered” in some way. The underdog, those that are disillusioned. The oppressed, the bullied, the misunderstood, the fuck-ups. From their individual perspective, from their need to be heard, from their anger, their dreams and desires, I deal with many themes — the illusion of the American Dream, the difficulty of remaining hopeful, the desire for acceptance and belonging, confronting and questioning traditions/values/beliefs/status quo/history/people in power.

10. What is one thing you wished you knew now, that you didn’t know starting out?

I don’t have an answer for that.

11. Why did you decide to focus on monologues?

 

That’s a great question! The more I think about this question, the more I want to add to this. For now, here’s why I love writing monologues.

I love the challenge of entertaining an audience for one to 25 minutes with one person on stage.

I want to challenge the thought that many have that monologues are anti-theatre, not dramatic. Some may disagree with me, but I think monologues — or solo plays — are one of the most misunderstood forms of American theatre. Many theatres do not want playwrights to submit monologues, many theatres do not produce them as part of their season. I want to help change that, I want to get theatres to think differently about the monologue after reading my work, even if it takes me decades.

I love that monologues, if it’s direct address to the audience, break the fourth wall. The character/speaker of a monologue creates an intimacy, an immediate connection with the audience. Sometimes audience becomes a “stage audience” as opposed to a “theatre audience”: they are part of the world of the play, imagining themselves as a group of people or a character that the character/speaker is addressing. There’s so much in our culture that alienates us from one another, and theatre helps to create an intimacy between different kind of people, a sort of radical empathy happens — and the monologue form, I think, does it better than plays with more than one character.

I am trying to master the monologue form in a way that is an opposition of what I read in book form and see on stage. Many monologues, especially those in audition books, do not excite me. They are not active, there’s no objective, there’s no reason for the character to speak, I am left wondering after the reading, “Why is this character speaking to me?”

I disagree completely with Alan Bennett when he says in his Introduction to The Complete Talking Heads: “The more still (and even static) the speaker is the better the monologue works.” Hogwash! My monologue characters make use of the stage, they do more than just sitting. They’re dancing, jumping, crawling, throwing props. My monologues use a language that is a language of the body. If the audience understands why the character is speaking to them, then there’s no reason to have a static speaker!

I enjoy the challenge of structuring a monologue just like a play with more than one character. But I am also experimenting with structure, so I am not always adhering to Aristotelian structure.

I enjoy the challenge of writing from perspective of people who are not like me. Other playwrights have remarked about my ability to write from the perspective of practically anyone — that is one of my goals. I approach each monologue differently in respects to language.

Monologue writing gets me out of pajamas. It immerses me in my community, gets me in contact with people from different backgrounds, cultures, ages, etc. Are my monologues authentic, accurate, honest representations? To insure that, I need to collaborate with diverse actors and artists.

Monologue writing gives me an opportunity to share my frustrations, hopes, and desires, to question certain perspectives/ideologies, to deal with social issues and problems, to address what it means to be a citizen — through a character that doesn’t shut up!

12. Can you please tell us about the evolution of Barsha Badal, from idea to where it’s at now?

It is one of my earliest monologues, and one of my favorites. I recommend that as a starting point for people new to my work.

It began with an image, as do most of my monologues — a woman leaving a motel room in Tucson, AZ. The woman sighed while holding a heavy load in a laundry basket. With that image, I wrote the one-act monologue in 2007 with that woman being the motel owner in nowhere, Nebraska. Shortly after writing it was staged read by an Indian-American actor in Tucson, and then about a few months later it was professionally produced with an Indian-American actor in New York City, directed by me. With that actor’s feedback, a few tweaks were made to make it accurate. In the fall of 2007 it was read one night to some Indian theatre artists that ran a theatre company, and another night it went up in Washington DC. Over the years, staying in motels, I’ve made observations and they’ve made it into the play. Ever since my focus on submitting my first volume of monologue, SOME AMERICANS: SOME MONOLOGUES, to publishers, I’ve been revising it, tweaking it. That started shortly before Trump got in. After watching news reports about the rise in hate attacks and Neo-Nazism in the U.S., I

knew I needed to dust this monologue off and approach it from a different perspective. After watching videos of the riot in Charlottesville, VA I decided to add the part about Barsha going for a walk for coffee creamer and her encounter with some Nazi-wannabe teenagers.

13. What is the relationship between American pop culture and your writing?

Have you seen that Lady Gaga video — Poker Face — with those glasses that read POP CULTURE –? I love pop culture! It has a tremendous impact on my writing. I am not just a citizen, I am a consumer–and so are my characters. Blogs, Instagram, dating apps, comment threads, pop music, products in a superstore, trashy magazines, posts, you name it — it may influence a play. IDGAF if it’s considered low-brow or crass or trashy.

Sometimes the character determines what kind of pop culture inspires me during writing and revising. Sometimes pop culture inspires a character.

I don’t understand the criticism by theatre artists against the use of pop culture in a play. I think such a response is elitist. A few times I have been in a room with some playwrights that encouraged me to not make pop references. I have had a director try to persuade me to remove all my pop references — no M&Ms. Tony Kushner mentioned Burger King in Angels in America, hello. Some have argued that pop culture references dates the play, makes it less universal. Yes it dates the play, but it can still be universal. I let pop culture influence my plays as much as the philosophy of Kierkgaard, a novel, or a poem.

14. So many of your monologues focus on the “other” – minorities, immigrants, poor people, differently-abled, elderly, etc. How can American theatre be more open and welcoming?

Produce less Broadway or off-Broadway plays that do not speak to a variety of audiences.

Produce plays with cheaper ticket prices or Pay-What-You-Can so that people other than rich white old people can see the plays.

Making sure that at least 50 percent of your people involved in a show (that includes crew, cast and other artists) are minority. If you’re a person that donates money, demand change or stop giving the theatre money!

 

Theatres need to do the fucking work and connect with communities/peoples unlike those on the board. If you’re not producing work that mirrors a diverse America, WTF?

Maybe theatres should not be funded by grants if a certain percentage of plays are not written by a minority playwright or produced with minority artists. Maybe those interested advocating for minority voices in theatre should contact people in local government.

15. What’s a question you’d like to be asked? Go ahead and answer that question.

What are your top ten monologues on New Play Exchange that you recommend for reading and production?

Barsha Badal, Young Veteran Adam Amerson, Valerie, Don Ponzo!!!, Manny Aquino, Fawzie: A Hotel Chambermaid Monologue, Janey Smith: A Football Fan Monologue, Renata: A Post-Maternity Monologue, Sandy: A Supercenter Monologue, and Fuck Buddy.

Thanks Asher for sharing your talent and insight!!!

For our other playwrights, click here.

Here are couple links for people to keep up with him:

New Play Exchange page.

Website.

 

Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Brumbly the Elf

It’s nearly Christmas time which means that Santa will need his elves to go make stuff.

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Seriously the caption on this photo was “worried helper elf.” Perhaps she learned Santa emptied her 401k for eggnog money??? Via here.

And these elves need someone to guide them during orientation – that someone is Brunbly the Elf. And what’s an orientation elf without a speech/monologue?

The monologue is short enough to post right here:

All right, you North Pole newbies, this is your orientation. The Christmas countdown is ticking away, we don’t have much time, so prick up those pointy ears and listen up! My name is Inspector Brumbly, Elf Number 8425. I have delivered this orientation speech for over a thousand years, so if I look burnt out, it is not your imagination.

The number one rule here at Santa’s workshop is, ‘When the fat man is on the floor, look busy.’ Everything after that is easy. As you can see this is the main room where all of the magic happens. Make sure when you are working alongside the conveyor belt that you do not wear jingle-bell sleeves. Last year, Happy the Elf lost an arm. Not so happy any more.

Over here, we have the stables. Yes, the reindeer fly. But their poop falls to the ground, just like the rest of us, so you can expect to be on ‘nugget-patrol’ for the first few weeks. And if Sneaky the Elf offers you fudge from the stables, do yourself a favor and say no.

Some basic tips, common sense really. Don’t stare at Rudolph’s nose. He hates that. It’s red. Get over it. If you see a disoriented talking snowman that says ‘Happy Birthday,’ just smile and nod politely. He’s senile but harmless. Don’t listen to rumors about Mrs. Claus and the Easter Bunny, and don’t mention those rumors to Santa. And especially don’t mention to him after he’s has more than two glasses of eggnog. Trust me on this one, I know from experience.

All right, elves, that’s about it. Let’s get to work!

And without further ado, he are multiple iterations of Brumbly the Elf!!!

A

 

B

 

C

 

D

 

E

 

F

 

Which elf was most motivational???? Thanks again.

For a complete list of monologues, click here.

Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

Ada M. Skinner/Christmas in Many Lands

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Fake fireplace with Christmas decorations at a coffee shop in Jakarta. It’s currently 91’/33′ outside. I stare at the fake snowflake and ask it to marry me. And there’s this rude Afrikaner diamond dealer yelling at his staff on the phone next to me. Merry Christmas!!!

It’s that time of year, where people

worship their Death-God called Materialism

gain 10 kg in 24 hours

celebrate the birth of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ even though the Bible never says to celebrate it

pretend to be nice to their neighbors one day a year

force introverted children to pretend to be reindeer in dumb little kids’ plays at school <<<< YESSS this!

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Christmas ’86: When Everyone was Rudolph.

Coma-inducing flashbacks aside, there is a WEALTH of Christmas plays from the past to choose from. Our choice nugget of Christmas theatre past shall be Christmas in Many Lands, which, ironically enough, is the only work not credited to an author in the book Little Folks’ Christmas Stories and Plays.

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Via here.

Ada M. Skinner is the editor of this lovely tome from 1915. From the play:

Time: Christmas Eve

Place: A living room in a German cottage. A Christmas tree stands at one side. As the curtain rises, a small boy and girl in German costume are trimming the tree and singing.

Hmm…World War One seems to have had little effect on these children.

Hans and Gretchen sing:

Santa Claus to-morrow comes,
Bringing gifts in plenty;
Drums and trumpets, guns—a score,
Flags and sabers and still more,
Yes, a whole great army corps—
Would it might be plenty!
Bring us, dear old Santa Claus—
Do not pass us blindly—
Musketeer and grenadier,
Grizzly bear with panther near,
Horse and donkey, sheep and steer—
Bring us all these kindly.
Ach, so. They’re singing about war during Christmas. How appropriately German. Since Santa isn’t German, is he a POW???
Hans and Gretchen ruminate on the meaning of St. Nicholas and they want to visit kids in other countries in an airship. Hopefully not to bomb them.

Hans: I think it would be fun to have an airship and go about the world to-night and see what all the little children are doing.

Gretchen: Where would you like to go?

Hans: I’d like to fly over the sea and visit Cousin Heinrich in America.

Gretchen: I’d be afraid to fly so far. I’d go to Holland; it’s such a little way.

Hans: Oh! I’d fly up in the mountains of Switzerland.

Gretchen (thoughtfully): I think I’d rather have the children come and tell us about their Christmas. I’d be afraid in an airship.

Thank God one of them is thoughtful and realizes flying internationally in an airship in 1915 from Germany might be dangerous.

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“Donate to the Red Cross or I will eat your soul.” US Red Cross propoganda poster 1917.

Hans (eagerly): Let’s shut our eyes and wish they would come. They’ll be sure to if we wish hard on Christmas Eve. We’ll have a Christmas party!

(Both children shut their eyes and are silent. A fairy enters. She is dressed in white, spangled with gilt. She has a star on her forehead and carries a wand. She dances about the stage, singing; then stands in front of the children. Shewaves her wand over them, and they open their eyes.)

Gretchen (rising in surprise): Who are you, Fairy?

Fairy: I am the Christmas fairy, and I have come to answer your wish. I grant all the wishes that good children make on Christmas Eve.

Wait….there’s a Christmas fairy???? Does Santa know?

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Yes Virgina, there IS a Christmas fairy. She’s French and brings rifles. From here.

Hans (earnestly): Oh, dear Fairy, will children really come from America and from Switzerland and from Holland to tell us about their Christmas?

Fairy: They will come because you wished it, and from other countries as well. (She dances around the room once more, and vanishes. Hans and Gretchen run to the door and look after her. They clap their hands and dance around the room for joy.)

Hans: We’re really going to have a Christmas party! Let’s go on trimming the tree. (While they are doing this, they finish the song.)

But, indeed, you know our need,
Know our heart’s desires;
Children, father, and mamma!
You know, too, our grandpapa!
Yes, we all are waiting—ah!
Waiting, you know, tires!
Note: Holland, Switzerland and America were all still neutral in 1915. I bet if they’d ask for French or Russian kids, their Christmases would be bloodier different.

(The sound of a bell is heard and a little girl enters, ringing a Swiss bell. She is dressed in a Swiss costume.)

Swiss child: I come from the lofty mountains of Switzerland to give you greeting. (The two children run to welcome her.)

Hans: Did you come in an airship?

Swiss child: No; the Christmas fairy brought me. What a beautiful tree!

Hans: Yes; it’s our Christmas tree. Don’t you have one? Doesn’t St. Nicholas bring you presents?

Swiss child: No; the Christmas Lady comes to us. She wears a white gown and a red cap, and she carries a basket of toys on her back. But only good children get toys. She brings a switch for the bad ones, and they must keep it all the year and get whipped whenever they are naughty!

 

Hans still has his airship hang-up. But let’s look again at what the poor Swiss kid said again about the Christmas Lady:

She brings a switch for the bad ones, and they must keep it all the year and get whipped whenever they are naughty!

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The Swiss flag, stained red by the blood of naughty children.

I’m familiar with Christkind but this Dame de Noël is a new and unpleasant one.

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La Dame de Noël on left. It’s like The Tin Man and my mean 2nd grade teacher mated.

(They dance slowly around the tree, singing. While they are singing, a hard clacking of wooden shoes is heard at the door. The children stop to listen, and a little Dutch girl enters. She carries a wand with a star on the end and has a basket of sweetmeats on her arm.)

Gretchen (coming to greet her): Here is our little neighbor. I’m so glad you have come. Do the children in Holland have a Christmas Eve like ours?

Dutch child: We don’t have a pretty tree like that, and we don’t hang our stockings before the fire. Good St. Nicholas comes to visit us in the evening. He brings toys for the good children and a big birch rod for the naughty ones.

Those italics were in the original.

[insert joke about St. Nicholas’ “big birch rod” here].

So Swiss and Dutch Christmases involve the prospect of child abuse. That explains alot.

The kids all talk about what sort of animal their respective abusers versions of Santa ride. Sleipner is the Dutch one…but…but…

The eight reindeer in the American version of Christmas lies comes from Sleipner, who was a horse/reindeer thing with EIGHT DAMN LEGS.

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Sleipner, apparently.

The poet Clement C. Moore (probably) replaced Sleipner with eight reindeer. Probably because an eight-legged horse is more terrifying than all the big birch rods in the world.

A child runs in, dressed in Russian coat and furs. She is glistening with snow.)

Russian child: Oh! Your fire looks warm and bright! Christmas is cold, indeed, on the snowy plains of Russia. I am sorry for poor Babouscka to-night.

Gretchen: Come up to the fire and get warm, and tell us who Babouscka is. (All seat themselves around the fire.)

Russian child: Babouscka! Don’t you know about her? On Christmas Eve every little Russian child expects a visit from a little old woman called Babouscka. Long, long ago, on Christmas Eve, Babouscka was sweeping her house when Three Wise Men came to the door and asked her to go with them to bear gifts to a little child. She said she would go when she had finished sweeping, but they said, “We may not wait. We follow a star.” So they went their way. Afterwards Babouscka was sorry she hadn’t gone with them. So she started out alone to find the child, and ever since, on Christmas Eve, she wanders about to every house where there are children, seeking the wonderful child the Wise Men talked about. But always, when she asks for the child, the answer is the same, “Farther on! Farther on!”

Gretchen: Poor Babouscka! I hope she will find the child sometime. Let’s go on with the song. Perhaps some one else will come. (They continue singing.

Now I think we’ve veered into elder abuse….and that Russian is rather chill despite the World War.

A French child enters.)

Hans: Oh! Here comes a little maid of France! I know her by her pretty cap. Come, tell us what you do on Christmas Eve, and who brings your gifts.

French child: Christmas is a holy time with us. The Christ Child himself brings the gifts. We call him Le Petit Noël.

Hans: Do you hang up your stocking for him to fill?

French child: No; we put our shoes by the hearth at night and Le Petit Noël comes down the chimney and fills them.

Finally, a more normative Christmas. Again, French kid is chill despite a World War. Then the English kid pops up.

An English child enters.)

English child: A Merrie Christmas from Merrie England!

Hans: Oh! another guest! How lovely of you to come to our party. Do you have Christmas Eve parties at home?

English child: Oh, yes; Christmas Eve is the merriest night of the year with us.

Hans: Tell us all about it. (The children seat themselves about the hearth, the English child in the center.)

English child: Early in the morning we go to the woods and gather evergreens. Then we trim all the rooms with holly, mistletoe, box, and bay; in the evening we light the great yule log.

Gretchen: What’s the yule log?

Wait, wasn’t the band who did “Firestarter” English???

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I imagine the English kid looks like an amalgamation of these guys. Cute Yank shirt there.

English child: Well, it’s a big log that we always burn in the fireplace on Christmas Eve. All the family meet together on Christmas Eve, and we have a beautiful tree like yours. Every one gives a present to every one else, and we sing and tell stories and have a happy time. Then early on Christmas morning the waits come round and waken us, singing Christmas carols. At dinner we have a great big plum pudding, and mother puts brandy on it and sets fire to the brandy, and it makes a pretty blue flame.

Ah, well, if mummy is lighting the pudding on fire, it’s all good I suppose.

The English child explains what “waits” and caroling are. Then the Swedish youngster appears.

As they finish the carol, a Swedish child enters.)

Swedish child: What a beautiful Christmas party! I’m so glad the Christmas fairy brought me.

Hans: Oh, are you another little maid from France?

Swedish child: Oh, no; I come from the frozen north—from Sweden.

Then the Swedish child explains who brings them presents:

Swedish child: Oh, yes; the Christmas gnomes do that! They are a little old man and a little old woman who come to every home in Sweden, bringing gifts for all in the house. The old man carries a bell and the old woman a large basket filled with gifts. In Sweden every one is remembered on Christmas Day, and a sheaf of grain is fastened to a pole at each house so that not even the birds are forgotten.

Aww. That’s so thoughtful – even birds aren’t forgotten.

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These actually seem like something children would love more than fear.

Gretchen: Hark—some one is singing! (They all listen. Irish child sings behind the screen.)

At Christmas time in Ireland
There is feasting, there is song,
And merrily the fife and fiddle play;
And lightly dance the colleens,
And the boys, the evening long,
At Christmas time in Ireland far away!
(Irish child enters, singing.)
Oh, there’s nothing half so sweet
In any land on earth
As Christmas time in Ireland far away!

Hans: Christmas time in Ireland!

Irish child: Yes, Christmas Day is a dayof feasting and merriment. Where did you get that pretty tree?

Hans: It’s our Christmas tree. Don’t you have one?

Irish child: No; I never saw one before.

Hans: Doesn’t St. Nicholas come to you? Don’t you get presents?

Irish child (shaking her head thoughtfully): No.

Haha! Sucks to be Irish..

Irish child: No; we don’t get gifts at home. We give them to the poor.

Oh, never mind, then.

The children then explain what a Christmas tree is to the Irish girl, who has a hard time comprehending anything besides a Yule log. Then they ask her to finish her song. Then…

(Just as she finishes the song, the American child runs in. They all rise to greet her.)

American child: I’m late because I had so far to come. The fairy carried me high over the seas from America.

Hans: America! I’m so glad you have come! I wondered what the American children were doing to-night.

American child (looking around): Why, I think you must do just what we do on Christmas Eve. You have a tree—you put evergreens around—and you hang your stockings up for Santa Claus to fill.

Hans: Santa Claus? St. Nicholas comes to us.

Gretchen: He’s the same, Hans, only they call him a little different.

Dutch child: Does he come on his horse?

American child: No, he is drawn in a sleigh with eight reindeer. He comes down the chimney and fills our stockings with toys and candy, when we are asleep.

Dutch child: Doesn’t he bring a switch for the bad ones?

American child: Oh, no; Santa Claus never leaves anything but toys.

Dutch child: I wish he wouldn’t bring it when he comes to us!

Poor Dutch kid gets beaten. Only a wholesome All-American Christmas can defeat the nefarious foreign traditions.

Gretchen runs to the window and looks out.) Oh, here are the village children! They have come to our Christmas party. (The village children run in. All greet each other and join in singing.)

This tree was grown on Christmas Day.
Hail, old Father Christmas!
Old and young together say,
Hail, old Father Christmas!
Bright the colored tapers shine;
Hail, old Father Christmas!
Bright to-day the love divine.
Hail, old Father Christmas!
Bright and light our Christmas tree,
Hail, old Father Christmas!
Bright and light our hearts must be.
Hail, old Father Christmas!
Dance, then, children, dance and sing,
Hail, old Father Christmas!
All the merry chorus ring.
Hail, old Father Christmas!

 

And there you have it, a 1915 exploration of Christmas traditions in Europe and America.

proof that American Christmas is superior to any dirty foreign Christmas full of pyromania and child abuse.

And in that vein, here’s one rockin’ Christmas album:

For more of Skinner’s work, there are links:

Archive.org

Even more.

If you got 500 bucks laying around.

Join us on Monday for another monologue and next Thursday for a living (and talented playwright).

Here’s a list of all our playwrights.

Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Rumor in Henry IV, part 2 (Shakespeare)

 

Howdy. Yeah, I know, Henry IV having two parts is already kinda dumb since he is the fourth to begin with. BUT on my quest for unisex monologues, Shakespeare has a couple.

For those of you aren’t too familiar with Henry IV, part 2, it follows Richard II and Henry IV, part 1 in Shakespeare’s history plays series. It precedes (naturally) Henry V.

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Shakespeare’s most boar-ing play. Har, har, har. Actually this looks pretty badass.

Basically Henry IV, part 1 deals with finishing off a revolt against the king (Henry IV). The comic character of John Falstaff returns and so does Prince Hal, trying to win Dad’s approval.

One interesting thing to note is that, according to the Wiki gods:

Part 2 is generally seen as a less successful play than Part 1. Its structure, in which Falstaff and Hal barely meet, can be criticised as undramatic. Some critics believe that Shakespeare never intended to write a sequel, and that he was hampered by a lack of remaining historical material with the result that the comic scenes come across as mere “filler”. However, the scenes involving Falstaff and Justice Shallow are admired for their touching elegiac comedy, and the scene of Falstaff’s rejection can be extremely powerful onstage.

There is an argument that perhsps Hal wasn’t even the main character originally, but that interpretations since around 1800 have favored him over Ye Olde Falstaff.

But we’re here for that awesome unisex monologue of Rumor, who, according to Shmoop:

In the play’s “Induction” (prologue) a figure wearing a robe “painted full of tongues” steps onto the stage. This figure is not a human character – it’s a personification of rumor or, hearsay – the kinds of stories that are circulated without any confirmation or certainty. In other words, Shakespeare takes an abstract concept, rumor, and gives it human characteristics.

For a fine copy of this prologue/monologue, check out Sparknotes.

Now, let’s see this character in action, though not all actors are wearing a robe covered in tongues…

A

 

B

 

C

 

D

 

E

 

Who brought it???

For more Shakespeare monologues, there’s  The Two Noble Kinsmen and Titus Andronicus along with Cymbeline.

For ALL monologues on this site, click here.

Join us on Thursday when we discover an interesting American playwright from the 1910s…and next Monday, when we make the monologues happen again.

Cheers!!!

Current Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Stacey A. Bryan

This week’s playwright became a playwright while standing in line for the bathroom [seriously, check her interview] and her plays reflect that same slice-of-life milieu. Stacey A. Bryan hails from the US Virgin Islands, lives in the US Virgin Islands, loves the US Virgin Islands and writes stellar plays about the US Virgin Islands.

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Since the setting for one of the plays is St. Thomas, St. Croix bribed asked me to put some propoganda photos in. This is East Hill. Photo: Mariah Minigan.

Did I mention the US Virgin Islands? For those who don’t know, the Virgin Islands are a US territory of a little over 100,000 people. As such, Virgin Islanders are American citizens but aren’t allowed to vote in presidential elections and their lone representative can’t vote in Congress. This is pretty much the opposite of democracy.

The islands tend to be portrayed like this:

Percent of US Virgin Islanders of African descent: 76%. Percent of US Virgin Islanders of African descent in this video: 0%, making it whiter than Whitetopia. Just saying.

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After that St. Thomas video, here are some winsome potted plants on St. Croix. Photo: Mariah Minigan.

That video forgets to mention that the Virgin Islands have the highest homicide rate in the US. Which could be expected since they were exploited by Denmark, who planted a lot of sugar cane and brought in a lot of slaves to work it.

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Lack of democracy and a sky-high homicide rate are a small price to pay for an awesome flag, wielded by choreographer and native Virgin Islander Lynn E. Frederiksen, who happens to be the wife of playwright estraordinaire John Minigan.

One of my favorite parts of the islands’ history is when the slaves rebelled and totally took over the island of St. John in 1733, dramatized below:

Denmark sold the islands to the US in 1917 for $25 million in gold ($531 million or so in 2018 dollars). And with that eventually came tourist exploitation!

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St. Croix begging to be exploited. East Hill looking towards Buck Island. Photo: Mariah Minigan.

Despite Denmark ruling forever, the Danish language never caught on. English and Dutch-based creoles emerged. More on this later.

You may also remember that recently the Virgin Islands got trashed by a hurricane.

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A hurricane did this.

After said hurricane our Glorious Leader Cheeto-in-chief president claimed to have met “the president of the Virgin Islands”

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Via here. I like Ester.

 

However, we’re here for theatre! Particularly the Stacey A. Bryan variety.

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Stacey A. Bryan, spinning tales straight from the islands.

Bone is for Dog, Meat is for Man follows Layla Joseph, a single mom in her early thirties who must navigate raising an eight year old daughter, her daughter’s father marrying another woman, her paralegal job, her useless mother, her current boyfriend and her future boyfriend. AKA she must navigate the world and her place in it. Her grandmother is close with her and they help each other.

All of this takes place on the island of St. Thomas, adding the island’s unique local color to the play’s milieu.

The final twist is is that Layla is haunted by the spectre of Lalique, her more conventionally attractive alter-ego, Lalique. Did we mention that Layla is (according to the play) “chubby” and “voluptuous” ? Lalique is “beautiful, fit and provocative.” Personality-wise, Lalique is an alpha bitch who belittles Layla every chance she gets, especially about her body and about something from Layla’s past. Fortunately, Lalique lives in the mirror, because apparently Hell is full.

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Pictured: Not Hell. Chenay Bay, St. Croix. Photo: Mariah Minigan.

What could easily be a melodrama avoids that by incorporating location and Layla’s inner demons. As the author states in the intro, the daughter’s future is at stake:

“Although Layla is a wonderful mother, she is completely unaware of how Layla’s insecurities and anxieties about her appearance negatively impacts Tory’s growth to womanhood.”

So really, this plays out as a slice-of-life drama and a unique and well-written one at that.

The first strength that stands out is the characterization. Every character is full of life, as evidenced by the author’s descriptions.

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Let’s see how this description bears out in the text…

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Did I say Lalique was the Alpha Bitch? Mom could qualify, too. And that’s no coincidence.

This makes me so much more thankful for my mom, who never threatened to make me swallow my teeth. And these are supposedly two adults…but more like one and 2/7ths.

And then there’s Granny…Layla tries to make her go to the hospital.

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Spoiler alert: Jocelyn wasn’t actually worried.

Sorry that Ice Queen of the Virgin Islands showed up just now. She speaks “coldly” because that’s the only way she knows how.

Perhaps you noticed Granny’s dialect aka Virgin Islands Creole. Called “dialect” on the islands, it is a full-fledged language of its own and supplanted the Dutch-based Negerhollands as early as the first part of the 19th century.

There aren’t a whole lot of videos on Youtube about this unique language, but this video helps give a feel for it…

 

 

 

Again, using dialect adds to the honesty of the writing, much like Chestnutt’s use of it. However, condescending, perjorative or inaccurate/dishonest use of dialect is frowned upon. A good study of this is here.

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The old Customs House on St. Croix. Photo: Colin Minigan.

But back to characterization — if that’s how Layla’s own mom treats her, then how about that alter ego?

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So Lalique is really, really, really mean. But since she’s a figment of Layla’s mind, Layla is actually quite self-loathing. And this is one reason the writing is so honest – this is how some people feel about themselves at times.

There is a bit of a reveal at the end which I won’t reveal, but it makes sense and is worth a read.

One final thing I’d like to mention is that Bryan does little touches here and there that set off the play from the pack – the use of bold and/or color in the character names, for example. Also, each scene has a neat little heading, like chapters.

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Come see Government House on St. Croix. Photo: Mariah Minigan.

To conclude, Stacey A. Bryan’s play Bone is for Dog; Meat is for Man is recommendable on several fronts.

  1. Strong characters.
  2. Unique “local color”
  3. Good spin of using a character’s own demons and personifying said demons.
  4. Honest writing.

All of these elements elevate the script, which not surprisingly, headlined a local play festival.

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Ad for the show. Note that Bryan’s previous play is highlighted. We’ll talk about that one, too.

And now for Bryan’s second play Sad Mangoes.

This play was produced before Bone is for Dog and though it trods similar territory, it has much to recommend in its own right.

The plot has adult Josephine still feeling guilty over her mother’s death when she was a child (something that wasn’t her fault). Through the course of the play we see Josephine’s struggle to move past this traumatic event and effects it has on her relationships. The reference to mangoes is because mother and daughter loved mangoes together but since her death Josephine abhors mangoes. The mother is seen in flashback.

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Cool poster.

We can’t list everything it has to recommend it, but:

  1. Characterization.

The Granny character in this play could easily double as the same in the other play [after interviewing the playwright, this is indeed the case]. This is how a friend (Jasmine) of the main character describes Granny:

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Yep, just hanging out, talking about dudes who blog about unknown playwrights Granny. Pistarckle Theater.

And here is the Granny we meet in the play interacting with the young Josephine:

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This also shows what kind of person Josephine is, perhaps someone too kind for her own good.

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Granny does indeed seem to be the bestest grandmother ever. Via Pistarckle Theater.

2. Local color

You’ll note the dialogue involves dialect again (YAY!). This play also has a strong local flavor.

3. Family

Both plays really emphasize family, so this would appeal to someone who wanted to see that universal story of family dynamics play out in a unique setting and a fresher perspective.

The flashbacks to Josephine’s childhood are touching, like this bit where Mommy tells her daughter what really makes Granny tick.

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“Do I frighten you?” Via here.

It’s that revelation when a child learns that a parent/grandparent/adult is actually human and not some superhero.

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The mangoes don’t seem THAT sad. Via Pistarckle Theater.

Now, let’s read an entire scene from the play – bear with me, this explains a lot. Mommy was “Ann” to her own mother AKA “Granny.” There are a few levels here, but it works. Julia is Josephine’s sister.

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The innate theatricality and possibilities of the above scene just blow me away. Here we have it all, pretty much…that family dynamic – remembering the past, twice – Josephine is remembering Mommy’s passing, but Mommy is also reverting to Ann. it’s all so intense and wonderful. And that’s pretty much this play in a microcosm.

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A moment of drama. Pistarckle Theater.
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Dad seems alright. Pistarckle Theater.

And I’m just gonna throw this in here:

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OH SNAP!!!

Besides being hilariously insulting, I love how the actual font gets bigger the closer we are to the punchline.

But is Granny’s assessment of Josephine’s man/thing rooted in reality???

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Waiting for the other shoe to…
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…waiting… [note reference to obeah – we need more obeah-based plays]
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“Speaking of Warren, has he banged half the island yet?”

EVERYBODY KNOWS But it could just be hearsay, right????

We have video evidence, too.

At least Warren is good for something. One more scene…

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DROPPED. Warren: if a bag of dicks came to life.

 

Oh, do you see that Evan feller?? Let’s see what he’s about.

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Seems legit.

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Rough life, EvanPistarckle Theater.

I bet, I bet, I bet —- Jospehine will totally realize Evan is the right dude for her and Warren is a DOG.

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YESSSS.

So Evan and Josephine end up going out – Evan coincidentally offers Josephine mangoes, which she can now eat because….

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The ghost of Josephine’s past is finally free – and so is Josephine.  And free of that Warren dude.

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Happy times. Pistarckle Theater.

While these circumstances are quite common in our media/literature/pop culture (women dealing with wretched boyfriends, the unrecognized good guy, etc) what differentiates Bryan’s work is the setting, actual manifestation of Josephine’s past and letting go. It’s a pretty smooth tale from the Caribbean.

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Pistarckle Theater.

Neither play has been produced outside the US Virgin Islands. Let’s try to change that.

By the way, Pistarckle Theater (which produced the play) was recently featured in American Theatre magazine for their hurricane help.

Stacey kindly answered a few questions about herself and her work.

1. How did you start playwriting?  


I kind of stumbled into it.  It actually happened when I was standing in line for the bathroom at a restaurant. Some very unusual things have happened to me in these lines that I actually wrote a short story about my exploits of standing in line for the bathroom.  I noticed a flyer on the wall looking for submissions to a playwright festival.  I always enjoyed the theater; but, never thought of storytelling in that format.  I had many stories and at the time I thought it would be “easy” to convert my favorite story, Sad Mangoes into a play.  Au contraire.  I quickly found out that writing a story (novel) and a play is so very different.  Writing gives you the freedom to inform your reader exactly what you want them to know in the way you want them to receive it.  Playwriting affords you very little time and words to do the same thing.  There is also a level of trust in playwriting, trust in your director to take your play in the intended direction, trust in the actors to portray your beloved characters and trust your audience to “get it”.  I am by nature very secretive about things I care about and this process put me in a very uncomfortable place; but, it caused me to grow in ways I didn’t expect.

2. What are your influences?

My influences would be my grandmother and great grandmother’s art of oral storytelling.  They had such a great memory for details and they had “to get the story right.”  Many of their stories were real-life situations told with a twinkle in their eyes, respect for the situation and the habit of always giving their own opinion of what happened.

3. What is your most memorable production and why?  

I would have to say Sad Mangoes, as it was truly the only one fully produced.  I guess what made it memorable was the reception I received.  Having a full theater every night roaring in laughter at the right (and sometimes wrong) parts, the deafening silence of the tragic scene, and the enthusiastic applause that seemed to go on for eternity still stays with me.  I guess I didn’t expect it, I couldn’t believe that the accolades I was receiving were for me, just me.

4. What is your least memorable production and why?  

I don’t have a least memorable production; but, I do have a regret I was not able to be part of the Playwright Festival for my Bone is for Dog; Meat is for Man submission.  I had a broken foot and my daughter was very ill that night for the performances.

5. What’s your funniest theatre story?   

During one rehearsal for Sad Mangoes, I tried interjecting my opinion and was quickly dismissed by the director. Ok, I was yelled at by the director.  I slunk down in my chair; but, the beautiful, talented actress of Young Josephine, stood up and pointed at the director and told him she couldn’t believe he would talk to the writer of this play like that! We calmed her down; but, I was secretly vindicated.  Fast forward to a radio interview with some of the cast, the interviewer asked the Young Josephine if there was anything special she wanted to say, and wouldn’t you know it?  She gave everyone ON AIR the rundown of how the director blasted the wonderful playwright and she couldn’t believe it etc.  This time, I almost passed out in my chair.  The director is actually pretty remarkable and amazing.  He got my play to where it needed to be and I am grateful.

6. What are your writing habits like?    

Habits?  Oh gosh, I am all over the place.  I write a lot of random things down on pieces of paper.  I also type weird things in Notes on my iPhone and then struggle to remember what it means.  When I do sit down to write, I write.  I mean my legs are sleeping, my neck hurts and I keep going because I need to finish this feeling.  It is a very cathartic process for me and having used balls of paper towel next to the computer is very normal for me.  I am the person I am writing about, I actually hate the bad guy and I celebrate my character’s victories.  I have actually almost hit the back of a car while driving because I was so involved in my mind about the life of one of my characters.

7. What advice do you have for new playwrights?  

I guess I would tell new playwrights to let go.  My issue has always been letting my story go; but, I forget that the audience is receiving something too.  After the play one night, this woman came up to me and asked if I knew her. I said I didn’t think so and she said that my play was her life and something in her soul was released when she saw it.  I didn’t ask her any questions, but we had a moment and we understood each other.  Sometimes it’s hard to let the world in and be vulnerable. I would suggest to just go for it.

8. Who are some other writers you feel should get more attention? 

Definitely, women and minority writers should get more attention. Their perspective is so valuable because it redefines and represents for a community the same experiences everyone has from a very different viewpoint. Also, there is a whole, delicious and entertaining world in the Caribbean and wonderful tales to be told.

9. What are common themes in your work?  

A common theme in my work would be the love of the underdog.  I love that my characters are flawed and messy.  I like the comedy and drama you can take away from simple conversations.  I like ordinary people with extraordinary experiences.

10. What is one thing you wished you knew now, that you didn’t know starting out? 

One of the things I wished I knew was that as much as I was grateful to be chosen, how much I was in awe of production including the director, as much as I knew my body of work was not perfect, I Deserved to Be There.  I let my gratitude diminish my voice.  This is my work, it belongs to me and it’s alright to defend it.

11. How autobiographical are Bone is for Dog and Sad Mangoes?

I would say that Sad Mangoes is a little more autobiographical than Bone is for Dog; Meat is for Man.  Both protagonists, Josephine and Layla are me in some regard.  Sad Mangoes was the story loosely based on my life.  I wanted to give homage to the women in my life that meant so much to me and it was important that the story was told right.  Definitely, there are true life parts in both plays and the Granny character’s personality, speech and intonation is 100% my own grandmother.

12. Granny is a pretty cool character in both plays. Is she the same character in both?

Yes, she is.  She was the audience’s favorite and the actor that played her was spot on phenomenal. The Granny in these plays is the epitome of Caribbean child rearing. Strong, unyielding, hardworking, relentless, yet your biggest protector and motivator.  I have a list of “Grannyisms” that I carry around and I think you would really have to have some Caribbean experience to truly understand them.  One of my grandmother’s favorite things to say was, “he/she thinks she so smart. He/she is so smart dey backward.”  That would mean that an educated, “smart” person in all other regards would be considered smart; but, in real life experiences, things that matter, their education or intelligence is a hindrance that causes them to make poor choices or decisions.  My grandmother passed away this year in July and I cannot begin to explain how much I miss her.

13.  How do you determine when to use dialect in your plays?

I use dialect in my plays when it is appropriate for the character.  In my first play, I wrote the play almost entirely in dialect and the actors had difficulty reading it, especially Granny.  Everyone that was local was speaking without the dialect even though the script called for it.  I went back and wrote everything in regular English and then strangely everyone started speaking in the dialect correctly. I guess for me dialect represents more than the words, it actually portrays a sentiment along with communication.

14.  How’s the US Virgin Islands theatre scene?

We do have a very limited theatre scene; but, we do have is outstanding.  In the US Virgin Islands, we have Pistarckle Theater, Little Theater at the University of the Virgin Islands in St. Thomas and Caribbean Community Theatre in St. Croix.  There are traveling theater groups that perform in various locations such as the Reichold Center of the Arts.  People enjoy great acts of work just like anywhere else and for small communities, it is difficult to make everyone happy and schedule performances that do not clash with other local events.

15.  What’s a question you’d like to be asked? Go ahead and answer that question. 

Question:  Do I think that Caribbean plays have a place in the domestic United States theatre scene?

Answer:  Yes, I do.  People from the islands such as Dominica, Haiti, St. Lucia, Jamaica, etc. have moved to the continental U.S in great numbers and they enjoy and appreciate seeing a touch of their homelands.  They are very giving audiences and they come out to support their culture.  Also, I believe its very important that people of all walks of life get an opportunity to experience new cultures, new expressions of art and literature.  We are not the center of the universe and its good to travel to other planets!

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Government House in Christiansted, St. Croix. Photo: Mariah Minigan.

Here’s a list of our other playwrights.

Link Time!!!

Stacey’s New Play Exchange page.

Review

Bone is for Dog; Meat is for Man

Bunch of photos on FB.

Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Mabel Chiltern from An Ideal Husband (Wilde)

Howdy everyone!!! Welcome back to Monologue Monday, where we raid Youtube for all those awesome monologue videos!!!

This week is Mabel Chiltern from An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde. For those of you unfamiliar  with the character and the play — the plot gets complicated but the message is simple, as Stageagent.com explains:

“At a distinguished dinner party in Grosvenor Square, London, we meet Sir Robert Chiltern, a wealthy member of the House of Commons; his wife, Lady Chiltern; his sister, Mabel Chiltern; and Sir Robert’s charming bachelor friend, Lord Arthur Goring. Suddenly, an unexpected — and unwelcome — guest arrives. Mrs. Cheveley is an old enemy of Lady Chiltern’s from their school days, Lord Goring’s ex-fiancee, and is on a mission to blackmail Sir Robert into supporting a fraudulent scheme to build a canal in Argentina. When she threatens to tell his beloved Lady Chiltern– and the world– that Sir Robert’s money came from an illegal stock secret, Sir Robert feels he has no choice but to give in to her demands When Sir Robert changes his stance on the canal, Lady Chiltern questions his decision, urging him to stay true to his morals. As Sir Robert flips back and forth between following his heart and protecting his reputation, Lady Cheveley tries to win back the affection of her ex-fiancee, Lord Goring. Deceit and lies weave themselves throughout as Wilde pulls the curtain on the hypocrisy of moralistic Victorian society. With wit and gaiety, Wilde paints a scathing critique of gossips, income gaps, sexist attitudes, and the perils of protecting one’s morals.”

OR if you wanna hear a student RAP the plot summary, that’s here. He says he got 92% on it.

The main idea seems to be that everyone has a past and we shouldn’t judge too harshly.

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Poster from a 2012 Utah production.

Meanwhile, the supporting character of Mabel Chiltern is described by Litcharts as:

“Sir Robert Chiltern’s sister, a lovely, funny young woman. Mabel takes frivolousness as seriously as Lord Goring. She is the only person in the play who can truly match wits with him, and their inscrutable, delightful wordplay is the form cast by their romance. Mabel and Lord Goring get engaged near the end of the play.”

She seems to be a popular monologue subject.

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See??

So, on with the show and our very brave actors!!! [EDIT: I think we’re gonna hit A-Z on this one, toooooooo!!!!]

A

 

B

 

C

 

D

 

E

 

F

 

G

 

H

 

I

 

J

 

K

 

L

 

M

 

N

 

O

 

P

 

Q

 

R

 

S

 

T

 

U

 

V

 

W

 

X

 

Y

 

Z

 

Join us again Thursday when we profile an up-and-coming playwright with a unique voice AND join us next Monday for more monologues!!!

For a complete listing of monologues, click here.

Ciao.

Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

Alice Dunbar-Nelson

  If I had known
Two years ago how drear this life should be,
And crowd upon itself all strangely sad,
Mayhap another song would burst from out my lips,
Overflowing with the happiness of future hopes;
Mayhap another throb than that of joy.
Have stirred my soul into its inmost depths,
           If I had known.

  If I had known,
Two years ago the impotence of love,
The vainness of a kiss, how barren a caress,
Mayhap my soul to higher things have soarn,
Nor clung to earthly loves and tender dreams,
But ever up aloft into the blue empyrean,
And there to master all the world of mind,
            If I had known.

If I Had Known” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson, published at age 20.

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Our poet, playwright, novelist, short story writer, journalist, teacher, activist and hero. Via here.

This week’s subject is quite renowned. Many studies of her life have been done and are readily available online.

The purpose of this blog is to highlight unknown playwrights and we’ll look at Mrs. Dunbar-Nelson as a playwright but also in regards to her other work as it seems fit.

She was born Alice Ruth Moore in 1875 in New Orleans. Her mother was a seamstress and former slave and her father was a white sailor. She grew up in the Creole culture of New Orleans.

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Because a license plate totally makes up for generations of discrimination. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Moore was able to graduate college in an era when almost no Americans even attended college:

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College graduation rates. Note the close proximity to “zero” in 1900. Dunbar-Nelson graduated from college in 1892 at the age of 16!!!
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People of African descent were pretty close to zero college graduation rate in 1900. Dunbar-Nelson beat the odds into a bloody mangled pulp.

For the record, she graduated from the HBCU Straight University (now part of Dillard University).

She published her first book at age 20. At this time, she moved to New York City where she helped found and worked at the White Rose Mission. From Wikipedia:

“Founded to offer shelter and food to destitute migrants,The White Rose Mission also offered job placement for the new arrivals. As African American workers were relegated to jobs as unskilled laborers, conditions and opportunities for African American female workers in New York City were deplorable. The aim of the employment placement service of the White Rose Mission was to furnish skilled, circumspect domestic workers to middle-class homes. The Mission also offered instruction in aspects of housekeeping, such as: cooking, sewing, expert waiting and laundering. Additionally The Mission provided a clean parlor where women who were dues-paying members could entertain callers.

The White Rose Mission evolved to provide social services unavailable to African Americans in New York City such as enrichment classes, child-rearing instructions and a Penny Provident Bank thrift program. The White Rose Mission also maintained a library of works relevant to the history and accomplishments of African and African American people.”

The mission’s library even included a 1773 edition of Phyllis Wheatley‘s poems. I like to think maybe Dunbar-Nelson made that happen.

By the late 1890s, her poems and stories were being regularly published in America, where they caught the interest of famed poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar. Supposedly he fell in love with her at first poem/photo. They corresponded for two years before finally meeting at which point he proposed to her.

This marriage has been called “tragic” “troubled” – I’ll call a loser a loser. Paul Lawrence Dunbar was a psychopathic rapist and wife beater.

According to the brilliant book about their marriage by Eleanor Alexander ,  Dunbar raped his future wife before the marriage and her physical recovery from that rape took several months. His treatment of her (not surprisingly) remained the same throughout the marriage when he was actually home. He’d leave her home alone for months at a time while he went on recitation tours. The marriage effectively ended when “he beat Alice within an inch of her life.”

In Alice’s own words:

“He came home one night in a beastly condition. I went to him to help him to bed—and he behaved . . . disgracefully. He left that night, and I was ill for weeks with peritonitis brought on by his kicks.”

She never returned to him and only communicated once when she replied “No” to one of many, many letters he sent her begging forgiveness, etc.

Now we must take a time out for a bit.

If you’re in an abusive relationship or even just have questions, please use this site in the US.

In Canada, you can reach out here. And in the UK, here. We love Unknown Playwrghts and despise domestic violence.

In fact, I propose we rename all those high schools named after Paul.  Let’s rename them after his wife…

Though Dunbar-Nelson is chiefly remembered for her exquisite poetry, short stories and journalism, she did write at least three plays.

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“A magazine of cleverness?” More like “You can line the litter box with its smugness.”

The play is so short, you can read it in two pages.

 

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Mrs. Paul Laurence Dunbar.” She certainly earned that title. Via here.

So the humor is lame corny gentle. I could totally see a modern artistic director rejecting this play for having too many characters in such a short amount of time as well as “We don’t do period pieces.” Then, when being told it’s by the famous Alice Dunbar-Nelson, having a theatregasm and producing it with an era-appropiriate atlas and a prologue explaining the Boer War. Sigh.

It’s doubtful this was ever performed. It seems to be a closet comedy. The magazine, The Smart Set, was on its way to becoming a big deal. It would go on to publish Joyce, Conrad, Yeats, Pound, Strindberg and Fitzgerald.  That Dunbar-Nelson could publish a piece in a magazine targeted at New York City’s elite shows her immense ability.

Between this and her next play, she taught high school, wrote a bunch of short stories and poems which made her relatively famous and she left Dunbar, secretly married Henry Arthur Callis, a prominent doctor and one of the founders of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity , divorced him and married Robert J. Nelson. And had a few girlfriends.

Among the women Dunbar-Nelson would have relationships with in her life were Edwina B. Kruse, the principal of the high school where she taught, artist Helene London and journalist/activist Fay Jackson Robinson.

Despite her journalism being geared towards black readers, her fiction and poetry largely avoided discussion of race. As the great Gloria T. Hull puts it:

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Please buy/read the entire book here.

I’m pretty sure explicitly racial content in her fiction and poetry would’ve hampered her publication chances for a larger (i.e. white) audience.

This changed around the time of her last marriage where she began to explicitly write about race quite often.

One interesting work she composed was An Hawaiian Idyll, a full-length operetta. This script was never published, but two documents related to it are in her papers at the University of Delaware.

The plot is loosely inspired by the sad fate of Hawaiian Princess Ka’iulani

For those of you not familiar with her story, it’s tied up with Hawaii’s story, namely the monarchy was overthrown by a missionary kid and annexed by the Americans. Then the princess died, of rheumatism.

In the play, the plot is similar, but the setting has been re-imagined to serve Dunbar-Nelson’s purpose: as an allegory for “Africans’ loss of culture and identity in the Americas.”

In the play, “Kaiulani” is sent abraod to be educated, ends up in San Francisco where she learns her mom has been overthrown and rushes home to save the day where she restores Hawaiian sovereignty and the monarchy. None of that happened. Some interesting postmodern alternate history there.

As far as we know, the play was performed only once, at the high school where the author taught. The play would’ve been performed by an all-African American cast.

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Brief snippet via The Crisis. February 1917.The “native instruments” were directed by Conwell Banton who had his own career of awesomeness.

Here is an interesting analysis of what little is known of the operetta.

And thus we move on to 1918 and The Crisis, the magazine put out by the NAACP. Shortly before this this time editor W.E.B. Du Bois was taking the magazine in a radical (for then) direction, even publishing a photo of the lynching of Jesse Washington. WARNING: the Wiki article has some graphic photos. He also opposed African Americans supporting the war effort against Germany, though he may have had personal reasons for doing so….

“Du Bois was so taken with some aspects of German social behavior that he retained certain habits from his student days in Berlin for the rest of his life. Prussian social customs gave him, or at least reinforced in him, a certain distinguished bearing or carriage, an apparent aloofness not uncommon among shy people. This trait, augmented by a clipped manner of speech Du Bois acquired in Germany, was often misunderstood as reserve, distance, even haughtiness, and was to characterize Du Bois for the rest of his life. In his physical appearance Du Bois, described later in life as a mandarin, was just following the fashion set by the Kaiser in his style of trimming his hair and beard, as well as his habitual use of a cane and gloves.”

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Exhibit A: Kaiser Wilhelm II with goofy moustache and eagle taking a dump on his head.

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Exhibit B: W.E.B. Du Bois with goofy moustache, but no eagle plus a goatee.

So the US government used the Espionage Act to lean on the paper and Du Bois promised to self-censor, which resulted in the magazine actually supporting the war against Germany.

And that is where Dunbar-Nelson’s play  fits into the puzzle of WWI propoganda. She wrote a play with a purpose and that purpose was to encourage African Americans to totally support America fighting a European war.

The plot is pretty straightforward. A family who lost their father in a lynching and now live in the north have a debate when one of the boy’s is drafted. Various ethnic neighbors chime in and an outside social worker also gives her two cents. It’s interesting and definitely a relic of it’s era. This isn’t the first time this blog has profiled a WWI propoganda play.

Highlights of the play:

  1. The play establishes a place and time and one quite different from the comedy.
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The time was…1918.
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“Brown-skinned” was a term used to distinguish from darker skinned people. Aka “Colorism.
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Lucy of the “pathetic” face. Heck, my face is waaay more pathetic than hers. Illustrations for the play were done by Laura Wheeler.

2.  An early written use of the word “not” to negate the previous statement.  

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This trend was popularized by the Bill & Ted movies and Wayne’s World sketches and movies in the 1990s. Further discussion here.

Lowlights:

It is pure propoganda, as this exchange about Huns Germans commiting some insane atrocities:

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Otherlights:

Man, that brooding character of Chris. He gives zero f*cks about little white babies.

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This Chris is a bit of a badass. And familiar enough with ancient and Biblical history to invoke Moloch.

He even gets to deliver a badass monologue. Warning: archaic racial slur at the end.

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This was such a tough monologue that an actor on Youtube covered it…

See what Dunbar-Nelson did there with the card game metaphor?

And for the ending, which is a relic of its day:

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At least one scholar has suggested Cornelia is the author’s avatar in the story.

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The whole scene, well-illustrated by Laura Wheeler.

Here’s a video of a table read of the play from Chengchi University in Taiwan:

 

The only known full production happened at the high school Dunbar-Howard taught at, where, according to her niece “She produced her play and  we all took parts. The audience loved it…but nobody would publish it.” That niece, Pauline Young, was her aunt’s student at the time and would go on to do great things.

A formidable part of this play is that it may have been written with white readers/audiences in mind. There’s the criticism of how America treats her minorities but also reassurrances that black soldiers and civilians will do their part to stop the “Hun.” In this manner it may very well be worth reviving, as this is an argument that isn’t going away any time soon.

Dunbar-Nelson left a relatively small (two short plays and a full-length operetta) but highly interesting canon of theatre work that deserves rediscovery.

More could be  (and has been) written about Alice Dunbar-Nelson: her life as an LGBT pioneer and icon, as a Creole woman of the 19th Century, as a prominent poet and as a writer in general.

Before the link dump, here is a video of a young student reciting the Dunbar-Nelson poem/lament “I Sit and See” – a commentary on American women’s plight in her era.

 

For all our other playwrights, please check here.

The plays:

Mine Eyes Have Seen (slow load, but worth it)

The Smart Set

An Hawaiian Idyll (analysis of two documents).

The woman:

Her life (with MASSIVE list of links)

Another bio

Her diary.

Her works:

Good place to start.

archive.org

Scholarship regarding Dunbar-Nelson.