Dude Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

Álvares de Azevedo

Several weeks ago, we profiled a lady who began writing plays at the age of 52 and is still going strong at 72. Today we bring you a dude who was dead at 20, yet his plays and other works are still required reading in Brazil.

Manuel Antônio Álvares de Azevedo was a precocious learner. In college he studied English, French and German. Through his reading, he came to know of Lord Byron, François-René de Chateaubriand, Victor Hugo, George Sand, William Shakespeare, John Keats, Manuel du Bocage, Dante Alighieri, Alfred de Musset, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Alphonse de Lamartine and Thomas Chatterton, All of these influenced his writing.

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The author in his late teens – if only my high school yearbook photo were so petulant.

If you hadn’t guessed. Àlvares de Azevedo was born into wealth. He also attended law school where he befriended poets such as José Bonifácio the Younger, Aureliano Lessa and Bernardo Guimarães.

He wrote a bunch of stuff in his short life including essays, short stories, poetry and yes, plays.

Before we jump into his writing, I only knew Àlvares de Azevedo as a Gothic writer –

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And as such I guess I espected his work to be kinda like a Brazilian Poe.

Note to self: go into this sorta thing with little to no expectations. Àlvares de Azevedo’s work is indeed Gothic, but it is also mind-numbingly misogynistic – Poe has been accused of misogyny but has been defended against the same. I don’t think Àlvares de Azevedo’s plays can really be defended all that well.

Seriously, I wasn’t disturbed by the cannibalism or even necrophilia in his works, but it was the overall abusive attitudes towards women that bothered me.

Warning: if fictional scenes and depictions of violence against women disturb you, feel free to read a different post.

The main reason I’m profiling him here is that his place in Brazilian literature is so extremely high that he should at least be known in the Anglosphere. I couldn’t even find an English translation of these two plays. Let’s hop right into it:

MACÁRIO

Synopsis

Act I: Massive douchebag Macário, on his way home, stops at a tavern to spend the night, is a jerk to the hired help and meets a stranger who turns out to be Satan and leads him to a desolate city. Macario wakes up in a tavern with. He thinks it was all a dream, but he sees burned goat tracks on the bedroom floor.

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This is kinda wild.

Act II: Macário follows Satan to Italy. Other students show up. They’re confused, depressed and in search of love.  Macário’s friend Penseroso, was happy in his relationship, but ends up committing suicide. Finally Satan and Macario ended up at an abandoned church (metaphor alert) where they see five guys getting drunk. This is actually a setup for the second play, Noite na Taverna.

That’s like an official synopsis – these were the notes I made while reading it:

Macario douchebag – drunk asshole – mean to women

Macario accosted by Satan

 Talk about women

Swap stories

Satan talks about a 5000 year old angel with icy breasts

satan kills his mom

references famous literature

debate with boarders

Now Álvarez de Azevedo does have talent. The two things that stand out are his composition skills. Dude does indeed write like a poet and he does it quite well. Secondly, he has imagination. True, he’s drawing from all the hot, young writers of the Romantic period, but he does it very well.

Anyways, let’s take a look at some dialogue from this play (in Portuguese and the English in blue):

Numa estalagem de estrada.

MACÁRIO, fallando para fora.

MACÁRIO

Olá, mulher da venda! Ponhão-me na sala uma garrafa

de vinho. Façào a cama, e mandeni-me ceia : palavra de

honra que estou com fome ! Dêm alguma ponta de charuto

ao burro que está suado como um frade bêbado ! Sobre-

tudo não esqueçào o vinho !

UMA VOZ.

lia aguardente unicamente, mas boa.

MACÁRIO.

Aguardente! Pensas que sou algum jornaleiro?…

Andar seis léguas e sentir-se com a goela secca ! oh I

mulher maldita ! aposto que também não tens agua?

A MULHER.

E pura, senhor 1 Corre ali embaixo uma fonte que é lim-

pa como o vidro e fria como uma noite do geada. (Saiic.)

MACARIO

Eis-alii o resultado das viagens. Um burro frouxo, uma

garrafa vasia. (Tira uma jjarrafa do bolso.) Cognac ! És um

bello companlieiro de viagem. És silencioso como um

vigário em caminhd, mas no silencio que inspiras, como

nas noites de luar, ergue-se ás vezes um canto mysterioso

que enleva ! Cognac ! Náo te ama quem não te entende !

Náo te amào essas boccas femmís acostumadas ao mel en-

joado da vida, que não anceião prazeres desconhecidos,

sensações mais fortes 1 E cis-te ahi vasia, minha garrafa !

Vãsia como mulher bella que morreu! Hei de fazer-te

uma nenia.

E não ter nem um gole de vinho! Quando não ha o

amor, ha o vinho; quando não ha o vinho ha o fumo;

e quando não ha amor, nem vinho, nem fumo, ha o

spleen. O spleen encarnado na sua forma mais lúgubre,

naquella velha taverneira repassada de aguardente que

tresanda !

NOW IN ENGLISH

In a roadside inn.

MACÁRIO, stumbling out.

 

Hello, shop woman! Put a bottle

of wine for me in the living room.

Make the bed, and send me supper: I swear that I’m hungry!

A  some cigar butt

to the burro who is sweating like a drunken friar! Above

all don’t forget the wine!

 

A VOICE.

He only reads liquor,, but well.

 

MACÁRIO.

Brandy! Do you think I’m some journalist?

I walk six leagues and my throat feels dry! oh l

Damn you woman! I bet you have no water, either?

 

THE WOMAN.

And pure, sir. Run down there a fountain that is clean.

pa as glass and cold as a frost night. (EXIT)

 

MACÁRIO

This is the result of travel. A loose burro, a

copper bottle (He takes a  jug from his pocket.) Cognac! You are

A beautiful fellow traveler. You’re as silent as a

Vicar on a walk, but in the silence that you inspire, as

on moonlit nights, sometimes a mysterious corner rises!

Cognac! Do not love one who does not understand you!

I do not love you these female mouths accustomed to the sweet life,

who don’t know ancient pleasures,

stronger sensations And you clear my bottle!

Go away like a beautiful woman who died! I’ll make you

a girl.

 

And don’t have a sip of wine! When there is no

love, there is wine; when there is no wine there is smoke;

and when there is neither love, wine, nor smoke, there is

anger. Anger incarnate in its most dismal form,

The inside of that old barn stinks from the brandy that pervades there.

Macário talks like a poet, albeit a sadistic one who bosses around others. He has plenty more abuse where that comes from:

Entra a mulher com uma bandeja.

A MULHER.

Eis-aqui a ceia.

MACÁRIO.

Ceia! que diabo de comida verde é essa? Será algum

feixe de capim? Leva para o burro. •

A MULHER.

São couves…

MACÁRIO

Leva para o burro.

A MULHER

É fritado em toicinho

MACÁRIO

Leva para o burro com todos os diabos!

(Atira-lhe o prato na cabeça. A mulher sai. Macário come).
ENGLISH

Enter the woman with a tray.

THE WOMAN.

Here’s the supper.

MACÁRIO.

Supper! What the hell kind of green food is this? Will there be some

beam of grass? Take it to the donkey.

THE WOMAN.

It’s cabbage …

MACÁRIO

Take it to the donkey.

THE WOMAN

It’s fried in bacon

MACÁRIO

Take it to the donkey with all the devils!

(Throws his plate at her head. The woman EXITS. Macário eats).

One way you can see how a person is happens to be how they treat people they’re not required to be nice to (i.e. hired help, restaurant employees, bus drivers, etc) I’d advise against dating Macário unless you want a headful of cabbage tray.

StuffedCabbageTray
I made this once.

MACÁRIO

Pergunta à taverneira se apertei-lhe o cotovelo, pisquei-lhe o olho, ou pus-lhe a mão nas tetas.

O DESCONHECIDO

Um dragão!

MACÁRIO

Uma mulher! Todas elas são assim. As que não são assim por fora o são por dentro. Algumas em falta de cabelos na cabeça os têm no coração. As mulheres são como as espadas, às vezes a bainha é de oiro e de esmalte e a folha é ferrugenta.

O DESCOHECIDO

Falas como um descrido, como um saciado! E contudo ainda tens os beiços de criança! Quantos seios de mulher beijaste além do seio de tua ama de leite? Quantos lábios além dos de tua irmã?

MACÁRIO

A vagabunda que dorme nas ruas, a mulher que se vende corpo e alma, porque sua alma é tão desbotada como seu corpo, te digam minhas noites. Talvez muita virgem tenha suspirado por mim! Talvez agora mesmo alguma donzela se ajoelhe na cama e reze por mim!

ENGLISH

MACÁRIO

I asked the taverna whether I could shake her elbow, wink at her, or put my hand on her tits.

THE UNKNOWN

A dragon!

MACÁRIO

A woman! They’re all like that. Those that are not so outside are inside. Some who lack hair on their heads have them in their hearts. Women are like swords, sometimes the scabbard is of gold and enamel and the blade is rusty.

THE UNKNOWN

You speak like a disciple, like one who is tired! And yet you still have the child’s lips! How many breasts of a woman have you kissed beyond the bosom of your nursemaid? How many lips besides those of your sister?

MACÁRIO

The slut who sleeps in the streets, the woman who sells body and soul, because her soul is as faded as her body, can tell you my nights. Maybe a lot of virgins have sighed for me! Maybe now some maid will kneel on the bed and pray for me!

If anyone needed prayer, it’s certainly this spankshaft. I bet, like most braggarts, Macário’s blade is the rusty one.

O DESCONHECIDO

Na verdade és belo. Que idade tens?

MACÁRIO

Vinte anos. Mas meu peito tem batido nesses vinte anos tantas vezes como o de um outro homem em quarenta.

O DESCONHECIDO

E amaste muito?

MACÁRIO

Sim e não. Sempre e nunca.

O DESCONHECIDO

Fala claro.

MACÁRIO

Mais claro que o dia. Se chamas o amor a troca de duas temperaturas, o aperto de dois sexos, a convulsão de dois peitos que arquejam, o beijo de duas bocas que tremem, de duas vidas que se fundem tenho amado muito e sempre! Se chamas o amor o sentimento casto e poro que faz cismar o pensativo, que faz chorar o amante na relva onde passou a beleza, que adivinha o perfume dela na brisa, que pergunta às aves, à manhã, à noite, às harmonias da música, que melodia é mais doce que sua voz, e ao seu coração, que formosura há mais divina que a dela—eu nunca amei. Ainda não achei uma mulher assim. Entre um charuto e uma chávena de café lembro-me às vezes de alguma forma divina, morena, branca, loira, de cabelos castanhos ou negros. Tenho-as visto que fazem empalidecer—e meu peito parece sufocar meus lábios se gelam, minha mão se esfria..

Parece-me então que se aquela mulher que me faz estremecer assim soltasse sua roupa de veludo e me deixasse por os lábios sobre seu seio um momento, eu morreria num desmaio de prazer! Mas depois desta vem outra— mais outra—e o amor se desfaz numa saudade que se desfaz no esquecimento. Como eu te disse, nunca amei.

ENGLISH

THE UNKNOWN

You’re really beautiful. How old are you?

MACÁRIO

Twenty years. But my chest has struck in these twenty years as many times as another man in his forties.

THE UNKNOWN

And you loved much?

MACÁRIO

Yes and no. Always and never.

THE UNKNOWN

Speak clearly.

MACÁRIO

Lighter than the day. If you call love the exchange of two temperatures, the tightness of two sexes, the convulsion of two breasts that pant, the kiss of two mouths that tremble, of two lives that merge I have loved much and always! If you call love the chaste and pure feeling that makes one thoughtful, that makes the lover cry on the grass where beauty has passed, who guesses the scent of it in the breeze, who asks the birds, morning, night, the harmonies of music, which melody is sweeter than her voice, and to her heart, what beauty is more divine than hers – I have never loved. I have not found a woman like that yet. Between a cigar and a cup of coffee I sometimes remember some divine, brunette, white, blonde, brown or black hair. I have seen them make them pale-and my chest seems to choke my lips frozen, my hand cools ..

It seems to me then that if that woman who makes me tremble so were to loose her velvet clothes and leave me by the lips on her breast a moment, I would die in a faint of pleasure! But after this comes another – another – and love is dissolved in a longing that is forgotten in oblivion. Like I told you, I never did.

Ahem.” some divine, brunette, white, blonde, brown or black hair” What? No redheads?

pinupredhead2
No Rhonda Fleming for you, Macário!

The whole “I would die in a faint of pleasure!” line reminded me of a song. Probably about Macário.

MACÁRIO

Pouca coisa. Beleza, virgindade, inocência, amor.

O DESCONHECIDO

Mais nada?

MACÁRIO

Notai que por beleza indico um corpo bem feito, arredondado, setinoso, uma pele macia e rosada, um cabelo de seda-froixa e uns pés mimosos.

O DESCONHECIDO

Quanto à virgindade?

MACÁRIO

Eu a quereria virgem na alma como no corpo. Quereria que ela nunca tivesse sentido a menor emoção por ninguém. Nem por um primo, nem por um irmão Que Deus a tivesse criado adormecida na alma até ver-me como aquelas princesas encantadas dos contos—que uma fada adormecera por cem anos. Quereria que um anjo a cobrisse sempre com seu véu, e a banhasse todas as noites do seu óleo divino para guardá-la santa! Quereria que ela viesse criança transformar-se em mulher nos meus beijos.

O DESCONHECIDO

Muito bem, mancebo! E esperas essa mulher?

MACÁRIO

Quem sabe!

O DESCONHECIDO

E é no lodo da prostituição que hás-de encontrá-la?

MACÁRIO

Talvez! É no lodo do oceano que se encontram as pérolas

ENGLISH

MACÁRIO

Little thing. Beauty, virginity, innocence, love.

THE UNKNOWN

Nothing more?

MACÁRIO

Note that for beauty I include a well-made body, rounded, silky, soft and rosy skin, hair like a silk-scarf and tender feet.

THE UNKNOWN

What about virginity?

MACÁRIO

I would want her as a virgin in the soul as in the body. She wished she had never felt the least emotion for anyone. Not for a cousin, or for a brother. May God have created her asleep in her soul until she saw me like those enchanted fairy princesses-a fairy that had fallen asleep for a hundred years. She would want an angel to cover her with her veil, and bathe her every night of her divine oil to keep her holy! I’d want her to become a child in my kisses.

THE UNKNOWN

Very well, young man! And you expect this woman?

MACÁRIO

Who knows!

THE UNKNOWN

And is it in the slime of prostitution that you will find it?

MACÁRIO

Perhaps! It is in the mud of the ocean that the pearls are found.

I can’t but think of the time in 4th grade when our teacher read The Pearl to us.

Macário continues imparting poetic wis-dumb:

MACÁRIO

Tens razão: a virgindade da alma pode existir numa prostituta, e não existir numa virgem de corpo.—Há flores sem perfume, e perfume sem flores. Mas eu não sou como os outros. Acho que uma taça vazia pouco vale, mas não beberia o melhor vinho numa xícara de barro.

MACÁRIO

You are right: the virginity of the soul may exist in a prostitute, and not in a virgin of body.-There are flowers without perfume, and perfume without flowers. But I’m not like the others. I think an empty glass is not worth it, but I would not drink the best wine in a cup of clay.

Remember children, never drink the best wine in a cup of clay  drink whatever you want in whatever vessel suits you.

fig19top
It’s not that bad, you elitist prat.

After selling his soul, His Satanic Majesty tells Macário of what’s to be found in this town in Italy:

MACÁRIO

Por acaso também há mulheres ali?

SATAN

Mulheres, padres, soldados e estudantes. As mulheres são mulheres, os padres são soldados, os soldados são padres, e os estudantes são estudantes: para falar mais claro: as mulheres são lascivas, os padres dissolutos, os soldados ébrios, os estudantes vadios. Isto salvo honrosas exceções, por exemplo, de amanhã em diante, tu.

MACÁRIO

Are there women there too?

SATAN

Women, priests, soldiers and students. Women are women, priests are soldiers, soldiers are priests, and students are students: to speak more clearly: women are lewd, oriests dissident, soldiers drunk, students lost. This save honorable exceptions, for example, from tomorrow onwards, you.

They visit the ruins of a church. You wanna know how to make Satan angry? Ask him if he really is Satan.

MACÁRIO

E tu és mesmo Satan?

SATAN  

É nisso que pensavas? És uma criança. De certo que querias ver-me nu e ébrio como Caliban, envolto no tradicional cheiro de enxofre! Sangue de Baco! Sou o diabo em pessoa! Nem mais nem menos: porque tenha luvas de pelica, e ande de calças à inglesa, e tenha os olhos tão azuis como uma alemã! Queres que te jure pela Virgem Maria?

MACÁRIO

And you really are Satan?

SATAN

Is that what you thought? You’re a kid. Of course you wanted to see me naked and drunk as Caliban, wrapped in the traditional smell of sulfur! Blood of Bacchus! I am the devil in person! No more and no less: because I have pelican gloves, and I wear pants in the English style, and have eyes as blue as a German! Do you want me to swear by the Virgin Mary?

But Macário is saving the best diss for last:

SATAN

Eis o que é profundamente verdade! Perguntai ao libertino que venceu o orgulho de cem virgens e que passou outras tantas noites no leito de cem devassas, perguntai a D. Juan, Hamlet ou ao Faust o que é a mulher, e . nenhum o saberá dizer. E isso que te digo não é romantismo. Amanhã numa taverna poderás achar Romeu com a criada da estalagem, verás D. Juan com Julietas, Hamlet ou Faust sob a casaca de um dandy. É que esses tipos são velhos e eternos como o sol. E a humanidade que os estuda desde os primeiros tempos ainda não entende esses míseros, cuja desgraça é não entender e o sábio que os vê a seu lado deixa esse estudo para pensar nas estrelas; o médico, que talvez foi moço de coração e amou e creu, e desesperou e descreu, ri-se das doenças da alma e só vê a nostalgia na ruptura de um vaso, o amor concentrado quando se materializa numa tísica. Se Antony ainda vive e deu-se à medicina é capaz de receitar uma dose de jalapa para uma dor íntima; um cautério para uma dor de coração!

MACÁRIO

Falas como um livro, como dizem as velhas. Só Deus ou tu sabes se o Ramée ou D. Cesar de Basan, Santa Teresa ou Marion Delorme, o sábio ou o ignorante, Creso ou Iro, Goethe ou o mendigo ébrio que canta, entenderam a vida. Quem sabe onde está a verdade? nos sonhos do poeta, nas visões do monge, nas canções obscenas do marinheiro, na cabeça do doido, na palidez do cadáver, ou no vinho ardente da orgia? Quem sabe?

SATAN

This is what is profoundly true! Ask the libertine who has won the pride of a hundred virgins and who has spent so many nights in the bed of a hundred sluts, ask D. Juan, Hamlet or Faust what the woman is, and. none can tell. And what I’m telling you is not romanticism. Tomorrow in a tavern you will find Romeo with the maid of the inn, you will see D. Juan with Juliets, Hamlet or Faust in the coat of a dandy. It’s just that these guys are old and eternal like the sun. And humanity that studies them from the earliest times still does not understand these miserable ones, whose misfortune it is not to understand, and the sage who sees them by his side leaves this study to think of the stars; the doctor, who was perhaps a young man of heart and loved and believed, and despaired and disbelieved, laughs at the diseases of the soul and only sees the nostalgia in the rupture of a vessel, the love concentrated when it materializes in a physical. If Antony still lives and gave himself to medicine he is able to prescribe a dose of flower for an intimate pain; a cauterization for a heartache!

MACÁRIO

You talk like a book, as old women say. Only God or you know if Ramée or D. Cesar de Basan, Saint Teresa or Marion Delorme, the wise or the ignorant, Croesus or Iro, Goethe or the drunken beggar who sings, understood life. Who knows where the truth is? in the poet’s dreams, in the monk’s visions, in the obscene songs of the sailor, in the madman’s head, in the pallor of the corpse, or in the wine of the orgy? Who knows?

“You talk like a book, Satan”

Fifty Shades Reading Adventures
I wonder what book Satan talks like.
41fargCpg+L._SX246_BO1,204,203,200_
FOUND IT!!!

Then there’s that one friend Macário had:

MACÁRIO

Adeus, Penseroso. Eu pensei que tu me acordavas a vida no peito. Mas a fibra em que tocaste e onde foste despertar uma harmonia é uma fibra maldita, cheia de veneno e de morte. Adeus. Penseroso. Ai daquele a quem um verme roeu a flor da vida como a Werther! A descrença é a filha enjeitada do desespero. Faust é Werther que envelheceu, e o suicídio da alma é o cadáver de um coração. O desfolhar das ilusões anuncia o inverno da vida.

Onde vais, onde vais?

PENSEROSO

Onde vou todas as noites. Vagarei à toa pelos campos até que o sono feche meus olhos e que eu adormeça na relva fria das orvalhadas da noite. Adeus.

MACÁRIO

Good-bye, Penseroso. I thought you remembered me in your chest. But the fiber in which you have touched and where you have awakened a harmony is a cursed fiber, full of poison and death. Bye. Penseroso. Woe to him whom a worm has gnawed at the flower of life like Werther! Disbelief is the daughter of despair. Faust is Werther who has aged, and the suicide of the soul is the corpse of a heart. The stripping of illusions heralds the winter of life.

Where are you going, where are you going?

PENSEROSO

Where I go every night. I will roam the fields until sleep closes my eyes and I fall asleep on the cold grass of the dewy nights. Bye.

Penseroso sounds like a morose (if well-read) barrel of laughs.

Macário asks Satan where they’re headed:

SATAN

A uma orgia. Vais ler uma página da vida cheia de sangue e de vinho—que importa?

MACÁRIO

É aqui, não? Ouco vociferar a saturnal lá dentro.

SATAN

Paremos aqui. Espia nessa janela.

MACÁRIO

Eu vejo-os. É uma sala fumacenta. À roda da mesa estão sentados cinco homens ébrios. Os mais revolvem-se no chão. Dormem ali mulheres desgrenhadas, umas lívidas, outras vermelhas Que noite!

SATAN

Que vida! não é assim? Pois bem! escuta, Macário.

Há homens para quem essa vida é mais suave que a outra. O vinho é como o ópio, é o Letes do esquecimento…

A embriaguez é como a morte. . .

MACÁRIO

Cala-te. Ouçamos. ___________________________

SATAN

To an orgy. Are you going to read a page of life full of blood and wine-what does it matter?

MACÁRIO

It’s here, isn’t it? I gasp at the orgy inside.

SATAN

Let’s stop here. Check out that window.

MACÁRIO

I see them. It’s a smoky room. Five drunken men sit round the table. Others rolled out on the ground. There loose women are sleeping, some pale, some red. What a night!

SATAN

What life! it’s not like this? Well! listen, Macário.

There are men for whom this life is softer than the other. Wine is like opium, it is the Letes of forgetfulness …

Drunkenness is like death. . .

MACÁRIO

Shut up. Let’s listen. ___________________________

Note to self: “Don’t invite Satan to next orgy.”

Drunkenness is like death…” “Shut up.” Macário sure knows how to talk to Satan.

And here is a short student-made film of Macário.

 

NOITE NA TAVERNA

This is the sequel to Macário and it takes the cray-cray factor to infinity and beyond.

Though written as a book of short stories, it is primarily dialogue and is often performed as a play. This conflict is apparent even in the Wikipedia articles:

Portuguese:

Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 10.54.31 AM

English:

Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 10.54.10 AM

Dutch:

Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 10.55.21 AM

Naturally the Dutch side with the English. Probably still pissed off from the time the Dutch tried to colonize Brazil.

The first chapter, set in a European city, introduces five characters, each of whom seems to be douchier than Macário. They drink a lot and talk about having sex with women. A lot. Then each takes turns telling some sort of screwed up horror story. Moments from this part:

— Oh! vazio meu copo esta vazio! Olá taverneira, não vês que as garrafas estão esgotadas? Não sabes, desgraçada, que os lábios da garrafa são como os da mulher: só valem beijos enquanto o fogo do vinho ou o fogo do amor os borrifa de lava?

— O vinho acabou-se nos copos, Bertram, mas o fumo ondula ainda nos cachimbos! Após os vapores do vinho os vapores da fumaça! Senhores, em nome de sodas as nossas reminiscências, de todos os nossos sonhos que mentiram, de sodas as nossas esperanças que desbotaram, uma ultima saúde! A taverneira aí nos trouxe mais vinho: uma saúde! O fumo é a imagem do idealismo, é o transunto de tudo quanto ha mais vaporoso naquele espiritualismo que nos fala da imortalidade da alma! é pois, ao fumo das Antilhas, a imortalidade da alma!

— Oh! Empty my glass is empty! Do not you see that the bottles are exhausted? Don’t you know, unhappily, that the lips of the bottle are like the lips of a woman: the kisses are only valuable while the fire of wine or the fire of love sprinkles them with lava?

— The wine has run out of glasses, Bertram, but the smoke still ripples in the pipes!” After the wine vapors the fumes of the smoke! Gentlemen, in the name of our reminiscences, of all our dreams that lied, of soda bicarbonate of our faded hopes, one last toast! The clerk there brought us more wine: to health! Smoking is the image of idealism, it is the transpose of all that is most vaporous in that spiritualism that tells us of the immortality of the soul! it is, to the smoke of the Antilles, the immortality of the soul!

Buncha drunk poets…

— Estas ébrio, Johann! O ateísmo é a insânia como o idealismo místico de Schelling, o panteísmo de Spinoza o judeu, e o crente de Malebranche nos seus sonhos da visão em Deus. A verdadeira filosofia e o epicurismo. Hume bem o disse: o fim do homem é o prazer. Dai vede que é o elemento sensível quem domina. E pois ergamonos, nós que amanhecemos nas noites desbotadas de estudo insano, e vimos que a ciência é falsa e esquiva, que ela mente e embriaga como um beijo de mulher.

– You’re drunk, Johann! Atheism is insanity just like Schelling’s mystical idealism, the pantheism of Spinoza the Jew, and the believer of Malebranche in his dreams of vision in God. True philosophy and Epicureanism. Hume well said it: the end of man is pleasure. See that it is the sensitive element that dominates. And then we wake up, we dawn on the faded nights of insane study, and we see that science is false and elusive, that it lies and intoxicates like a woman’s kiss.

Get drunk, talk about Spinoza. Got it.

spinoza
Baruch Spinoza, rationalist.

 

First, it is Solfieri’s turn:

Solfieri

I’m gonna raid Wikipedia for this and then add any necessary commentary:

“When in Rome, on a rainy night, Solfieri sees a shadow crying over a window. He realizes it is a beautiful woman. She leaves the house and Solfieri decides to follow her, and they ultimately arrive at a nearby cemetery. There, the woman cries, kneeling before a headstone, as Solfieri falls asleep watching her from afar.

One year later, Solfieri, wandering the streets of Rome after taking part in an orgy, ends into a church inadvertently. He sees a coffin and, after listening to breathing noises inside, opens it, and sees the cemetery lady he met the year before inside it. After realizing that she is still alive (but in a catalepsic state), he carries her through the city. Arriving at his home, the woman dies two days later, of a very high fever. Solfieri buries her under the floorboards of his bedroom and pays a sculptor for a statuette built in the woman’s likeness.”

Some choice moments from Solfieri:

Sabei-lo. Roma é a cidade do fanatismo e da perdição: na alcova do sacerdote dorme a gosto a amásia, no leito da vendida se pendura o Crucifixo lívido. É um requintar de gozo blasfemo que mescla o sacrilégio a convulsão do amor, o beijo lascivo a embriaguez da crença!

Know it. Rome is the city of fanaticism and doom: in the priest’s bedroom, the lover sleeps, the livid Crucifix hangs on the bed of the sold. It is a refinement of blasphemous enjoyment that mixes sacrilege with the convulsion of love, the lecherous kiss of the drunkenness of belief!

mussolini
Rome: fanaticism and doom. Makes sense.

Abriu a camisa, e viram-lhe ao pescoço uma grinalda de flores mirradas.

— Vede-a murcha e seca como o crânio dela!

He opened his shirt, and they saw a wreath of scarlet flowers around his neck.

“See her as dry and dry as her skull!”

 

Apparently his buddies don’t believe him until he shows them her funerary flowers around his neck.

Here’s a student production of Solfieri’s story. That’s the beauty of Noite na Taverna: Brazilian students want good grades like everyine else.

 

 

Bertram

“Bertram tells the story of his ill-fated love for a Spanish woman from Cádiz, named Angela. Amidst their romance, Bertram’s sick father, living in Denmark, calls for him. He goes, returning two years later; however, during the time he was away, Angela marries another man, having a son with him. Despite this, Bertram tries to maintain his affair with her, but Angela’s husband finds out everything. Before her husband kills her, she kills him and her child, and flees with Bertram.

One day, without further explanations, she leaves him. Bertram sinks into despair as he tries to forget Angela; subdued by woe, he faints in the middle of a street and is run over by a chariot. The passengers of the chariot, an old man and his 18-year-old daughter, help him and take him to their mansion so he can recover. Bertram gets in love with the lady and they flee together, but he ultimately gets bored with her and sells the lady to a pirate in a card game. Later, he would learn that the girl poisoned the pirate and threw herself in the sea.

Having moved to Italy, Bertram decides to kill himself there, but when he is about to do it, he is saved by a sailor whom he kills unintentionally. Bertram spends some time in the sailor’s ship (a corvette), where he gets in love with the captain’s wife, being requited.

In the midst of this affair, the ship is attacked by pirates and sinks, but not without making the other one sink too. The captain, his wife, Bertram and two other unnamed sailors are able to save themselves in a raft. Some time later, with no water or food, the two unnamed sailors being washed out by the sea, the three lot in order to discover who will be killed and serve as food for the others. The chosen one is the captain, but he does not accept his fate and fights for his life. He loses the fight however, and Bertram and the woman are obligated to eat him because of the lack of food, maintaining themselves for two days.

Arriving at a beach, both already weakened by hunger, the woman asks Bertram for a last moment of love before her death. Afraid of dying, Bertram strangles her and lives at the beach in complete solitude until he is found by a British brig that rescues him.”

I prefer the notes I took while reading this:

Cadiz – Denmark

Pirate story

Cannibalism

Crazy sex

rescue

Here are some nuggets of Bertram’s wisdom:

— Sabeis, uma mulher levou-me a perdição. Foi ela quem me queimou a fronte nas orgias, e desbotou-me os lábios no ardor dos vinhos e na moleza de seus beijos: quem me fez devassar pálido as longas noites de insônia nas mesas do jogo, e na doidice dos abraços convulsos com que ela me apertava o seio! Foi ela, vós o sabeis, quem fez-me num dia ter três duelos com meus três melhores amigos, abrir três túmulos àqueles que mais me amavam na vida ― e depois, depois sentir-me só e abandonado no mundo, como a infanticida que matou o seu filho, ou aquele Mouro infeliz junto a sua Desdêmona pálida!

Pois bem, vou contar-vos uma história que começa pela lembrança desta mulher.

–You know, a woman led me to perdition. It was she who made me go mad in the orgies, and faded my lips in the ardor of the wines and the limp of their kisses: who made me pale during the long sleepless nights at the tables of the game, and the madness of the convulsive embraces with which she squeezed my breast! It was she, you know, who made me have three duels with my three best friends in one day, opening three tombs to those who loved me the most in life – and then, afterwards, feeling alone and abandoned in the world, like the infanticide that killed his son, or that unhappy Moor next to his pale Desdemona!

Well, I’ll tell you a story that begins with the memory of this woman.

Another dude led to perdition by a woman. More orgies. Yawn.

Era alta noite: eu esperava ver passar nas cortinas brancas a sombra do anjo. Quando passei, uma voz chamou-me. Entrei — Ângela com os pés nus, o vestido solto, o cabelo desgrenhado e os olhos ardentes tomou-me pela mão Senti-lhe a mão úmida Era escura a escada que subimos: passei a minha mão molhada pela dela por meus lábios. — Tinha saibo de sangue.

— Sangue, Ângela! De quem é esse sangue?

A Espanhola sacudiu seus longos cabelos negros é riu-se.

It was high night: I expected to see the shadow of the angel in the white curtains. As I passed, a voice called out to me. I entered –  Ângela with bare feet, loose dress, shaggy hair and burning eyes took me by the hand I felt her wet hand. The ladder we climbed was dark. I ran my hand by her wet lips. – I knew blood.

– Blood,  Ângela! Whose blood is this?

The Spaniard shook her long black hair and laughed.

You know your relationship is gonna have problems when you have to ask your girlfriend whose blood this.

— Vês, Bertram, esse era o meu presente: agora será, negro embora, um sonho do meu passado. Sou tua é tua só. Foi por ti que tive força bastante para tanto crime Vem, tudo esta pronto, fujamos. A nós o futuro!

–You see, Bertram, this was my gift: now it will be black, though, a dream of my past. I am yours and yours alone. It was for you that I had enough strength for so much crime Come, everything is ready, let’s run away. To us the future!

A black gift? Like a cute pug puppy, right?

black-pug-RJ-long
So cute, so inbred.

Solfieri gets nauseated by Bertram’s disgusting tale:

— Por que empalideces, Solfieri? a vida é assim. Tu o saber como eu o sei. O que é o homem? é a escuma que ferve hoje na torrente e amanhã desmaia: alguma coisa de louco e movediço como a vaga, de fatal como o sepulcro! O que é a existência? Na mocidade é o caleidoscópio das ilusões:: vive-se então da seiva do futuro. Depois envelhecemos quando chegamos aos trinta anos é o suor das agonias nos grisalhou os cabelos antes do tempo, e murcharam como nossas faces as nossas esperanças, oscilamos entre o passado visionário, e este amanhã do velho, gelado e ermo — despido como um cadáver que se banha antes de dar a sepultura! Miséria! Loucura!

– Why are you pale, Solfieri? Life is like this. You know how I know it. What is man? it is the scum that boils in the torrent today, and tomorrow it faints: something as mad and unstable as the wave, fatal as the grave! What is existence? In youth it is the kaleidoscope of illusions: it is then living off the sap of the future. Then we grow old when we reach the age of thirty. The sweat of agonies has made our hair gray before time, and our faces have shrunk our hopes, we have wavered between the visionary past, and this tomorrow of the old, icy and wilderness – naked as a corpse bathed before entering the grave! Misery! madness!

But wherever there’s starvation and cannibalism, there’s lust! [always comes in threes]

Eu e a mulher do comandante passamos — um dia, dois — sem comer nem beber…

Então ela propôs-me morrer comigo. — Eu disse-lhe que sim. Esse dia foi a ultima agonia do amor que nos queimava: gastamo-lo em convulsões para sentir ainda o mel fresco da voluptuosidade banhar-nos os lábios… Era o gozo febril que podem ter duas criaturas em delírio de morte. Quando soltei-me dos braços dela a fraqueza a fazia desvairar. O delírio tornava-se mais longo, mais longo: debruçava-se nas ondas e bebia a água salgada, e oferecia-m’a nas mãos pálidas, dizendo que era vinho. As gargalhadas frias vinham mais de entuviada

Estava louca.

Me and the commander’s wife passed – one day, two – without eating or drinking …

So she proposed to die with me. I told you so. This day was the last agony of love that burned us: we spent it in convulsions to still feel the fresh honey of voluptuousness bathe our lips … It was the feverish enjoyment that two creatures can have in death’s delirium. When I let go of her arms the weakness made her go wild. The delirium grew longer, longer: it bent over the waves and drank salt water, and offered it to me in pale hands, saying it was wine. The cold laughter came over her.

She was crazy.

He reminds me of that dude who’s always telling you how crazy his exes are except you know he’s actually the crazy one.

And, like the other stories in Noite na Taverna, it makes for a great student project:

 

Gennaro

“The painter Gennaro reminisces of when he was the young apprentice of the famous Godofredo Walsh. Walsh had a young, beautiful wife named Nauza (whom Gennaro loved) and a young, beautiful daughter named Laura (who loved Gennaro). One day, Laura gets pregnant of Gennaro, but when she proposes marriage to him, he declines. Displeased, she gradually sinks into depression and dies, taking the baby with her.

The old painter, not knowing anything, visits his daughter’s bedroom every night and, because of this, Gennaro starts sleeping with his wife. However, the painter is able to make Gennaro confess everything in a certain night. Days later, Godofredo takes Gennaro to a cliff and tries to kill him; however, he survives the fall and decides to return to Godofredo’s house – initially planning to apologize, but later he changes his mind and decides to take his revenge on the painter and murder him. However, when he arrives at the painter’s house, he finds both Nauza and Godofredo dead.”

Here are my original notes:

Apprentice

Bangs daughter

Abortion, dead

Bangs wife

Off the cliff!

Murder-suicide

In Gennaro’s own words:

— Sim: e uma das minhas historias: sabes, Bertram, eu sou pintor, e uma lembrança triste essa que vou revelar, porque e a historia de um velho e de duas mulheres, belas como duas visões de luz.

Godofredo Walsh era um desses velhos sublimes, em cujas cabeças as cãs semelham o diadema prateado do gênio. Velho já, casara em segundas núpcias com uma beleza de vinte anos. era pintor: diziam uns que este casamento fora um amor artístico por aquela beleza Romana, como que feita ao molde das belezas antigas — outros criam-no compaixão pela pobre moca que vivia de servir de modelo. O fato e que ele a queria como filha — como Laura, a filha única de seu primeiro casamento — Laura, corada como uma rosa, e loira como um anjo.

– Yes, and one of my stories: you know, Bertram, I am a painter, and a sad memory I shall reveal, because it is the story of an old man and two women, as beautiful as two visions of light.

Godofredo Walsh was one of those sublime old men, in whose heads the gray hairs resemble the silvery diadem of the genius. An old man already, he’d married a second time with a beauty twenty years of age. He was a painter: some said that this marriage had been an artistic love for that Roman beauty, as if it had been molded by the ancient beauties – others created compassion for the poor girl who lived as a model. The fact was that he wanted her as a daughter – like Laura, the only daughter of his first marriage

– – -Laura, flushed like a rose, and blonde as an angel.

Old dude with two young women – another another young dude shows up. What could go wrong? After Godofredo’s young wife dies [after having been impregnated by Gennaro]…

E as noites que o mestre passava soluçando no leito vazio de sua filha, eu as passava no leito dele, nos braços de Nauza.

And the nights that the master passed sobbing in the empty bed of his daughter, I passed them in his bed, in the arms of Nauza.

Godofredo of course catches him. He and Gennaro had to run errands in town – teh road went past a cliff – and, and…

— Gennaro, quero contar-te uma história. E um crime, quero que sejas juiz dele. Um velho era casado com uma moca bela. De outras núpcias tinha uma filha bela também Um aprendiz — um miserável que ele erguera da poeira, como 0 vento as vezes ergue uma folha, mas que ele podia reduzir a ela quando quisesse…

—Gennaro, I want to tell you a story. It’s a crime, I want you to be his judge. An old man was married to a beautiful girl. From his previous marriage, he had a beautiful daughter, too. An apprentice – a miserable man who had risen from the dust, as the wind sometimes raises a leaf, but which he could reduce to dust when he wished …

Please, please kill Gennaro…Godofredo pushes Gennaro off the cliff (yay) but he survives (boo) and goes back to the house where Godofredo has killed his daughter and himself with poison (boo).

Brazilian high school lit classes must be something else:

Hermann

“Claudius Hermann, an assiduous gambler, spots the beautiful Duchess Eleonora at a horse race and falls in love with her at first sight. He meets her once more in a theatre later on, and during an entire week he stalks her.

In a certain night, he bribes one of the duchess’ lackeys for permission to enter her house for an hour, and also obtains a copy of her bedroom’s keys. He puts sedative in the duchess’ wine and has sex with her, returning for many nights.

One day, however, her husband, Duke Maffio, inadvertently drinks some of the sedative as well. Desperate and afraid of being caught, Claudius plans to kill him, but changes his mind and kidnaps Eleonora instead while she is still sleeping. Arriving in an inn, she wakes up, and Claudius tells her everything, forcing her to stay with him. Optionless, she accepts.

Some days later, Claudius has to leave in order to take care of some affairs; when he returns home, he finds the duchess and her husband dead.”

Yeah. Let’s see those notes again:

drug rape?

suicide?

kidnap

poem

Arnold finishes it

But let’s hear what Hermann has to say about this:

Levou-o aos lábios entreabertos dela: e verteu-lhe algumas gotas que ela absorveu sem senti-las. Deitou-a e esperou. Daí a instantes o sono dela era profundíssimo… A bebida era um narcótico onde se misturaram algumas ,gotas daqueles licores excitantes que acordam a febre nas faces e o desejo volutuoso no seio.

He took it to her parted lips: and poured a few drops into her that she absorbed without feeling them. He laid her down and waited. From then on, her sleep was profound… The drink was a narcotic, where a few were mixed with drops of those exciting liquors that awaken the fever in the cheeks and the voluptuous desire in the bosom.

Hermann is a date rapist.

Quando me levantei, embucei-me na capa e sai pelas ruas. Queria ir ter a meu palácio, mas estava tonto como um ébrio. Titubeava e o chão era lúbrico como para quem desmaia. Uma idéia contudo me perseguia. Depois daquela mulher nada houvera mais para mim. Quem uma vez bebeu o suco das uvas purpurinas do paraíso, mais nunca deve inebriar-se do néctar da terra… Quando o mel se esgotasse, o que restava a não ser o suicídio?

When I got up, I slipped into the cloak and went out into the streets. I wanted to go to my palace, but I was as dizzy as a drunken man. I hesitated, and the ground was as seductive as if one were fainting. An idea still haunted me. After that woman there was nothing more for me. Whoever drank the juice of the purple grapes of paradise, but never should be inebriated with the nectar of the earth … When the honey was exhausted, what remained but suicide?

Yes, Hermann, suicide is a viable option for you. For everyone else, there’s the National Suicide Hotline.

So then for some reason Arnold knows the ending to Claudius Hermann’s story:

— Escutai vos todos — disse. — Um dia Claudius entrou em casa. Encontrou o leito ensopado de sangue: e num recanto escuro da alcova um doido abraçado com um cadáver. O cadáver era o de Eleonora: o doido nem o pudéreis conhecer tanto a agonia o desfigurara. Era uma cabeça hirta e desgrenhada, uma tez esverdeada, uns olhos fundos e baços onde o lume da insânia cintilava a furto como a emanação luminosa dos pauis entre as trevas…

Mas ele o conheceu era o Duque Maffio…

Listen everyone – he said. One day Claudius entered the house. He found the bed soaked with blood: and in a dark corner of the alcove a madman embraced with a corpse. The corpse was that of Eleonora: the madman didn’t look the same since agony had disfigured him so much. He had a harsh, shaggy head, a greenish complexion, deep, drooping eyes where the fire of insanity gleamed like the luminous emanation of the pairs in the darkness …

But he knew it was Duke Maffio …

And there’s video!

Johann

“Johann’s story begins in a different tavern, located in Paris. He was playing a game of carambole with a blond-haired man named Arthur. Johann was losing the game, while Arthur only needed to score one point to win. When it is Johann’s turn to play, Arthur bumps into the table (accidentally or not), detouring Johann’s ball, thus making him lose the game. Infuriated, he defies Arthur to a duel, which he accepts. They stop at a hotel to get the guns, and the blond man writes two letters. They head to a deserted and dark street. In there, they choose their guns – but only one is loaded.

They shoot. It is revealed that Johann’s gun was the loaded one, and Arthur, before supposedly dying, hands Johann the letters he wrote. The first letter is addressed to Arthur’s mother, and the other one is addressed to his girlfriend; he also hands Johann her address and an engagement ring. Pretending to be Arthur, Johann then decides to steal his girlfriend.

In the morning after they sleep together, Johann is attacked by a mysterious man. After a short struggle, he kills the man. However, after a close inspection, he discovers that the man he killed was his own brother, and Arthur’s girlfriend was his sister.”

This synopsis has several problems. Arthur didn’t give anything to Johann. He asked Johann to take his ring and letters if he died. Also, Johann doesn’t “steal” Giorgia – he rapes her by deception.

Let’s see the notes:

Paris

billiards

duel

a letter

blank & loaded

letters

kills own brother

Now let’s see some text:

Era uma figura loura e mimosa como a de uma donzela. Rosa infantil lhe avermelhava as faces: mas era uma rosa de cor desfeita. Leve buço lhe sombreava o lábio, e pelo oval do rosto uma penugem doirada lhe assomava como a felpa que rebuça o pêssego.

He was a blond, cuddly figure like a maiden. An infant rose reddened his cheeks: but it was a rose of color undone. A slight fluff shone on his lip, and from the oval of his face a reddish fuzz appeared like the plush that stings the peach.

Johann is describing Arthur above.

And now, the video version – I believe this is a short that was a kinda serious production. It intercut’s Johann’s story with scenes of young Álvarez de Azevedo in class.

After Johann’s story, there’s a final chapter – Último Beijo de Amor (Last Kiss of Love)

Último Beijo de Amor

In the last chapter, “Último Beijo de Amor” (“Last Love Kiss”), the orgy ends; everyone is sleeping. A mysterious hooded figure walks into the tavern and kills Johann, and then heads toward a man named Arnold.

The figure is revealed to be Giorgia, Johann’s sister, and Arnold is actually Arthur (who was saved by a passerby after the duel) under a false name. Giorgia reveals to Arthur that she wanted to get her revenge on Johann, and having done so, the honor Johann stole from her when they slept together is finally restored.

After exchanging some love words with Arthur, both decide to commit suicide.

My notes:

woman shows up

reminds him of his shittiness

So Giorgia gets some vengeance, but not nearly enough to make up for the casual abuse heaped upon women in the story. And of course she dies.

Of course when Giorgia shows up at the end, she’s none too happy:

— Sim, já não sou bela como há cinco anos! É verdade, meu loiro amante! É que a flor de beleza é como todas as flores. Alentai-as ao orvalho da virgindade, ao vento da pureza, e serão belas… Revolvei-as no lodo… e, como os frutos que caem, mergulham nas águas do mar, cobrem-se de um invólucro impuro e salobro! Outrora era Giorgia — a virgem, mas hoje e Giorgia — a prostituta!

-Yes, I’m not as beautiful as I was five years ago!” It’s true, my blond lover! It is that the flower of is like all flowers. Encourage them to the dew of virginity, to the wind of purity, and they will be beautiful … Roll them in the mud … and, like the fruits that fall, they plunge into the waters of the sea, they cover themselves in an impure and brackish envelope! Once it was Giorgia – the virgin, but today it is Giorgia – the prostitute!

“Dew of virginity” Come on. Some guy wrote that.

— Oh! deixa que me lembre: estes cinco anos que passaram foram um sonho. Aquele homem do bilhar, o duelo à queima-roupa, meu acordar num hospital, essa vida devassa onde me lançou a desesperação, isto é um sonho? Oh! lembremo-nos do passado! Quando o inverno escurece o céu, cerremos os olhos; pobres andorinhas moribundas, lembremo-nos da primavera!…

– -Oh! Let me remind you: these five years that passed were a dream. That billiard man, duel at point-blank range, my waking up in a hospital, this wasted life where I was desperate, is this a dream? Oh! let us remember the past! When winter darkens the sky, let us close our eyes; poor moribund swallows, let’s remember spring!

I doubt Johann will make it to spring.

— Giorgia! Era ele um infame. Foi ele quem deixou por morto um mancebo a quem esbofeteara numa casa de jogo. Giorgia — a prostituta! vingou nele Giorgia — a virgem! Esse homem foi quem a desonrou! desonrou-a, a ela que era sua… irmã!

– Giorgia! He was an evil one. He was the one who left a young man dead whom he had slapped at a gambling house. Giorgia – the prostitute! avenged him Giorgia – the virgin! This man was the one who dishonored her! dishonored her, she was his … sister!

Incest in drama. Typical.

37631806311_90240ab5cd
I kept imagining Italian actress Giorgia Moll.

A mulher recuava… recuava. O moço tomou-a nos braços, pregou os lábios nos dela… Ela deu um grito e caiu-lhe das mãos. Era horrível de se ver. O moço tomou o punhal, fechou os olhos, apertou-o no peito, e caiu sobre ela. Dois gemidos sufocaram-se no estrondo do baque de um corpo…

A lâmpada apagou-se.

The woman was backing away. The young man took her in his arms, pressed his lips to hers … She screamed and fell from her hands. It was horrible to see. The young man took the dagger, closed his eyes, pressed it to his chest, and fell on it. Two groans choked on the thud of a body …

The lamp went out.

A1019A1
Bet it was a whale oil lamp.

It’s kind of a downer. However, I found Johann’s Story and Último Beijo de Amor to be the least grotesquely misogynistic tales and I adapted them into a neat little one act play and submitted it to an interesting horror festival: they only do adaptations of classic horror. The deadline is February 28th.

There’s always a Youtube video:

 

One thing that cannot pass without mention is the fact Álvares de Azevedo was Brazilian, yet his plays are set in Europe with hardly a hint of anything Brazilian (or even Portuguese) in them. The only thing Portuguese mentioned is Bocage, who, ironically copied Brazilian forms of poetry.

Another interesting thing is in what high regard he’s held in Brazil, despite his European outlook.

Romanticism and Ultra-romantacism

Here I shall attempt to discuss Àlvares de Azevedo’s work in connection to Romantacism and Ultra-romantacism.

Romantacism, basically is about feelings. It is a push back against The Enlightenment and Age of Reason. Some cool things came from this time, such as countries beginning to abolish torture. The American Revolution as well as Haitian and Latin American independence could be attributed in some ways to The Enlightenment. The Enlightenment even saw the nascent stirrings of (GASP!) feminism.

The US Bill of Rights and The Declaration of the Rights of Man were byproducts of this philosophy. Basically, reason and science were believed to be the absolute best of anything. Logically, torture is wrong, slavery is wrong, colonialism is wrong. We can thank The Englightenment for many of these “common sense” concepts. It’s no mistake that Tom Paine’s pamphlet was indeed entitled “Common Sense.”

However, in a society where logic and reason rule everything, one thing gets left out and man does it feel ever-so-butthurt about it: emotion.

For the Romantacists, feeling was the epiphany of everything, especially art and literature. It didn’t matter that the plot kinda doesn’t make sense – how does the work make you feel? It doesn’t matter that Macário is absolutely written as a stageplay and its sequel looks like some weird play/novel hybrid. How do they make you feel?

“Creation from nothingness” was also an ideal.

Portugal and Brazil (naturally) took this to an extreme – creating Ultra-romantcism. Because apparently simply feeling wasn’t enough…Via Wikipedia, here are some supposed markers of Ultra-romantacism. I shall make note of how/if these plays fit the mold:

  • Creative liberty (the content is more important than the form; grammatical rules often ignored) One looks like a play. The other looks like a play in story form. 
  • Free versification Not much rhyming going on. Or meter. But there are instances of it. 
  • Doubt, dualism Pure virginal women victimized by lecherous psychopaths.
  • Constant repugnance, morbidness, suffering, pessimism, Satanism, masochism, cynicism, self-destruction Pretty much the whole damn play (both)
  • Denial of reality in favour of the world of dreams, fancy and imagination (escapism, evasion) Macário hangs out with Satan. People tell stories that may or may not be true.
  • Adolescent disillusion Horny, sadistic college students getting constantly drunk
  • Idealization of love and women Happens, at times. Several characters yap on and on about “pure” “white” “virginial” women (and raping them)
  • Subjectivity, egocentricity These characters only care about themselves.
  • Saudosismo (an untranslatable word meaning homesickness or longing) for childhood and the past The stories are about the past, but I don’t see much saudosimo here.
  • A preference for the nocturnal Everything seems to happen at night, like a certain film genre.
  • Conscience of solitude Everyone is lonely.
  • Death: total and definitive escape from life, an end to suffering; sarcasm, irony  All characters would be better off dead  – the the innocent die more often. And yes, death is preferable to sarcasm. 

So with all of the young man’s doom and gloom I suppose it may be poetic that he died young, having an infected broken hip after falling from his horse. Or he died from TB.

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His tomb.

Beyond these two plays, he left behind numerous essays, stories and poems. We’ll leave you with a couple of poems before the link dump:

[update: I cannot find any poems of his in English and don’t feel like translating them right now  – couldn’t do them justice, but themes are the same – this one translates to Virgin Death.]

For our other playwrights, click here.

Since this is a THEATRE blog, here are some videos of (amateur) theatre productions of Noite na Taverna.

 

The dance-comedy version from 1989:

 

All links in Portuguese, unless noted.

His collected works.

English wikipedia

Spanish wikipedia.

Macário

Noite na Taverna

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Coffee Table (Joseph Arnone)

Hello everyone!!! We’re back and this Monday it’s Joseph Arnone‘s Coffee Table.

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Coffee table made of old railroad ties. Yes!!!

The monologue is incredibly straightforward. basically, Melanie is a patient in the mental ward of the hospital – and she can totally see the coffee table come to life (as one does).

I like this because it’s good without exploiting mental illness. The author is top notch. We profiled his other monologue Rather Be a Man here.

The monologue itself can be found here:

I’ve noticed that a lot of non-native English speakers have chosen it, too.

Below is a choice selection of Youtube monologues. Who do you think “brought it?” Good work everyone!!!

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

 

And that’s it!!! Join us Monday for more monologues and next Thursday for a Gothic Brazilian playwright!!!

For a complete list of monologues, click here.

 

Current Playwrights, Dude Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

John Patrick Bray

Hello and welcome back to everyone’s only favorite unknown playwrights blog!!!!

This week we’ll start off with a question: what does a bleak existential comedy drama set in the Hudson River Valley have to do with a zany comedy set during WW2 in Minnesota?

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Pretty much the coolest picture of a playwright I’ve seen in a while.

Possible answers could be they’re both in the States, both are written in English, both mention New York, but the real answer is that the same dude wrote them – and that dude is John Patrick Bray. Let’s jump into our first play, shall we?

Here is a summary of the action of Tracks (courtesy of the author):

“Set in 1998 in the upper Hudson Valley, New York, near the Catskills, Tracks tells the story of pill-popping teen siblings Jennie and Simian; their younger sister Deb; their friend, the straight-laced Dapper Dan; and local Will Flatbeer, who is home from college and helping his dad manage the local mart and gas station. They have a special place they like to go to on the Hudson River coast near the train tracks where they can eat candy out of a mysterious candy machine, get high, and be themselves. Unbeknownst to them, manifestations of Hudson Valley myths – such as the Headless Horseman – are very close. When the misfits learn that AmTrain plans to fence off access to the Hudson in order to keep citizens a safe distance from their proposed bullet trains, they start a letter writing campaign and, later, attempt an act of anarchy that goes disastrously wrong. As the events unfold, we learn that there is little difference between real life and myth for corporate entities and for passengers who look out the windows of a speeding train wondering what it must be like to live under a Catskill moon.”

Let’s boil that down: teens, drugs, sex, trains [no, not THAT kind] and the Headless Horseman.

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Neat poster.

Sounds like a recipe for success. It also sounds like my old high school would never put it on (they’re still waiting for Our Town to become public domain).

The play does have a lot going for it, namely, its depiction of semirural ennui, awkward teenage romance and incorporation of myth into the narrative. The depiction of a town hedging all its bets on a train stataion that may or may not get built is all-too-familiar.

The play reminds us we’re in 1998 when this topic comes up:

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The letter-writing campaign has to do with the new train station – but the oblique observation here is that Jennie is about 20 years ahead of her (mostly male) peers in that she can see what was going on with Lewinsky and Clinton. It seems only now in 2019 with #MeToo has mainstream America begun to catch up with her.

Another exchange captures a common ocurrance then and even more common now:

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Society’s ills intertwine with teenage longing. Jennie lacks medication. Dapper Dan seems to have every medication in the book and offers it to Jennie for free…because he likes her.

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Really, Dan? Really? I’m embarrassed for both of us.

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The water calls to Deb to become her own myth. Thank God it is unsuccessful.

Jennie’s mom Marigold thinks she is shooting up – but discovers something else.

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I don’t know what is worse as a teeanger- being caught cutting by your mom or having her tell you to pull your pants up. There’s probably a reason she cuts (hint: it rhymes with BLOM)

Our society tends to portray cutting as a teen thing, but plenty of adults do it too. If you’re in the US and you need help, it is available.

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OK so I never knew anyone who died from an IUD. But it can happen.

Here’s a five second trailer for Tracks that had one view when I found it on Youtube:

 

Jennie sings a song reminding us of famous people and things in the Catskills:

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Wa-wa-wait!!! It’s the Headless Horseman!!! Who was probably based on a real decapitated soldier. But who didn’t throw many pumpkins post-decap.

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A pretty badass painting for just a dude tossing a pumpkin.

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Just like a suburban Applebee’s, here’s a bit to digest here: The Headless Horseman turns into the Headless IBM-man and Johnny Appleseed shows up.

The multiple references to IBM in the play are because IBM played a big part in the local economy – that is until they didn’t.

And the Johnny Appleseed bit is related to American history that became folklore.

He was a Swedenborgian missionary who roamed the frontier in the US & Canada planting apple trees. You can see the Disney version here.

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GE is an American electrical company with deep ties to upstate New York.

And apparently the company is popping pills with the Headless Horseman.

Judgment-free zone here.

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American higher education deftly summarized.

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Dan, dude…

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“No.” Definitive. 

And there’s the trope of the teen who wants to go to the fair…and have sex with the guy she likes but she needs her older brother to lie/cover for her – which goes about as well as you can expect when she claims it certainly isn’t her first time:

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You’ll never look at a stopwatch GIF the same again – even a blurry one.

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Put this in the siblings-argue-over-sex play pile.

As stated in the synopsis, the play has a tragic and symbolic ending…minor spoiler alert.

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Warning: possible spoiler alert.

Now we move another Bray’s play Christmas in the Airwaves (yeah, I know – this blog keeps profiling Christmas plays when it totally isn’t Christmas. Except that one time when it was).

Anyhow – this is a lovable play set on the homefront during WW2. It has a lot of heart, great characterization and is a bit of fun, especially when it is sending up popular genres of yesteryear and today.

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Missy Hildebrandt, Sarah Frazier, Stephanie Wipf and Jordon Oxborough in Christmas in the Airwaves

What do you think the hardest part of playwriting is? Summarizing the plot. Maybe the director can do that:

If not, the play comes with a study guide.

But since so much of the plot plays off of characterization, let’s look at the characters:

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These seem to be the main characters. The Welsh sisters seem to be inspired by the Andrews Sisters. Buck is 4F and wants to kill Nazis and the women in the play are missing some boys overseas in the war. (Buck shouldn’t worry too much as the great Malcolm X was also disqualified for military service during WW2.)

Max Tyrone is a local boy who done good in New York City and is back for a spell. The conflicts come out of the conflict inherent in their stations in life as well as the life and are augmented by being on the homefront during the life and death struggle against Fascism overseas. The balance of the cast follows:

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It even comes with a spiffy trailer:

For those who never knew, radio plays were totally a thing and genre and medium unto themselves in the days before the telly.

In fact many TV shows got their start on the radio including I Love Lucy, Guiding Light, Gunsmoke and somehow Red Dwarf.

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Michael Conroy as Hubert and Missy Hildebrandt as Alice

The play’s strongest asset is its humor. For lack of a better word, the play is full of quips:

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Not another Minnesota joke.
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Burn, baby, burn.
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A burn hot enough to thaw a Minnesota December.

What I like about Bray’s  writing is his ability to weave in several tropes at once – here’s the hometown boy returning along with the guy who didn’t fight and possible love is in the air. And thinking New York City is special.

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Cancer stick Cigarette ads were totally a thing on radio. Here’s one for Chesterfields.

 

And Lucky Strike!!!

 

Buck still mopes about his 4F status…..and lack of women status. Just like Totally not like your dear blogger.

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20+ years later the Baez sisters would help Buck change his mind about war.

One fun part of the play is the way it spoofs different genres:

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It’s like when Superman fought Nazis.

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Explains a lot.

I like that Kaptain Kraut speaks English with a heavy German accent. Duh, it’s radio.

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I admit I used this snippet because January 2nd is you know who‘s birthday and also the day one of my heroes died.

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YESSSSSSSSSS.

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Sarah Frazier at mic, Christy Nix, Dann Peterson in back. Via here.

Honestly, there are so many funny back and forths in this, I didn’t want to overdo it. Just trust me on this one.

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Stephanie Wipf as Muriel and Brendan Veerman as Buck

Another genre that gets parodied is the private dick/noir/pulp genre:

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This would be my life if I was a radio character in 1944.

Bray brings an intertextuality to the show because these parody bits – i.e. the “show within a show” was actually performed on the radio in southern Florida.

The play has a happy ending (like many Christmas plays) and I highly recommend it.

I think this is the original director talking:

 

Before we leave Minnesota, I just want to give a shoutout to my favorite Twin Cities artist, Katie Beumer.

A wee bit about the playwright. These are the impressive first few lines of his bio on the New Play Exchange:

“John Patrick Bray (Ph.D., Theatre, LSU; MFA, Playwriting, Actors Studio Drama School at New School University) has written plays under grants from The National Endowment for the Arts and the Acadiana Center for the Arts, and he has earned commissions from organizations Rachel Klein Productions and re:Directions Theatre in NYC; The Dancing Project, Acadiana Repertory Theatre and The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission in Louisiana; Lyric Arts Theatre in Anoka, Minnesota; and with various schools and colleges in The South. He is a Resident Playwright with Rising Sun Performance Company (NYC/Off-Off Broadway), a member and moderator of…”

I’m going to be upfront about why I chose to profile Mr. Bray – looking at his track record, he’s had a fair amount of productions spanning a couple of decades. Not quite the typical profile one will find here.

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Pictured: More productions than I’ve ever had in my life, though I did end up with a couple things published by Smith & Kraus.

However, much like our beloved Martha Patterson, Mr. Bray has run into a bit of a dry spell. For an author in his position, he usually knows eight months to a year in advance if he’s getting a production. He has nothing beyond May.

We all know how hard it is to get productions as beginning playwrights or if we (or our work) don’t match certain demographics, stereotypes, expectations or market trends in American theatre.

We forget sometimes that people who have “made it” also must work day in and day out and Mr. Bray has appeared to have reached a day out recently. I believe for the most part the American theatre system is broken and what’s happening with Mr. Bray’s career as well as every living playwright’s career profiled here so far is somehow connected in a morass of cancer eating American theatre’s soul. 

Feel free to disagree.

I asked him several questions about this as well as his work in general and they appear at the end of the blog.

First, I wanted to point out how prolific Mr. Bray is. Last August he took part in 31 Plays in 31 Days. I recommend you do too.

He was nice enough to provide titles and synopses to quite a number of plays he created at that time:

Hell Hole: A goth kid and someone more straight edge are on a blind date at a county fair, where they spend most of their time waiting in line finding nothing but misery until they discover their mutual love of a Marilyn Manson song. (Produced)

DVD and Chill: A woman shows up on the doorstep of her ex-boyfriend of some years ago (who is now married with kids) soaking wet and holding a soaking wet cherry pie hoping to find answers as to why they couldn’t make things work. (Produced) 

Blue Lantern: Two lovers rekindle their flame while negotiating over an antique lantern and its magical glow. (Produced) 

Time the Revelator: Two souls discover the power of “thank you” in a Christmas Tree lot on the night that legends are made. (Produced)  

Fix: Two recovering addicts try to fix the world’s problems (and each other) after their old pusher shows up at a New Year’s Party. (Produced)

New York Death (or, It Happens All the Time). A business man revisits a bar from his youth hoping to run into a woman he once loved, only to discover the bar is more metaphysical than he had realized, and he is not yet ready to cross over. (Produced) 

South Downs: A graduate assistant and his undergraduate student have been trapped in a house during a hurricane; they wrestle with guilt having had an affair while negotiating with a neighbor for borrowed power. (Staged-reading)

The Crimson Avenger: An elderly woman gives her elderly partner an actual biplane as a reminder of their lives as adventuring wing-walkers. (Reading)

Troubles that Bind: An Englishman and Irish Woman head to the U.S. in the hopes of a better life. (Forthcoming production) 

Ashes of the Revolution: Having learned about home invasion, two children vow to protect their house from vandals, thieves, and robots by sneaking into the back yard in the middle of the night. 

Stress Lizard: Two high school students rummage through a second-hand store; when one of them gets stressed out, they become a lizard as a means of avoidance. 

Poppy’s Blues (or, The Magical Thing That Happened Outside the Gas Station): Cadillac Tom recounts the time he watched an airplane disappear from the sky, only to hear that it ended up suspended in time over Lake Michigan. 

Baby Einstein on the Beach: Hamlet digs up the past. Hamlet buries the past. An homage to/parody of the children’s program Baby Einstein and the work of Robert Wilson.

Release Date: Friends negotiate their status via video game fandom and the hope for a particular game that will soon be released. 

Total: A group of friends remember someone they lost, who may have grabbed onto the moon and disappeared as it shone brilliantly over a parking deck. 

Three Squares: three oddballs are in danger of starving to death in a remote cabin while they wait out the zombie revolution. 

Edith’s Head: half-siblings discover each other and reminisce about an aunt who kept many family secrets in her attic. 

Kiss From a Rose is a Song: Twin brothers discover they both like the same girl while discussing plans for the senior prom. 

History of S: A little girl can see her future while creating drawings that come to life. 

Head On: a group of misfits remember their bowling buddy, whose coffin they’ve brought to the alley to give them once last time down the lane. There’s also a salad bar. 

Falling is Like: A May/December romance could be in bloom, if only Mike wouldn’t fall out the window at the mention of the word love. The air will be sweet with the sound of bird song and an ambulance siren. 

Mr. Bray was kind enough to include some seriously in-depth answers to our questions. Hopefully we can all learn a bit more about him, his career and playwriting from it.

How did you start playwriting?

I’ve always love theatre and creating characters (I have to credit Mr. Greenman at Highland High School for that, along with the many hours my twin brother and I played with our various awesome action figures, never by the rules) but I fell into it playwriting quite accidentally. My brother (Gregg, my twin) and I were taking night classes at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie while seniors in high school. We were asked to write a screenplay for an advanced production class. The script we came up with was ambitious and pretty wordy. A number of folks involved told us it would work better as a play. So, we set to rewriting it and with the help of some wonderful community theatre angels and the DCC Programming Board (led at the time by Mike Weida and Robert Suarez) we produced the play in the fall of 1996 at Dutchess Hall Theatre. The play, Foul Feast, was kind of like a cross between Neil Simon and Christopher Durang. I recently revisited the script and there were a few parts I still found really funny. I’m not sure if I’ll revisit it at this point. I had been at DCC to learn how to be a camera man – I thought I would work at a local TV station or maybe be a radio DJ. It hadn’t occurred to me that theatre was something I could do for a living or my life.  

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Barter Theatre’s 2017 production of Friendly’s Fire. Guy Friendly and Todd are played by Nick Piper and Rick McVey respectively. Polar Bear is played by Sean Campos.

I transferred to SUNY New Paltz and became a theatre major with a concentration in acting and directing. I took a playwriting class with Larry Carr who is wonderful, and also took an excellent improvisation class with David Cohen. I started writing short plays and vignettes that were blending what I had learned from both the playwriting and improvisation classes. I was trying to create characters that I would want to play in circumstances I would want to see. I wrote a thesis about it which became my statement when I applied for the MFA program at The Actors Studio Drama School at The New School. Jeffrey Sweet, a playwright who is very prominent in the world of improvisation, read my statement and accepted me into the program. My writing was bumpy the first couple of years despite having excellent teachers, but then my third year I had Neal Bell as my playwriting professor, and he became very much a mentor and a friend. He granted me a kind of permission to write the more abstract works I wanted to write and I haven’t looked back since. 

What are your influences?

Short answer: everything.

Medium answer: Tom Waits. 

Longer answer: my biggest theatrical influence has been the apocryphal bones under the Paris Opera House. When I was in second grade I had a glow-in-the-dark Phantom of the Opera action figure which was meant to look like Lon Chaney from the silent movie. It remains one of my favorite toys (yes, I still have it!). I became obsessed with just about every adaptation, particularly the Andrew Lloyd Webber megamusical. It was the first time I really wanted to be involved in theatre in some way. I recorded myself singing the songs (poorly). Fast forward to 1994, and I buy Tom Waits’s record The Black Rider, which is Waits himself performing the music and songs for the musical/opera he created with William S. Burroughs and Robert Wilson. Here’s how the bones tie together: in an apocryphal tale passed on for a generation or two, there was a male ballet performer, Boismaison, who felt an unrequited love for a co-star, a ballerina named Nanine Dorival, who had a very jealous suitor named M. Mauzurier, himself a sergeant-major, who commanded a post of sixty French guards for the Paris Opera House. One night, M. Mauzrier decided he had had enough of Boismaison giving undue attention to his lady (yes, he was jealous and possessive). After a performance of the German opera, The Marksman, M. Mazrier approached Boismaison and beat him within an inch of his life. He left Boimaison tied to the peristyle of the opera house. Boimaison spent the night exposed to the elements. The combination of the beating and exposure proved too much, and he would die the next day, but not before he bequeathing his remains to the Opéra company so that his bones could be used in any subsequent production of Der Freischütz (The Marksman), or whenever necessary. Even in death, he wanted to be close to the object of his desire. Years later, it was said that his bones were indeed discovered among the props; some say the bones have been placed in the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera. Again, the story is completely false but these bones served as the inspiration for Erik in Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera. The Black Rider by Burroughs, Waits, and Wilson is an adaptation of The Marksman, and on the record, William S. Burroughs sings “T’aint no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones,” a nod to the bones of Boismaison. So, my life in theatre is tied to the myth of the bones of Boismaison. 

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Destiny Shegstad and Yair Ben-Dor in Erik: A Play About a Puppet.

It might sound like a tangent, but I think the bottom line is all of our arts are somehow tied together. In one of my classes I draw connections between Dragnet, Little Shop of Horrors, Doctor Faustus, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and Law and Order. (This would be a much longer tangent.) I try to be open to everything I see, hear, touch, taste, and find the interconnectedness of things (I know, that’s a little Douglas Adams).

What is your most memorable production and why?

Of one of my plays? It’s hard to say. I think the memorable productions are the ones where I had this little voice somewhere inside say to me “huh, I was right.” I love when that happens. 

What is your least memorable production and why?

Oh, man. I’m not sure I remember it. (rim-shot)

I don’t know if I have one that stands out. I’ve pulled plays when I’ve had to, and those were never easy decisions to make. But least memorable? It’s hard to say. 

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Myles McGinn and the late Lauren Landry in one-act Goodnight Lovin’ Trail.

What’s your funniest theatre story?

Probably when my Dad, Mom, Gregg, and me all performed in a community theatre production of Guys and Dolls back in 1996. I think it’s more of a “it was funny if you were there” situation. The whole cast, crew, and creative team went out almost every night after rehearsal (we had started rehearsing in May and the show closed in August). I think I gained twenty pounds! We were a singing, eating, drinking, rehearsing family, but we also got a lot of work done. It was a terrific experience! My Dad played Big Julie and the rest of us were in the chorus. My favorite night was when my Dad performed with his fly open with his shirt tails coming out of the front of his pants – it looked like a character choice for, uh, Big Julie. During the Salvation Army sequence, Big Julie has a moment where he turns to the audience and says “I’m REAL sorry.” So, there’s my Dad, shirt tails coming out of his fly, fully facing the audience, saying “I’m REAL sorry.” It was a riot! At our closing party we presented Dad with a 21 Zipper Salute. 

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Michael Bertolini and Kathryn Elisabeth Lawson in Liner Notes, which has been adapted into a film and is available on Amazon.

What are your writing habits like?

It depends on where we are in the academic year. If I have an idea for a play it’s usually when I’m way too busy to write it, but I go ahead and write it anyway. I usually have a first draft in seventy-two hours and spend a few weeks tinkering with it before I bring it to our workshop here in Athens (Athens Playwrights’ Workshop meets on alternating Mondays during the academic year and is open to everyone). During 31Days/31Plays I do make sure I have something new every day. I try to write something that is at least ten minutes in length. A few times I fell behind and wrote only a monologue, but it was still something. 

What advice do you have for new playwrights?

If you’re in college: take acting classes, take lighting design, costume design, improvisation, sound design; grab a hammer and build a flat. Be there for load-in and strike. Stage manage a show. Learn everything you can about building and taking down a show. While you’re doing that, read plays, go to as many plays as you can, see out of the way black box stuff, see student productions, just be a sponge. At the same time, don’t forget to do other things. Chances are, if you’re in college, you’ll have to work. I was a mascot for a radio station, I gutted fish at Korean supermarket (that lasted one weekend, I had no idea what I was doing), I baked bagels for over six years, I was a car swap driver for Volvo dealerships doing title-for-title trades, and I worked a local “roadie for hire” gig via Rhino staging in Louisiana (when I was in grad school part two). I had to work – my parents were really not in a place to send my brother and I to college – so I had to do what I had to do to stay afloat. But these jobs were also instrumental in terms of life lessons. I really believe if you’re an artist you need to be a total human being – being a writer is only one thing that you do. Playwright Catherine Trieschmann talked to my Dramatic Writing class and she suggested we all figure out where art should be in our lives. Art can only give us so much and do so much for us; it’s important to see a larger picture. 

If you’re not in college, same advice: join a local theatre and help build the show, help strike it, be a stage-hand, volunteer in any and every way possible. Become a person of the theatre and figure out where art should be in your life. 

For both: self-produce a play in a festival or at a community theatre or in some loft or art space. You’ll have a real clear sense of what works better on the page and what works better on stage by being actively involved in a production of your own material. It’s an education unto itself. 

Know that no one is waiting for your brilliant script. That doesn’t mean send plays out whenever you see a call and have something that matches, but that’s only one part of the equation. You have to be ready to do it yourself. 

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The late Nicholas Mevoli and Olivia Rorick in Goodnight Lovin’ Trail

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

Some are in the process of getting attention, which is great: Darcy Parker Bruce is colossal; Keelay Gipson, Gwydion Suilebhan, Audrey Cefaly, Kato McNickle, William Coleman, Taylor Gruneloh, Erin Lane, Dusty Wilson, EJC Calvert, Angela Hall, they’re all fantastic writers. William Yellow Robe has been around for a while – I’d love to see his plays get picked up by regional theatres; he’s a national treasure. Daniel Guyton and Kate Guyton are a married couple and they’re also really solid writers. I’m working with a student right now, Avery Bufkin, and they are the real deal. I’m looking forward to seeing what they bring to the table. There are a bunch of students at UGA: Jake Hunsbusher, Matt Suwalski, Shanon Weaver, Abraham Johnson, Rachael Simpson; I have a hunch you’ll be seeing some of these names on marques in the near future. 

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A college production of Green Sound (University of North Iowa)

What are common themes in your work?

Playwright Jim Ryan once said to me “every play is either a killing or a healing.” I think mine are a bit of both. The backdrop has to do with absence: someone is missing, someone is gone, something is being taken away. And the characters all kind of deal with insurmountable obstacles using humor and magic. Humor is key. A few of my closest friends have had a really rough time in their lives, and when we get together (which is not as often as I’d like since I live so far away) we kind of sit, have a drink, and laugh and laugh. My twin brother and our friend Chris Laube are two of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life. So, if my characters are stuck in a corner, I think “What would Gregg say?” “What would Laube say?” Friends are ever-present in my plays. So, in Friendly’s Fire, for example, we have a veteran of The Gulf War who has become a shut-in. He’s going through a divorce and is reliving his brother’s death in service. Enter a good friend, and the two of them take a journey through Guy Friendly’s mind (I like odd names) to see if there’s a way to bring Guy back to earth. The friend sticks with him through all of the weird and harrowing things that happen during that long, dark night of the soul. And they laugh along the way. In Tracks, a group of teen are about to lose their hang-out spot, and they try to figure out a way to hold onto it. They have plenty of reasons to despair: the local economy has tanked, friends and loved ones have died, but they’re still trying to make their little piece of the world work. They keep their sense of humor. I don’t mean to suggest that my plays are comedies or that the characters laugh at each other’s misery. It goes back to something my teacher Andreas Manolikakis said when I was in grad school. 9/11 had just happened, and a bunch of us were there to witness it. I had just made it to town and saw the smoke coming out of the towers from an MTA window at 125th St. To make a long story short, I got right back out of NYC and returned to school about a week later. Our first day back in our classroom there were drawings hung up on the wall by elementary school students who had seen the building collapse (the whole building had been used for community events for a few days after the towers fell). We were sitting there looking at these drawings, feeling the weight of the loss, and Andreas looked at us and said “don’t lose your sense of humor.” We then walked around and looked at some of the drawings and then we got to work. Our first day together Andreas had us read the poem “Ithaka” by C.P. Cavafy (I can’t remember which translation). So, for me, it was an adventure as part of the journey to Ithaka. Not every episode will be uplifting, not every encounter will be kind. The characters that inhabit the worlds of my plays are experiencing their own journey to Ithaka, not every adventure is pleasant, not every encounter is kind, but they never lose their sense of humor. Our sense of humor is our humanity. Our humanity helps us heal. 

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Buckle from the student showcase at Axial Theatre

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

When I was finishing up grad school I had a drink with playwright Susan Kim. We were at The White Horse Tavern where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death, which seemed strangely fitting yet foreboding. She and I were introduced via the Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Mentor Program, which was a program where an established playwright would meet with an exiting grad student, share a drink, and basically share the bad news. I asked her “what do we do for money?” and she responded “You get a job, and you figure out your best time to write – either early morning or evenings.” She told me that time would shrink a bit if I decided to get married or have kids. I then asked her conspiratorially “yeah, but what do we do for money.” And she said “John. You get a job.” 

I was really fortunate because I had fallen in love with teaching and the academy in general, so I had these two passions and I was certain I would find a way to bring them together. I had a bunch of help along the way from professors, colleagues, friends, and here I am. 

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Cavan Hallman and Abigail Hawk in Hound.

Being a playwright is like the great “should we have kids?” debate: in the end, there’s never enough money and it’s never the right time, but if it’s something you want, regardless of whether or not you enter the mainstream world (whatever that is) then figure out a way to do it. 

It might have been helpful to realize that I’m not going to take the US Theatre by storm, but I could find a way to carve out a little piece of the world and enjoy it. Somewhere in grad school a number of us forgot Stanislavski’s mantra to love the art in self and not the self in art. If I were starting out again I might get that tattooed on my back just so I wouldn’t forget it.

Can you please tell us about the development of both Tracks and Christmas in the Airwaves?

I received a phone call from director Daniel Ellis one day. Daniel was a year ahead of me at The New School and we’ve stayed in touch via email and social media. He knew I was still writing plays and he asked if I would be willing to write a play for the Lyric Arts Main Street Theatre in Anoka, Minnesota. They had been hoping to secure the rights to a big Christmas musical – I think it was White Christmas? – and had hit a snag. Daniel suggested they commission a new work. I was asked to write a play set in a radio station during the Second World War. The characters would perform vignettes and songs and there’d be banter in between. We didn’t have the rights to some of the more popular vignettes, so I wrote them. The theatre licensed all of the songs. As I wrote, the banter became less “in between” stuff and the characters grew. With time, the characters in the play became much more foregrounded and the songs and vignettes were secondary. Daniel was a great developmental director and encouraged me every step of the way. Daniel wasn’t able to direct the production, in the end, because he landed a full-time job elsewhere which was fantastic for him. Lyric Arts hired Craig Johnson to direct, and we had a sensational time writing back-and-forth. I didn’t see the final production live, but they recorded it for me, and it was really, really good. 

Kind of a side note: Daniel reached out to me because he saw my social media posts about a production of my play Erik: A Play About a Puppet which the Rising Sun Performance Company was producing as part of FRIGID NY at The Kraine Theatre. In Erik, the central character was performed by a stick puppet with a phallus. It was bawdy, theatrical, way over the top. We had a small cult following and very mixed reviews (one critic wanted to blow up the theatre rather than watch the last ten minutes). When Daniel called me said he had seen my posts about Erik, and thought it was great I was still writing, etc., and would I be willing to write a play for Lyric Arts? I asked if he wanted to read Erik before asking Lyric Arts to offer me the commission just to make sure I was the right guy for the job. He said he trusted that I would be able to pull it off given our similar education, and I said, “okay, let’s do it!” So. I earned that commission thanks to puppet sex on fourth street.

Tracks came about because of my wife, Danielle, and because of Nick Piper at the Barter Theatre. Barter Theatre produced my play Friendly’s Fire in 2017. It was a terrific experience! Nick wrote to me last summer and asked if I would consider writing a play about the opioid crisis. I responded that I don’t do really well writing plays that focus on a social issues – some of my playwriting friends are really gifted and can do that without sounding preachy, but I don’t have the knack. He responded saying that he didn’t want a play dealing with an issue, he wanted to see if I could come up with a “Bray play” where opioids were present. I told him that that was something I could try. Now, to be clear, it was more of an intellectual challenge than a “Barter wants another play.” He was curious, and I became curious, and I wanted to satisfy that curiosity. 

Danielle and I both grew up in the Hudson Valley. In the 1990s opioids were very much on the rise. We both had friends die from drug-related complications. So, Tracks draws from some of Danielle’s friends, some of my own, some of the stories Danielle told me, some others have told me, and it all just came together. I wrote the play in three days. The APW hosted a staged-reading of the play with the Classic City Fringe Festival in October and Circle Ensemble Theatre hosted a reading of the play in Winterville, Georgia as part of their 2nd Sunday Series. So, we’re in the rewriting process. My hope is it’ll find a home with a developmental opportunity or a production opportunity where we can use the rehearsal process to develop the play further (which is what usually happens). 

For playwrights who’ve never had a commission, how does one go about finding commissions?

I’ve been really, really lucky. I might need to answer every question by saying “I’ve been really, really lucky.” Commissions have sort of found me! If you spend enough time doing one thing sooner or later someone will notice and see if you can help them do something new, something that’ll hopefully be remarkable. 

Sometimes, they work really well, as with Christmas in the Airwaves. The process was excellent and I’m really happy with the end result. Sometimes the end result doesn’t come out so well, despite the process and how good the intentions were of all parties involved. Maybe it’s not the right fit. Maybe it’s not the right time for the story. Maybe everyone is too nice and we all say “yes” to everything. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and, according to Stephen King, adverbs. 

I think if you do a thing long enough sooner or later someone will say “have you thought of writing about such and such?” and if they’re serious they’ll pay you. A more valuable lesson for me has been know which opportunities fit the kind of work you do and which opportunities don’t. Playwrights aren’t a “one-size-fits-all,” and that’s wonderful. I think that’s why there’s so many of us – there are lots of stories to tell and they’re worth experiencing.  

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Samone Pittman and Fred Galyean in Donkey, directed by Susan Lane

You’re not the typical playwright that has been featured on our blog [one playwright has had a grand total of two productions in her hometown and no publications or commissions, for example]. You really have an impressive track record with academia, productions, publications and commissions, but recently things have slowed down for you. What is going on with American theatre that someone with your resume, skill and knowledge seems to be struggling with the rest of us? And how can that change?

Thank you so much!

I actually don’t know if I can fully answer the question because I am really, really grateful to be where I am. I have a friend on Facebook who is able to list every one of their full length productions on the horizon along with what number production it is for each one of the plays. I have nothing like that on my resume, but I do have a few artistic homes that I’ve built over the years. It’s kind of hard to measure when things are slow versus when they’re productive. The The fear is when we start hitting our stride that suddenly we’ll come to a full stop. I haven’t hit that stop yet, but I’m really not sure what will happen after May. There’s a helluvalot of uncertainty in our world. Jeffrey Sweet recently wrote a blog where he talks about how a number of playwrights have despaired over getting their annual rejection from the O’Neill. He reminds writers that we need to do away with the myth that we’re waiting to be discovered and to go back and get involved with self-production. It’s a great piece of advice and something I should listen to – I haven’t self-produced in quite some time and I always learn something valuable when producing a play vs. just writing and hoping somebody picks it up somewhere. It also gives me a sense that I’m steering the ship rather than allowing myself to be at the mercy of the waves. The lesson here is don’t wait for adventure to find you – be the active hero in your own story and create your own theatre. And while you’re at it, get together with other writers, form a Playwrights Collective, and find a way to produce each other. Look at 13P, The Workhaus, and The Welders for inspiration. 

I think the other part of the equation is to go where you’re loved! Spend some time building relationships and earn trust, both in your work and in you as a contributing artist, and stick with those people. I’ve been with Rising Sun Performance Company since 2004 and we have stuck with each other through thick and thin. I hope all writers can find some artistic home where you’re allowed to take risks, fail, and try again. Go where you’re loved. 

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Duane Rutter and Susan Ward in Fix at Axial Theatre, directed by Cat Banks

Both Tracks and Christmas in the Airwaves speak with a “local voice” which I love. When would you choose to set something in a very specific time and place vs. a more general setting like “suburbia” or “any big city”?

I find that a lot of works that I admire have a universal appeal (the academic in me is going to shake my head at the word “universal”) because there is something specific or singular about the story. Tracks in particular resonates with me because it’s based in the Hudson Valley where my wife and I grew up. The voices of the characters in that play are very much the voices of our friends – some of whom passed away much too young. I run into trouble if I try to say “a generic bar” or “a typical town” because in theatre nothing should be generic or typical. It kind of goes back to Russian Formalist Viktor Shklovsky who once said that the job of the artist is to take the familiar and make it unfamiliar, that when a painter paints a stone they need to make it seem more stony (that’s not quite the quote, but it’s close). So, I’m taking a bunch of folks I knew, some folks Danielle knew, mixing them up with a bit of myth, throwing in a few deeply held concerns we had way back when which, in hindsight, weren’t as troubling as the concerns that we were ignoring, and kind of stirring them together in a soup. We ladle it out, and there’s the play. 

With Christmas in the Airwaves I spent a lot of time reading my Mother-in-Law’s father’s letters he had written to my Mother-in-Law’s mother while serving in the Navy during World War II. I did my best to capture the feel of the dialogue. I read some of the letters out loud to find the rhythm of speech. I was also listening to folks in Minnesota and how they spoke and I was trying to find a middle-ground between Minnesota speech and early-to-mid twentieth century speech. I think our word choice really tells us where a character is from. 

Tom Waits has this recipe for writing songs: when you write a song you need people in case you get lonely, locations in case you get lost, and food in case you might get hungry. So, people, places, and food are all really important in my plays. Some figure more prominently than others, but they’re all in there. 

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Joe Beaudin and Lindsay Beecher in On Top directed by Jeffrey Woodbridge

What’s a question you’d like to be asked? Go ahead and answer that question. 
Jeremy Brett is still my favorite Sherlock Holmes. Second favorite? I’m going to surprise myself and say Jonny Lee Miller. Elementary is a great show, and much more faithful to the spirit of Doyle’s work than the other popular modern adaptation. Peter Cushing is high on the list, too. Don’t get me wrong, Rathbone is solid, but at the end of the day I want to see Jeremy Brett (with either of his Watsons, I love them both) or Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu. 

Everything bagel with lox, cream cheese, capers, and red onion. 

Chocolate chip. Unless White Chocolate Macadamia are available. 

Black coffee. 

Claret, but only on occasion. 

I only use the cane when the arthritis acts up. 

I only know what it’s like being a twin and don’t know what it’s like not being a twin, so I really can’t answer the question “what’s it like being a twin?” unless I say “status quo.” (I get asked this a lot.)

Louis Jordan, Frank Langella, and Bela Lugosi are all Dracula. There’s room in my heart for all.

It’s a toss-up between The Heart of Saturday Night and Rain Dogs, but if hard pressed, I’d say the soundboard bootleg of his concert in Australia from 1979.

As a child I did indeed believe Guy Smiley (the Sesame Street Muppet) was God. I’ve yet to see evidence to the contrary.  

Thanks John for the thoughts and the randomness!!!!

Here are links to:

John’s faculty page.

His page at the New Play Exchange.

A google search for news about John. Good jumping off point for researching his productions.

For all our other playwrights, please check here.

Unknown Playwrights shall return with Monologue Monday and next week we’ll profile a Gothic Brazilian playwright.

 

 

Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Imogen/Innogen from “Cymbeline” (Shakespeare)

So I’m still under the weather, but Monologue Monday must still go on.

And I know for a blog called “Unknown Playwrights” we do use monologues from Shakespeare from time to time. Sorry about that.

However, this is from Shakespeare’s most bonkers play. In fact the following exchange is from an interview with a production company:

EL: Cymbeline is crazy. Because it’s less well known, it allows KCST to really make the production its own and make it an extremely unique, entertaining Shakespeare show.

DG: Cymbeline has got it all, and it’s hysterical.

CR: Think of all of the crazy devices used in Shakespeare’s plays – armies, combat, potions, evil royalty, gender flopping – they all appear in “Cymbeline”. You’re guaranteed to be entertained!

Guaranteed. Not even Hamlet can do that. What is at the heart of this bit of theatrical insanity you (probably don’t) ask?

Let’s take the plot, which is so psychotically convoluted that the plot summary would take an entire night at the theatre to read. Seriously. Look here, here or here.

Did you notice some places spelled her name “Innogen” and some as “Imogen.” yeah, it’s that type of play.

I’ll attempt to paraphrase the plot.

Roman Britain. Imogen‘s dad (and client king for the Romans) Cymebline has a hot new wife (the aptly-named Queen) and wants his daughter to marry her himbo stepbrother Cloten; she secretly marries her true love Posthumus.  Cymbeline goes nuts and banishes Posthumus.

The lovers exchange a ring (for her) and a bracelet (for him). Then they seperate.

Cymbeline wants to imprison Imogen up until she agrees to marry Cloten. The wicked stepmother gives poison to Imogen’s servant Pisanio for future use.  Cloten tries to serenade Imogen.

A grade-A douche-sprocket named Iachimo shows up from Rome. He’s like if Othello’s friend Iago was an even bigger wad. He makes a bet with Posthumus that he can make Imogen cheat on him.  Great guy…

You know what? the play doesn’t get any better. If we were to give Shakespeare the benefit of the doubt, it could be a comedy taking on all the tropes he used. People more important than me believe so.

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But others stick with tragedy:

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Maybe it’s a tragedy because it’s just so bad. Or Shakespeare’s buddies were playing a joke on future English Lit majors all around the world.

But enough of Shajespearean doggerel. Let’s get down to some monologues, which seem to be popular on Youtube. I consider Immogen/Innogen to be a strong character simply because she has to tolerate all the nonsense from the other characters.

This first monologue of Imogen’s comes from Act III, Scene 2. She wants a horse with wings, because who DOESN’T want a horse with wings????

ACT III, Scene 2

A

 

B

 

C

 

D

 

E

 

F

 

G

 

Now we’re on Act III, Scene 4 where Imogen mentions she’s not gonna not never has cheated on her husband, though I think she should with that bet and all.

ACT III, Scene 4

A

 

B

 

C

 

D

 

E

 

F

 

G

 

H

 

I

 

J

 

K

 

The next monologue comes from Imogen talking about how a man’s life is a tedious one. So is a theatre blogger’s. Sigh. One actor chose to do this from a sleeping position. Interesting contrast.

Act III, Scene 6

A

 

B

 

C

 

D

 

E

 

F

 

So now we skip back to Act I, Scene 3. Imogen talks about taking leave. One actor chooses to incoporate teh previous line as well.

ACT I, Scene 3

A

 

B

 

C

 

D

 

E

 

F

 

And since that was a misogynistically brutal era, of course Imogen begs Pisanio to kill her if he wants to be a good servant, because suicide will send you to Hell or something. Act III, Scene 4

ACT III, Scene 4

A

 

B

 

C

 

D

 

E

 

We’re almost done! This scene is Act I, Scene 6. Imogen tells someone to leave her alone.

Act I, Scene 6

A

 

B

 

So now we’re closing in. Act IV, Scene 2. I’m just gonna call this “Imogen waking up” because that’s exactly what she’s doing. She’s going to Milford Haven, not Milford, Utah. Let’s check it out!!!

Act IV, Scene 2

A

 

B

 

C

 

And that is the end of Imogen in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. To celebrate, let’s watch the trailer for the weird biker adapatation of the play:

 

Join us on Thursday for another unknown playwright and be sure to check out other Monologue Mondays.

Please check out Shakespeare’s other monologues that we’ve featured:

Henry IV, part 2

Titus Andronicus

The Two Noble Kinsmen

For a COMPLETE list of monologues, click here.

Cheers!!!!!

Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

St. Valentine’s Day by Annie Eliot

DISCLAIMER: I’m currently sick in bed with swollen and excessively painful lymph nodes and for the last couple weeks I’ve had some stuff happen. If this blog post sucks, blame the lymph nodes and the people who used to be my friends.

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It’s that time of year again when people send me flowers chocolate forget I exist.

For the rest of the world, it is Valentine’s Day, a holiday named after a guy who refused to stop telling everyone to be Christian, so he was beaten with clubs and beheaded in February 269. He also probably didn’t get any chocolates either.

It is also that time of year when we look at Valentine’s Day plays – and contrary to previous holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas) this play is not downright awful.

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Today’s theme: Valentine’s Day GIFs in different languages. Somehow, in Finnish it works out to “Good Friend’s Day”

St. Valentine’s Day is a one-act play about an aunt and niece’s expectations and reality on Valentine’s Day. The play was published in 1892, a year that saw Ellis Island opened for immigration, the world’s first fingerprinting bureau started and women finally got to take graduate courses at Yale, the Nutcracker ballet was first performed and the Dalton gang tried to rob two banks at once in Kansas and got obliterated, except for Emmett Dalton…

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Tagalog: Happy Heart’s Day.

The basic plot of the play, as described earlier, consists of two women, a past-society’s-due-date aunt (Elinor) and her sprightly young niece (Letty). Apparently Elinor had a thing with a Mr. Morrison. But said Mr. Morrison wants a thing with Letty. A Valentine’s Day card arrives as does a twist ending.

It’s a compact and entertaining play that PLAYS way better than it READS.

It has also been source of numerous high school monologues.

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Tragedy and comedy look like they get along.
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Like seriously. Tragedy just needs a hug. It’s Valentine’s Day!

Some reasons I’d recommend this play for a modern production:

  1. Characterization. Elinor really hasn’t gotten over anything in life actually. She’s not happy when the card arrives.

ELINOR: How very absurd and medieval on his part to send me a valentine! A real valentine with, I have no doubt, birds and hearts and cupids and true lover’s knots–and–arrows on it. I do not think I shall be entirely satisfied unless it has a heart penetrated by an arrow. There is something about a heart, in vivid color, penetrated by an arrow, that expresses an amount of sentimental suffering otherwise impossible to delineate. I used to be very fond of the openwork ones over colored paper, but I think now I should be able to do without the colored paper. My tastes have softened down with the faded aestheticism of the age. But I should like some of those appropriate legends “stuck” here and there; something simple but convincing, such as “True Love,” or “Mine is Thine,” “Think of Me,” or “From a True Friend.” I remember that even to the uncritical eye of youth these aphorisms had rather the air of being attached as a work of supererogation after the real valentine was finished. They suggest conventionalized emotion in a way that is charming, and Dick and I both like our emotion conventionalized.

That fatal romanticism that dooms one to a lifetime of solitude and broken dreams…

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Dutch Valentine’s Day involves tongue action and blood.

But her niece is young, sprightly and her dreams have yet to be broken….SHE loves a book – but one she can’t remember the title of…

LETTY: Say, Aunt Elinor, I’ve been reading an awfully interesting book.

ELINOR: Have you? (Aside.) This taste for reading has been suddenly developed. I hope it will last. (Aloud.) What is it?

LETTY: Oh, I’ve forgotten the name of it, but it is awfully interesting. It’s all about broken engagements and misunderstandings, and they go to the most elegant ball, and he sends her the loveliest flowers out of his own greenhouse, you know. I’ve forgotten what kind of flowers it is, but it is some particular kind, you know, that means something. It’s a sort of queer name. I wish I could think of it, so if anybody ever sent me any I’d know what it was. It was in England, you know, at a manor house. I wish I could think of it. It isn’t ylang ylang, you know, but–

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Indonesia’s very own ylang-ylang.

ELINOR: (languidly) Stephanotis, perhaps.

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Madagascar‘s very own Stephanotis.

LETTY: Yes, I guess that’s it — anyway, it’s just as good. I’ve forgotten what it meant anyway, so I guess I wouldn’t know. Well, he sends them to her, you know, and she doesn’t wear them — oh! there’s somebody else in the house that’s in love with him too, and she interferes — I think she mixes up the flowers, or something — she’s an awfully mean old thing, and I should think he’d have seen through her in a minute, and known she — the other one — wanted to wear the flowers — I would, I know, wouldn’t you, Aunt Elinor?

ELINOR: Oh, undoubtedly! There’s nothing easier than unmasking deception in books. (Aside.) One doesn’t have anything half so interesting to do in real life.

Characters in 1892 plays sure know a lot about flowers.

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Hooray for Eliot to do a female-only show.

2. Conflict. Needless to say, an aunt and a niece in love with same dude creates comflict.

LETTY: Say, Aunt Elinor, did you know today was St. Valentine’s Day?

ELINOR: (somewhat startled) Why, yes — I remembered it. How did you happen to think of it?

Aha! Being coy, the aunt doesn’t pretends not to remember Valentine’s Day.

LETTY: Well, what I was going to say about Valentine’s Day was — you know that elderly Mr. Morrison, don’t you?

ELINOR: (with some indignation) Elderly? No; I don’t know any elderly Mr. Morrison.

LETTY: Oh, yes, you do too! Well, oldish then — real oldish.

ELINOR: (coolly) Do you mean Dick Morrison that comes here sometimes?

LETTY: Dick? Well, yes; I guess perhaps you call him Dick, though it seems awfully disrespectful.

ELINOR: (aside, devoutly) I am glad I can put my hand on my heart and say that Dick is five years older than I am! But how long — oh, how long — will it be before people will say that elderly — no, not that elderly — that oldish woman, Elinor Hartington. (She sinks into gloomy revery for a moment.) Well, what about Mr. Morrison?

LETTY: (consciously) Oh, nothing much — only it’s so funny that a man so old as he should know anything about Valentine’s Day!

ELINOR: Oh, certainly. He’s nearly forty. It’s high time he lost his faculties.

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Indonesian. Someone’s happy. Because it’s “Happy Love Day” which is straight to the point.

After Elinor jokes about being surprised that he is living….

LETTY: (unconsciously) Living? I should think he was! He goes ’round making calls ‘most all the time. All the young ladies think he is dreadful, and they skip out the side door when they see him coming; but there’s this other one, she’s just about as old as he is, and she’s always glad to see him. He always brings up at her house. Everybody laughs and says he always has.

He’s been making the rounds. I apologize for the wonky fonts. Blame the lymph nodes.

3. It can be mined for monologue material:

LETTY: Well, as I say, he’s talked with me a good deal since I came, and he said to me the other day — it was that day, don’t you know, that someone rang the bell when he was here, and he said your doorbell was always ringing, and you said something about its being the primary object of a bell, and he said the primary object of that particular bell seemed to be to interrupt him when he had anything important to say, and you said under those circumstances, perhaps he’d have better luck if he wouldn’t always be saying the same important thing, and he said he hadn’t suspected you of countenancing the chestnut bell, and you said you shouldn’t think he would hint at such an ordinary proceeding, and then Mr. Apgood came in, and you shook hands with him, and seemed so glad to see him, and I was so surprised, because I heard you tell Mrs. White the other day that you thought he was a dreadful bore, and he always came just when you didn’t want him.

ELINOR: I feel utterly dazed. The only idea that I seem to have saved from the general wreck is that there is an extreme likelihood of Richard sending me a comic valentine! And that’s something I had never thought of. What in the world does he send one to Letty for? Something she said suggested it probably. (Pauses.) Yet why do I refuse to put her own construction on it, — that he likes her! (Rises; walks restlessly about.) Why should he not? come, now — why should he not? She is pretty enough — in a way — fresh, naïve — just the sort of thing to fascinate a somewhat blasé man like Dick Morrison. What do men care for crudities of manner or speech, if a girl strikes them pleasantly? And how should he know that her grand passion is coconut cake? I have been told that he would tire sometime of fruitlessly playing the lover with me. He has not said a direct word of love to me since Letty came! not a word! He certainly did talk with her a long time the other day. And to promise to go to a social in Walkerville! That is equivalent to a threat of blowing his brains out from a more emotional character. (Throws herself into a chair.) Well, I ought to be glad. I think perhaps I am glad. I’m not in love with Richard Morrison. I said that half an hour ago — and I’ve said it any number of times before — and he only takes me at my word. And yet — and yet — (In a burst of impatience.) Letty! That child! How utterly absurd! Men have no right to abuse their privilege of being absurd! (A pause.) I do not know what to think. I will let the valentine episode decide the matter! He can’t be going to send the same one to both of us. When we have conned our respective valentines we may understand each other better.

LETTY: All right. (Exit ELINOR.) I think it’s sort of funny about that old Mr. Morrison. I guess he has been paying Aunt Elinor some attention. (With astuteness.) I bet you anything that’s what it is! But I heard her tell Mrs. Paine the other day, when she said something to her about him, that they were just nothing but friends; that they’d known each other always, and that it was perfectly ridiculous to say they were anything else. So of course she can’t care anything about him, or she wouldn’t say that! I suppose when he saw me he felt differently. (consciously), and there can’t be any harm in my just carrying on with him. Aunt Elinor won’t care, and I guess I can manage him. (A bell.) There! There’s a valentine now! (Runs toward the door.) Oh, if I was at home I’d just tear down and see who it was before they could get away, but Aunt Elinor said I’d better let Jane go to the door. I wonder if he’ll leave it on the step. (A pause; she opens the door and calls.) Jane! Jane! Bring it upstairs. (Another pause.) Who brought it? A telegraph boy? Oh.(Receives an envelope at the door and returns.) Why, it’s just addressed “To my Valentine.” Well, of course that means me, because Aunt Elinor wouldn’t expect any.

For samples of monologues from the play, check out Monday’s post.

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Not a GIF, but the text reads “Happy Easter Valentine’s Day. I didn’t have another card” German humor.

 

4. Easy to stage. It’s two women in a parlor. So even those cheap-ass theatres have no excuse.

5. Twist joke ending.

And this…I admire their bravery putting this online, and I respectfully withold judgment.

 

You may find the entire play here.

About the author

For someone who wrote a bunch of books, details about her life are scarce. She was born in 1857 into a prominent family in Connecticut, USA. Note to self: man, a lot of these playwrights come from a background of privilege. Just sayin’. Her grandfather had made shloads of money in the whaling and sealing industry.

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Seriously the only picture I could find.

Her father was a politician and philologist. Her aunt and namesake was an author and entomologist. Her uncle was a philologist. Another uncle was an ornithologist and painter (and had the ever-so-awesome name of Gurdon). Another uncle founded the Sunday school movement. An uncle by marriage was a journalist and art historian.

The only biographical sketch of her I can find contains this information:

“When she was five years old, her parents moved to the brick residence where she lived, when not traveling, for the rest of her life.”

“At a young age, she began writing and crafted many short stories for magazines, such as Scribner’s, the Atlantic, the Outlook, New England Magazine, and Lippincott’s.”

“Contemporaries remembered her as the belle of Hartford.”

She also played tennis, did archery and hung out with Mark Twain.

She served as director of the Hartford library for 21 years.

She had a short film produced by Edison based on her story. And you can watch it below:

She has a few books on archive.org as well as Google books. It seems that she wrote short stories, novels and the occasional one-act comedy.

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Everyone’s favorite Annie Eliot story. Maybe it’s a Valentine’s Day story (giggles)
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I was looking at the light.”

That’s it for Annie Eliot and St. Valentine’s Day. See you on Monday with a new monologue!!!!

PS for those without a Valentine, here’s Public Image Ltd’s awesome antithesis of a love song. And here is Nouvelle Vague’s coffee shop version of the same dang song.

For a list of all our other playwrights, go here.

 

Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Elinor and Letty in “St. Valentine’s Day” by Annie Eliot

Hello one and all, loyal readers and newcomers!!!

As you know, it is nearly Valentine’s Day and for us here at Unknown Playwrights, that means a Valentine’s Day monologue!

This week’s monologues comes from Annie Eliot. It also comes from 1892.

The monologues come from a one-act play.

The basic joke behind the play is that Elinor (a “past her due date” old maid) and Letty (her sprightly niece) both think a Valentine’s Day card is for them. It’s fine light-hearted comedy.

In fact, you may read the entire play here.

We will discuss and analyze this play later in the week in a special Valentine’s Day post.

But for now let’s see what we have in the way of monologues. Here is the aunt, Elinor:

A

 

AND…apparently spinster maids on Valentine’s Day aren’t very popuar because we have way more Letty monologues than Elinor. Sorry, Elinor….

A

 

B

 

C

 

And that’s it for this week’s monologues – come back on Thursday when we’ll study this play more in depth AND come back Monday for more monologues!!!

For a complete list of monologues, click here.

Current Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Yolanda Mendiveles

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Our bilingual playwriting hero, Yolanda Mendiveles!!!

This week brings us to Yolanda Mendiveles, a playwright from southern California who has fashioned a wonderful play, Blanca Nieves – which is the protagonist’s name and means “Snow White” in Spanish.

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Wrong Snow White.
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The REAL Blanca Nieves.

Blanca Nieves takes us back to Los Angeles in 1955. Blanca Nieves‘ world has come undone after losing her spouse Jesús and trying to make ends meet as a widowed mother with children, several of whom aren’t interested in the “old” ways – and Christmas is right around the corner — and all of this is imbued with Aztec mythology.

With a synopsis like that, why isn’t this on Broadway? Or Off-Broadway? Or even Off-Off Broadway?

And before you think “Oh no, not another Christmas play” this IS another Christmas play – but it’s actually one I would pay money to see.

Blanca is struggling and we know this because Jimmy the Landlord shows up:

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In this context, “cabron” basically means “jerk” and that’s kinda what he is here. Especially when you find out…

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Blanca’s so nice she’s making Yerba Buena for him. If you don’t know about Yerba Buena, let the US Forest Service explain it for ya:

“The leaves of this wildflower may be used to make a tea. It also figures prominently in local folk medicine: Mexican, Native, and European Americans have and continue to use it medicinally.”

That’s like the whitest explanation of anything anywhere.

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Pretty happenin’ poster.  Courtesy Diana Burbano.

Like all mothers in 1955, Blanca is very understanding:

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Blanca makes Yerba Buena for the landlord…and have you noticed the English mixed with Spanish? That is called code-switching and it’s a real thing among bilingual or multilingual people. The play is full of code-switching, as is real-life for the author.

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I really like Natividad – the clutch is shot and she’s loaning Blanca a ten AND she’s charging 2 bucks a burrito to the gringos- which in 1955

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If your gringo friends are paying 19 bucks for a burrito, they certainly got more dollars than sense…maybe Blanca can hit them up for rent money.

Esther is Blanca’s niece and god-daughter and Luz is Blanca’s daughter.

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Her daughters love mayonnaise. Time to disown them.  screen shot 2019-01-25 at 7.55.24 am

huevona = idiot

Wow, Luz REALLY is Americanized…(sigh)

Marta is Blanca’s other daughter. And she’s quick with the insults…

Loco Joe really isn’t as crazy as his name implies.

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Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble working hard on Blanca Nieves. Our hero playwright Yolanda Mendiveles is in there, too. Thanks to playwright Diana Burbano.

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Teeheehee.

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The cast of Blanca Nieves, courtesy of Diana Burbano.

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The first time I read this script, I was eating oatmeal, so it was funny when I saw avena mentioned, because if there’s something better than regular oatmeal, it’s avena, a Mexican variation on oatmeal. Learn how to make it below:

 

What is Esther’s problem? Ham and eggs vs. avena??? Avena wins, every time.

Just don’t tell Esther about Eggs Benedict.

And again, see what a service Blanca is to the community?

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You may notice some red every now and again – that’s the joy of reading a working draft. Marta acts up —

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Marta wasn’t acting up, she was defending herself and her honor. Because in LA, 1955 was a hard time to be Chicana – America has a long history with discrimination against folks like Blanca and Raquel…

Things from that era would’ve included:

Chicana women were forcibly sterilized by the state of California, as early as 1909 and not really ending until 1979.

The people who made this map of LA in 1939 were complete jerks. This was a way for LA to remain unoffically segregated.

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The red equalled “4th Class” AKA not white.

Makers of said map had this to say about the inhabitants:

For example, one neighborhood in the L.A. suburb of Claremont (C55, C56) received a C rather than D rating since it contained a “few better class Mexicans.” The San Gabriel Valley Wash community, more heavily Mexican-American, received no such consideration as one assessor described it as populated by “goats, rabbits, and dark skinned babies.” Most might have been native-born, but too many were still “’peon Mexicans” and constitut[ed] a distinctly subversive racial influence.”In her own research, L.A. historian Laura Redford of Scripps College, notes that while Japanese and African-Americans were singled out, too, the language describing Mexican-Americans in the Los Angeles area proved particularly “painful” and “awful”.

Then there was the massive deportation of both Mexicans and Mexican-Americans during The Depression. The numbers deported range from 400,000-2,000,000.

The Zoot Suit Riots and Sleepy Lagoon Murder case are relatively well-known.

Not all these things were happening right in 1955, but they woud’ve been in living memory for the adults in the play, thus influencing their choices and actions.

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I’m not crying. You’re We’re Okay, fine I might be thinking about crying. Not only does Blanca have to raise a family on her own, she and her children face a society that would rather they not exist. Not your average Christmas play.

And the “dirty Mexican” thing? Has not changed one bit.

What’s a mom to do when her children endure white racism at school?

Tell them Aztec legends.

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Suddenly I’m angry at my 4th grade teacher for making me do a mythology project on Perseus. Why not Queztalcoatl????
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Tezcatlipoca, AKA God of the Month.

You can learn more about Aztlán here.

But the story isn’t just two badass gods doing badass things…

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Fondo-anime
This image of the lovers comes ironically from a high school production of the story.

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And thus begins the tale of star-crossed lovers – and like most of these tales it tends to end tragically . However in Blanca Nieves’ telling, there is a happy ending…

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Let’s dissect the above.

  1. Happy ending? Check.
  2. Lovers with volcanoes named after them? Check.
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Our mythological lovers, in volcano form.

3. Empanadas? Check.

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Chorizo and cheese empanadas.

4. Champurrado? Check.

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Make your own champurrado.

In the final scene, everything comes together –

Loco Joe has helped unload Christmas trees that day and brought an extra one for the family.

He also asks Luz to the Winter Ball and she says “yes.”

This whole time, one more stressor for Blanca has been Mrs. Tanaka, a social worker who has observed the family – she has some news for Blanca.

Ricky invites Raquel to the Winter Ball and she accepts.

But Raquel doesn’t have high heels for the dance – but that’s OK because Esther bought her some.

And Marta and Lupito have been running errands for Mrs. Peterson, who will lend Raquel her jewelry as payment.

And Jimmy the Landlord…sigh.

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Jimmy the Landlord is like the only bigoted white person to ever learn the error of his or her ways. Must be something in that Yerba Buena.

He will fix their toilet for free and lower their rent. Meanwhile, Natividad has some news…

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This helps…

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And the baby…via the LA Times.

And at the end everyone is treated to champurrado and empanadas – truly the best ending to any Christmas Eve ever –

[note to future producers of the show: please share champurrado and empanadas with audience, too]

The play ends with the singing of Christmas carols including that favorite…Feliz Navidad.

And here are the cast of a reading singing it!!!

 

 

A rcent staged reading of the play got a stellar review in the LA Times.

In addition to Blanca Nieves, Mendiveles has written several short plays including The Twelfth of Never and Consulting Spirit. This is her reading from Consulting Spirit and talking about her bilingual writing –

And she has given interviews to other theatre enthusiasts…

 

Earlier I rhetorically asked why isn’t this even on Off-Off Broadway??? Well, American theatre has a dirty little secret – it’s not really a secret to those who work in theatre in the US, but could be to other people.

According to the Dramatist Guild of America’s recent study, plays by people of color and especially by women of color are rarely produced. I mentioned my reservations before about this survey, namely that it is too narrow and includes a theatre that shouldn’t be allowed to exist. I believe the statistics to be worse than what the DGA reported. But let’s take a look:

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FYI women make up slightly over half the US population.
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FYI white people make up about 60% of America.
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The figure on the right is current. FYI women of color make up just over 20% of the US population.

While not related specifically to the play at hand, this statistic shows how inbreedingly insular American theatre can be:

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Anti-foreigner much? Ironically the only theatre category where men and women are equal. I know nothing!

All the DGA’s stats can be found here.

While I was writing this, an Indonesian friend of mine [who used to work in statistics research] said that it wasn’t right to compare these percentages to the general US population – that they should be compared to the number of playwrights writing. I understand that argument, but I feel it’s too limited in scope.

American theatre, by producing work by (and mostly for) white males, seals off a portion of American life to other Americans (women and people of color) who may have something amazing to contribute to American theatre but are discouraged by the unbearable mayonnaise-like whiteness of US theatre culture. I see many potential theatremakers being dissuaded even before they start and that would lower the number of playwrights to begin with, which is why we should compare the US population to the playwrights produced…

It’s OK if you disagree. You can write your own blog about it.

Back to Yolanda Mendiveles, who is working near LA. LA, the city with the Mexican-Italian-Russian Jewish American mayor who calls himself a kosher burrito – let’s check out LA..

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Non-Hispanic whites make up around 30% of LA’s population, but you wouldn’t know it to look at their limp little theatre scene.

Never mind that Latinx actors make up 2% of principal roles in US theatre…

Soooo Ms. Mendiveles has her work cut out for her. But this doesn’t stop her one bit.

She is a licensed massage therapist by trade and came to the world of playwriting at the age of 52 and has been going strong for 20 years. In fact, I predict she will make it another 20 years at least. She really is an inspiration for anyone who wants to write or anyone who thinks they are starting “late” by society’s standards.

I want to also point out how positive her writing is and also just how positive she was helping me on this blog. In fact, she took the time to answer some questions!!!

How did you start playwriting?

The idea of writing my mother’s and father’s story began after my mother died in 1998.  My father had been deceased since 1958 and she kept his memory alive for us and her unfailing love for him. My mother never remarried although she did have male suitors who wanted to marry after my father died.

I was on my way to Durango, Colorado in 1999 when the idea came to me as a play and I stopped in Phoenix, Arizona to write down the ideas that had come to me and even sketched out some of the scenes. From that date on I have been taking classes in writing and playwriting.

What are your influences?

Yolanda: My influences I can say were my childhood remembrances of musicals with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney; Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire; Shirley Temple. I did not attend stage productions when I was younger. 

What is your most memorable production and why?

My most memorable production was when I joined Casa 0101, a bilingual theater of Spanish and English persuasion. Our production was in 2015. I think and talk in bilingual terms as does my family and friends. The group called Chicanas, Cholas, y Chisme writing group from Casa 0101 we had our works presented on stage for our Bilingual community and we were a hit. The reason we were a hit was because the stories told were stories the audience could relate to, the Spanish and English languages used in the stories the audience could relate to, the actors were actors that looked like the audience and they could connect with the characters as well as the actors. Plus Women’s plays are more honest and direct. My family and friends were so “PROUD” and it made them very happy. My family and friends had a wonderful experience.

What is your least memorable production and why?

I was writing a play about being a massage therapist and how the police department considers massage therapy illegitimate and a front for illegal sexual activity.  I am a massage therapist and have very high ethical standards and really resent the implication that my healing skills are construed this way. We have been fighting long and hard to get a state license and regulations that would fit our organization that would work for the police department only to find the police department resistant to our ideas. So I wrote a play about it and wanted it to be a musical but the reading did not go well. I need to rewrite it.

What’s your funniest theatre story?

My funniest theatre story was when I was the assistant stage manager for Chicanas, Cholas, y Chisme and I was moving the props on stage ( a very small stage) and as I was placing a prop at the front of the stage as I looked up my youngest sister was sitting right in the front row and we made eye contact. She was surprised to see her playwright sister doing the heavy lifting and not being the proper playwright she imagined.

What are your writing habits like?

To write I need two days-one day is to do all the running around I need to do, gathering the groceries I will need for the weekend and taking care of things so I do not need to go out the door and taking care of things I need to do around the house. The next day I can stay in my pajamas and write all day and not be interrupted.

What advice do you have for new playwrights?

I would advise new playwrights to join a group of writers or a theater or attend a school that has a strong theatrical community so that you can create your network and help and get help along the artistic journey. 

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

I think all writers should get attention, but presently women have great stories that need to be told from their perspective. Culture is very important and needs to be taken into consideration therefore; people of different cultures need to have their stories told. 

What are common themes in your work?

I write from experience of what I have learned and know to be true for myself. I write about life situations and characters in my life. There is as lot of material there.

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

Yolanda: I started out writing as an older person and I would say to the young writers to go to school to learn the craft of writing.  All writers should write from the heart not to write because you are going to sell a screenplay or play to make lots of money.  A playwright’s journey is different from a screenwriter’s journey. Both are fulfilling in their own way but it is a journey and not a quick get rich scheme.

Can you please tell us about the development of Blanca Nieves’ Christmas and how it came to have a reading at Breath of Fire?

Blanca Nieves’ Christmas play came to me back in 2009 which is a remembrance of mine and my family’s. My father died when I was 11 years old and my mother was a widow and had us seven (7) children to raise on her own. She was receiving very little money from the government (Widow’s pension) and she cooked, washed and ironed, and babysat other people’s children to bring in more income. Money was worth a lot back in the 50’s, a penny was worth something and you could buy a penny candy unlike in today’s economy.  In the 50’s money was hard earned as well and the money coming in had to pay for the basics so there was little to no money for extras.  This was the same for our neighbors as we all struggled but because it was the same for everyone we made the most of what we did have as did our friends and neighbors. 

I had written the story and in 2010 I had a reading and then it got left on a shelf, then in 2015 I presented it again but because I have so many characters in it- it was rejected. I think and write for large casts- I think I do this because I come from a large family and a very large extended family and my community is very large. So it is hard for me to write a two person play or a four person play.

I joined Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble three years ago and have been writing with them when last year we needed to raise $15,000 for the 2019 year to keep our organization going. We had a fundraiser and only raided $8,222.00 dollars and so I suggested we put on my Christmas Play to raise more money and that is how we had a reading of my play on December 9th 2018.

Your writing seems very autobiographical and personal. What have been some of the reactions of your family and friends when they see these stories up on the stage?

My family and friends have been elated to see my plays. It has brought pride to them and something positive to see and talk about. As opposed to all the negative things that are said about my culture and the people who look like me.

I loved the Popocatepetl and Iztacchihuatl love story. At what point in the writing/preparation did you decide that it must be in the play?

I have mentioned earlier that culture has a lot to do with my writing and the picture of  Popocatepetl  and Iztacchihuatl were on a calendar that hung in our dining room. It is a classic picture that most people of Mexican decent know and love and have in their home. It was a natural outcome to put that story in the Christmas play. Plus I wanted to remind people that we have a rich cultural heritage and rich ancestry and should be proud of it. 

Two part question. What obstacles have you seen in getting bilingual plays produced in America and how can we get more bilingual plays on American (and possible world) stages?

The general American society is very lazy to learn another language although I do know many people who love the language and culture who are not of Mexican descent. When I was taking writing classes and a teacher or student would say to me about my script, “I stopped reading it when I got to the Spanish because I didn’t know what it said and it took me out of the story.” Just one word or a sentence would stop the person from reading further and I would stop going to the class.

I have attended workshops, town hall meetings about plays and they say about Bilingual or Spanish language themed plays, “But our subscribers (who are older Anglo Saxons) do not or would not pay to see a Bilingual or Spanish play. Or that I had too many characters and the costs would be so huge just to pay the actors.”

Here in California the stage is overshadowed by the film industry and that is another issue. Since theater is lower on the entertainment list of entertainment goers, Latina Theater is even lower on the theater list of lists.

The need and the cultural changes that the US. Is undergoing within time Latina theater and theater in general will also change and become more accessible.

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

I’d like to be asked, “How much money do you need Yolanda to put on your production of Blanca Nieves’ Christmas with the number of cast you require to fully tell this story?”

Thank you Bryan very much for this opportunity.

I sincerely wish you continued success in your endeavors.

—————————————————————————————————

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Aww, shucks.

I told you she was positive. Wow – Thank you, Yolanda.

Here’s all our other playwrights.

Here are some links related to Ms. Mendiveles and her work:

Her website.

Her other job (massage therapist).

LA Times article.

A short musical she wrote.

A scene from a screenplay.

Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble (you should support them)