Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past

A Thanksgiving Dream by Effa Estelle Preston

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Hello everyone and welcome back to Unknown Playwrights. Someone just beat up NaNoWriMo, so I can write a little bit about our favorite theatrical genre: really bad children’s plays based on American holidays. And we’re throwing in some Thanksgiving postcards, too.

We covered a lot of the origins of Thanksgiving in last year’s post. Basically, it’s an excuse to eat as much turkey as humanly possible and write internet articles about getting into a knife fight with relatives over you-know-who:

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Meanwhile, if you’re the president, you just go ahead and make stuff up.

Horrible Thanksgiving plays are a safer alternative to either one of these options. A Thanksgiving Dream may as well be a nightmare with all the madness going on here. The play was written by Effa Estelle Preston:

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Just like it says.

Let’s check out the characters:

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If we had Thanksgiving goblins when I was a kid, I may have actually liked the holiday.

Our hero Jack has just eaten “a dandy meal.”

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And like any normal kid from 1922, his dream is full of Pilgrim Maids.

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The maids have established that the Native Americans were their friends. But Fourth Pilgrim Maiden is a little psychopath:

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“I shot him as he ran away. They found him just outside.”

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The love that dare not speak its name. And the moon watching…

The play also neglects to tell us how Native Americans in the area obtained firearms prior ro the arrival of said Pilgrims.

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Fifth Pilgrim Maid is simply a watered-down version of the Fourth. Scaring people with “Jack-Lanterns.”

Massoit was totally a real person.

One advantage the Pilgrims had when they landed, was that they were greeted by a Native American who already spoke English, thus setting up their descendants to be too lazy to learn any foreign language forever.

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Probably Jack…the Ripper.

Some turkeys show up.

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They do have a point.

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OMG. The turkeys are gonna eat plump Jack!

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Again, they have a point.

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That’s a butterknife…

And then the goblins show up:

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Sorry, Jack. The damage has been done.

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Told you it was a nightmare.

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The goblins pinched him to death…

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A word to the wise: Don’t devour your friends!

This video has the original song (sorta) for Old Black Joe. For a song about a slave’s dying last words, it seems awfully happy:

 

And there you have A Thanksgiving Nightmare Dream.

But seriously, the absolute best part of the play is the list of available monologues on the back cover:

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As thrilling as Susan Gets Ready for Church sounds, as Hallmark Channel-ly I’m Engaged might be, as fun as Gladys Reviews the Dance obviously is, my money is on Ask Ouija when it comes to sheer wholesome entertainment.

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Effa Estelle Preston wrote a lot of plays. Normally, I’d list every single play, but she had at least 91 published playlets. Some of the highlights follow:

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From 1939.

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1930’s A Christmas Strike

 

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From 1937. Probably better than when my high school did Seinfeld sketches.

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The Fall Guy must be jealous. 1945

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Some light bondage at the North Pole.

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Random trivia: this exact building now houses one of my favorite newspapers.

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Not only was it popular,it was 454 pages long.

You can find several of Preston’s plays on archive.org and Gutenberg.org.

I couldn’t find out much about Ms. Preston, except she was born in 1884 in New Jersey and also died there at age 91 in 1975. She seems to have spent her working life as a public school teacher. On various census records, she’s listed as living with her mother, up to at least age 45. At one point she and her mother took in other female teachers as boarders. She doesn’t seem to have ever married. She did take a trip to France in 1929. I’d love to know more about her life.

In case you thought Thanksgiving plays were a thing of the past, we now give you this from like a week ago:

 

The antidote to the deluge of Thanksgiving plays might be The Thanksgiving Play by Lakota playwright Larissa FastHorse. Here is Ms. FastHorse talking about her wonderful play:

 

 

 

Posters/Wednesday Link Dump

Wednesday Link Dump

Welcome back to Unknown Playwrights. This week’s link dump is brought to you by posters and programs from Caridad Svich plays, because playwright-translators don’t get the respect they deserve.

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From a staged reading in ’92.

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Twelve Ophelias, NYC. ’04

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Pretty badass art for an Albertan production of Svich’s translation, 2014.

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2001 production in Ohio.

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An adaptation of Alvarez’ novel in 2013.

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Pretty wild art for a play with a killer title, 2012.

 

 

Caridad Svich on her play Guapa

Resistance and Change in Caridad Svich’s Town Hall

Traveling Master Caridad Svich in Virginia

Caridad Svich on translating Henry VIII into contemporary English

Caridad Svich ruminates on night

Making Theatre is a Spiritual Endeavor for Caridad Svich

BP sucks, Caridad Svich-style

Medea’s Sons by Caridad Svich

Another take on the above

Caridad Svich goes to the airport

Caridad Svich takes on gun violence

A choreographer’s take on Svich’s play with the coolest title

A conversation with Caridad Svich

Podcast interview with Caridad Svich, featuring some wild synths at the beginning

Svich talks adapting Allende and Sajtinac

An actress really, really liked Svich’s take on Henry VIII

Svich’s adaptation of Allende gets performances in English and Spanish…in England

Svich’s stage as utopia

Interview with a Philly outlet

Caridad Svich interviews again

Resiliency in Theatre

Another interview

Archipelago: the Interview

And to end this week’s link dump, here is a song she served as librettist for:

Posters/Wednesday Link Dump

Wednesday Link Dump

Howdy folks and welcome back to Unknown Playwrights! This week’s link dump is brought to you by by posters for Marlowe’s Edward II.

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From 2006.

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That’s totally a finger pointing, I’m sure. Warsaw, 1986.

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France, 1981.

 

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#Utah

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Nova Scotia is still doing The Jew of Malta? Like really?

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Toronto ’69

 

That time the Knoxville Opera Company did yellowface…in 2019.

Even critics need defenders

Der Ring das Nibelungen and the history of Wagner in Seoul

The Black History Museum….According to the United States of America seems like a pretty badass play.

Legendary Korean playwright Lee Kang-baek gets interviewed by his translator.

Gangster Brecht in Santa Monica

An interview with Arab Israeli playwright Ibrahim Miari

Going through life as a clown

Revitalizing Bangkok’s theatre scene

700 years of Thai history onstage…in 90 minutes!

An older interview with playwright Patrick Gabridge

Playwright Monica Byrne exposes American theatre’s dirty no-so-little secrets

American Theatre Strikes Back

Monica Byrne counterpunches well

What it’s like to turn 40 and actually have your plays produced

A very, very detailed analysis of world premieres in the US this past theatre season

Chelsea Frandsen talks code-switching in her new play

Canadians revisioning the Wild West and women’s choice on stage…

Henry VI, part 1…in Serbo-Croatian…in London

Serbian Theatre Showcase…hot damn!

A prominent Serbian theatre director

Yiddish theatre and its influence on Kafka

Creating original theatre in Kuwait

Finding your artistic tribe (pretty sure mine kicked me out)

BFAs? Overrated.

Tips for directing your first show.

Kit Marlowe was murdered (so Shakespeare wrote his own plays?)

Another overview of Marlowe’s life

The African American Theatre Research Guide

Pioneering women in Mexican theatre

Scumbag murders actress, is acquitted.

And in this week’s edition of Finnish-language oldies, here’s ABBA performing Dancing Queen…in Finnish!

 

 

Posters/Wednesday Link Dump

Wednesday Link Dump

Howdy all and welcome back to Unknown Playwrights!

This week’s link dump is brought to you by German-language posters for A Midsummer Night’s Dream: 

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In the Imanuel Kant high school

 

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15 euros!

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Meanwhile, in Aachen…

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1995 was a creepy-ass year for Bremen.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Dalí’s Revenge

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Welcome to Hamburg

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Love the donkey, be the donkey…

A First Nations playwright dissects Germany’s fascination with indigenous North Americans (and Winnetou plays).

1989 was the greatest year in musical history (because of Balm in Gilead)

How plot represents the protagonist’s personality. Playwright Chelsea Frandsen explains.

Female theatre in the Arab world

Kankurang (Gambian participatory theatre)

Should schools perform Shakespeare if they’re not learning Shakespeare? Does the mountain need the storm?

Sight lines DO matter

The language of dance

Creating a class or cast contract. Interesting approach.

Interview with Estonian theatre director Barbara Lehtna

Lithuanian-American life in the early 20th Century (included radio theatre)

An overview of Latvian theatre

Namibian filmmaker Oshosheni Hiveluah passed away (she started in theatre)

Theatre Rennaissance man Mack Dugger (with a cameo by Lady Gaga)

American playwright in Finland runs into Day of the Dead women

Getting your play from page to stage in the City of Angels: A Resource Guide

German Fringe Theatre is weird

Queer Muslim theatre in Brooklyn

A playwright asks if ego gets a seat at the table

Italian American immigrant theatre

Promoting theatre betweeen Italy and NYC

Israeli playwright Einat Weizman collaborates with Palestinian prisoners on a play

Wait, LaBute wrote a play about Trump? Talk about dramatic irony.

Greenlandic traditions (including one revived by a theatre group in the 1970s)

The National Theatre of Greenland gets a 4.7 on Facebook.

A West Virginian take on that Little Mermaid LIVE thing.

A Ukrainian Canadian play sold out in 2019

Old news, but Russia and Ukraine were having a hissy fit over Bulgakov once.

The best theatre production companies in Toronto. Would your feelings be hurt if you weren’t on this list? Do theatre companies have feelings?

Playwright buys Victorian house.

This week in Spanish oldies, we have a cover version of Let the Sunshine in (which originated in the musical Hair).

Posters/Wednesday Link Dump

Wednesday Link Dump

Howdy one and all! Welcome back to Unknown Playwrights! This week’s link dump is brought to you by posters for August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson.

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Once upon a time…at CSU Fresno.

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University of Louisville

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Swarthmore.

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Lexington, KY

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Eastern Michigan University

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Lebanon, TN.

Politics, the Shakespeare way

Interview with a chorus member in the Met Opera’s Porgy & Bess.

Lessons from Kathak (a classical dance form from Northern India)

Should theatres produce Neil LaBute? (Umm, no they shouldn’t)

Blocking is very important, children.

How to establish a playwriting career (it’s possible?)

A poverty of ambitions

Interview with the founder of a Byelorussian theatre

The transformation of the concept of power in a very important wayang work.

Relevance in Contemporary Theatre

A powerful one-word monologue from a performer-playwright based in Botswana

Is activist performance an empty gesture?

A kabuki production from 2015.

Shakespeare’s use of orisons.

A ten year collaboration between a London theatre and a Gaza theatre.

Running theatre like a start up works.

Interview with NYC-based Israeli playwright Stav Palti-Negev

What can artists do when faced with the insanity of the American political process?

The Godfather of Zimbabwean theatre passes away.

When dance and sculpture combine.

Is Cantonese Opera making a comeback in Hong Kong?

Death of a Driver makes its Utah premiere.

A theatre performance that will probably never make its Utah premiere. Title is “Get On Your Knees”

Fueling American theatre with Latinx Plays (yes, please)

Eugenie Chan adapted an ancient Greek story.

A female playwright uses mixed media to honor female playwrights.

A playwright tells us about the culture of privilege

That time an Azerbaijani actress got executed. Any guesses if Stalin was behind it?

Palestinian-Irish playwright Hannah Khalil tells us it’s becoming impossible to make a living writing plays

This Malaysian play has a pretty cool title (Atomic Jaya). Great interview ith the author.

What is an alternate night?

What characters do to the writer…for fun.

Four historical sites for great Italian theatre!

And for the week in Korean oldies, we bring you a 1939 version of “Sing Sing Sing.”