Current Playwrights, Female Playwrights

Megan Ann Jacobs

Editor’s note: This post was written by our guest blogger, playwright Steven G. Martin

In this post, we profile Indianapolis-based playwright Megan Ann Jacobs!

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Our playwriting hero, Megan Ann Jacobs! 

According to her website, Megan is “a quirky, nerdy, optimistic story-teller, always on the hunt for a new creative outlet.” She works is the property manager of the upcoming project in Indianapolis, which she calls “a truly legendary undertaking taking place in the former Coke-a-Cola bottling factory.”

We’ll be looking at one of Megan’s plays, “aMUSEd,” which was produced at the Indy Fringe Festival.

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A pretty cool poster.

Scene: A quaint New York City apartment

Time: Present

An older woman named Anita is asleep at her typewriter. Sebastian, a man in his 20s, wakes her. She is upset at her lack of progress in writing a book, while he is more upset that she is in poor health. They both know she will die soon, and the book will go unfinished. Anita encourages Sebastian to move on.

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Nate Press and Madeline Bunke in aMUSEd.

ANITA

You are now and will forever be my muse. But I can’t always be your instrument. I need you to promise me you will not let our story die. It’s the best one yet.

SEBASTIAN

Exactly, it’s the best one. I thought it for you, not someone else.

ANITA

Then keep thinking it for me. And when you are done, look for me on the pages. I promise you I will be there. Please, find this girl and finish our tale. Promise me.

SEBASTIAN

(It takes great strength, but he concedes.) I promise.

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Thomas Sebald and Anastasia Wild in aMUSEd.

And just like that, Megan catapults the audience into a world where Greek mythology is very much alive and literal, and modern-day authors reap the benefit.

A young lawyer named Nikki rents Anita’s former apartment, which several people believe to be haunted. She meets Sebastian, who insists she leave – guess who’s been doing the haunting to scare away the previous tenants? Nikki calls the police, but no good comes of it. Sebastian tells Nikki that he is a muse. He plans to get her to leave the apartment, just like he forced out the others who came after Anita.

Nikki’s problems don’t stop with Sebastian, either. She recently called off her wedding with Ryan and has moved out of the apartment they had lived in. The relationship is on hold, although Ryan supports Nikki … but then Sebastian interferes. Through a series of text messages and phone calls, Tyler – the apartment building’s landlord – is caught by Ryan in Nikki’s apartment while Nikki herself is in a bathrobe.

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Madeline Bunke.

RYAN

Who was that?

NIKKI

My landlord.

RYAN

Why was he here?

NIKKI

I honestly don’t know how it happened.

RYAN

Why was he holding you…in your robe?

NIKKI

He was crying, and he just sort of grabbed me. The robe was just an unfortunate circumstance.

RYAN

You made your landlord cry?

NIKKI

No, no! I was helping him get over his ex.

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Josh Scheibe and Madeline Bunke.

RYAN

Helping him how?

SEBASTIAN

Yes, helping him how?

NIKKI

I know it looks bad, but come on. You can’t really think-

RYAN

Well…

Ryan is almost assuaged, and he and Nikki begin to make out, which insults Sebastian. Sebastian threatens to hurt Ryan, which causes Nikki to call out Sebastian’s name and … well, more complications ensue. Ryan leaves Nikki in her apartment, not quite as supportive.

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Jane Preston & Thomas Sebald

Nikki breaks down and accuses Sebastian of making life even more difficult after the recent death of her twin sister.

NIKKI

Some people believe twins have a special bond, and, at least for us, that was true. Year after year my sister and I would make these crazy plans to move out together, go to college, and find our respective prince charmings. We understood each other in a way that didn’t require words. She knew all my secrets and I knew all her dreams. Then we grew up. Ryan proposed to me. I was going to be moving out right after the wedding. Susan was my maid of honor. But two days before the wedding, I was getting ready for bed when she called out to me: “Nikki.” It was the one word she could say perfectly. “Nikki,” she called. I got out of bed and walked over to her. She pushed herself up and kissed my forehead. It must have taken everything she had to do that. I told her I loved her too. Then I went to sleep…just like that…It was as if she knew this was goodbye. When I woke up she was gone.

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Thomas Sebald.

SEBASTIAN

Nikki, I’m sorry. It’s never easy-

NIKKI

And do you know what the worst part was? I slept through the night. I didn’t wake up in a hot sweat. I didn’t have a nightmare. There was no cold chill. I kept sleeping. It wasn’t until I went to wake her the next morning that I knew. I was so close. Maybe if I would have woken up, I could have done something.

But Sebastian understands loss, too, after being a muse for dozens of artists throughout the world.

SEBASTIAN

Losing someone is awful enough, trust me, you don’t want a pestilent timer ticking in your ear,

reminding you of what little time you have left with the ones you love.

NIKKI

Nobody knows how much time you have left.

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Thomas Sebald. 

SEBASTIAN

I do! Do you want to know the real reason the muses left this world? It was because they could not stand the pain of losing companion after companion. For years and years they harbored this pain, but eventually they could not bear it anymore. I was the only one stupid enough to take one of their roles. They warned me not to go, but I didn’t listen. I wanted to share my stories. So, I came up with a plan. I begged the gods for a tool, something that would spare me the pain of the other muses. Chronos was the only one to step forward, and he presented me with this watch. It would attach to the life of my instrument, and it would tell me how long they had. I would stay with my companion until my watch told me that they had ten years left. Then I would leave. No exceptions. But it still hurt. It put a timer on everything and everyone. But at least I didn’t have to watch anyone die.

 

Nikki and Sebastian fight about who has had it worse, but Anita’s ghost appears during the aftermath. She points out to Sebastian that Nikki has the drive and intelligence to be a writer. Sebastian agrees that he probably is meant to be Nikki’s muse, and he attempts a reconciliation by threatening to tell her how long she has left to live.

Nikki writes a draft to the ending of the book, which she finds therapeutic as it allows her to let go of the past. She questions whether Sebastian’s watch robs him of the future and the time he spends with the artists he inspires. 

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Melissa Wild and Allen Pujankauski.

SEBASTIAN

I need it though. Otherwise, I won’t know when to leave.

NIKKI

Exactly, you won’t know.

SEBASTIAN

But I have a rule-

NIKKI

Since when do you care about rules? And don’t forget, you made an exception.

SEBASTIAN

And I paid the price!

NIKKI

But you have some great memories from those years, don’t you?

SEBASTIAN

Of course.

NIKKI

Would you trade those for anything?

SEBASTIAN

Not a thing.

NIKKI

Then what are you waiting for, Sebastian? Break the watch and embrace the fact, that for once, you won’t define the life of those you love in minutes and hours. You can start defining them in memories. And we can start right now, together.

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Anastasia Wild, Allen Pujanauski and Thomas Sebald

SEBASTIAN

Together?

NIKKI

If you do it, I will help you. We can finish this book together. Our first memory in the now. Come on, Sebastian, break the watch.

Sebastian stares at his watch. He slowly takes it off his wrist. With one last encouraging look from Nikki he grabs the frying pan and smashes the watch. He stands almost shell-shocked.

NIKKI

Well, how do you feel?

SEBASTIAN

I’m still here…so Chronos cannot be too livid with me. I feel…good…great, possibly even-

NIKKI

Grand?

SEBASTIAN

Let’s not get sappy.

There’s no time to get sappy. Sebastian dislikes the draft because Nikki has killed Mr. Sparkles, the family pet, thinking “it was a good symbol for change.” Although they disagree on that point, they realize how the draft of the novel will end, and both are happy.

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Lori Morse and Josh Scheibe

There are further complications as Sebastian tries to fix the rift between Nikki and Ryan. But through some well-placed phone calls – including 9-1-1 – all the love stories end well, including the one between Tyler and Officer Kasey.

RYAN

Does this mean we can finally set a new date for our wedding?

NIKKI

How about today?

RYAN

What?

NIKKI

Yeah! We can go to the court house right now! We already have everything we need, what are we waiting for?

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Olivia Gonzales and Nate Press.

RYAN

Are you serious?

NIKKI

Definitely.

 

RYAN

I’ll have to check my calendar, but I think I can squeeze that in.

SEBASTIAN

A wedding! Tonight!? But that gives me almost no time to think up a toast!

Sebastian runs to the desk and starts writing desperately on a piece of paper.

RYAN

Does that mean you are going to move in with me?

NIKKI

I’ll move in tonight!

SEBASTIAN

And we’re moving?!

Sebastian runs into the room and grabs a suitcase and starts packing his books.

RYAN

We are finally moving forward again. Are you sure you are okay? I don’t want to rush you. Your sister-

NIKKI

Couldn’t be more proud. You were right, Ryan. Moving on doesn’t mean moving away from her. She moves with me.

Which nicely sums up “aMUSEd” and its main theme: Things change. Nothing is forever, but nothing is entirely lost.

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Thomas Sebald, Allen Pujanauski and Melissa Wild. 

1) How did you start playwriting?

Writing and theatre have always been two cornerstones in my life. However, it wasn’t until college that I moved to combine the two and create a play. I didn’t go out to write a play, rather, an idea struck me as I looked a picture…the story that came to mind was begging to be told on the stage. I don’t think I had much choice in the mater.

2) What are your influences?

This is quite the question, as I believe influence is found everywhere. It’s in the people I know. I’m consistently inspired by moments, memories, loves, work, struggle, fear- everything can be an influencer if you are prepared to listen. I do make a conscious effort to surround myself with art of many types, as this has helped me expand my horizons and perspective.

3) What is your most memorable production and why?

In one of the last performances of the world premiere of “aMUSEd,” after the first act, there was a power outage. Two of the actors were bound for Chicago after the final weekend, so rescheduling was not an option. So for the second half, they performed in candlelight in the intimate venue. Lucky for me, there happens to be a huge storm in the show at that point. (What are the odds!) The landlord even comes up to check on the outlets, so, the actors ad-libbed a bit as needed and the show continued! Truly was the most interesting combination of incredibly horrid luck and divine intervention.

4) What is your least memorable production and why?

Perhaps, it’s simply because I’ve only had a handful of productions of my work, but they are all memorable to me in some shape and form. It does get a bit monotonous after you’ve seen it 6+ times in a matter of two weeks, but I think one of the beauties of live theatre is that every show is nuanced with differences.  As an actor, director, and playwright, this is one of the most incredible things to witness.

5) What are your writing habits like?

I try to write at least a little bit a week, even if that means editing pieces. The more theatre I see, the more inspired I am to write. I’m hesitant to call any of the ways I write ‘habits,’ because I feel consistency is something I lack. Some days I stare at the screen for hours and fail to produce a page, other days I knock out a first draft in one sitting, and there is, of course, the times my laptop never even opens despite my good intentions, because I can’t get my eyes off of my current Netflix guilty pleasure. I have found that I work better when I have a deadline, so classes, readings, and submission opportunities act as a huge motivator for me.

6) What advice do you have for new playwrights?

Get your butt in the chair. The chair is at it’s most intimidating when you are first starting your piece. It stares at you, mocking you. The only way to silence it is to take it’s *insert accurate adjective for our own chair here* form and sit upon it. Even writing poorly for an hour is better than not writing at all. I think we are so conditioned to be afraid of failure and we worry that we will ruin the peaceful whiteness of the blank page with our words. Ultimately, any words, even ones that you lament about later and revise, make that paper more interesting than it was before. There are no perfect plays. There are no perfect playwrights. In fact, the only thing successful playwrights have in common is the mountain of ‘failure’ that now is the foundation of the mountain where they sit.

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

I’ve recently had the pleasure of coordinating a table reading for Marcia Eppich-Harris. While she is still developing her first piece for the stage, that’s a name you will want to look out for, as she has talent.

8) What are the common themes in your work?

I am consistently drawn to the dramatic-comedy, where I can explore a heavy-theme (such as loss in “aMUSEd”), while still bringing the audience laugher. Other than that though, I’d say mental struggles such as anxiety, trauma, and depression always seem to find a way into my writing. Human behavior is complicated and each person is motivated by a brain full of individual experiences and complex chemical reactions and not enough people are willing to tackle those intimate issues and vulnerabilities.

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

That once a play has a production, the options for submitting it into competitions is all but eliminated. That was one thing I regretted about the immediate success of “aMUSEd” and its ability to see the stage. I am still honored and would not take those productions back for anything, but I do wish that I would have submitted to contests before accepting production contracts. Now it is stuck in the limbo of being too accredited for contest entries and not accredited enough to get through to gain agents/publication/or most opportunities at a regional theatre.

10) Can you please tell us about Indy Fringe?

Indy Fringe is a 15-year-old organization that focuses on providing opportunities for artists of all kinds to perform or see their work performed. It has several festivals throughout the year, the most popular being the Indy Fringe Festival, which is a reasonable pay-to-play uncensored opportunity to get your work performed. It’s a fun-filled 10-day festival that draws attention from across the country. During the rest of the year, Indy Fringe provides a location at a reasonable price to work on your pieces and host performances. It also makes it its mission to bring in traveling acts to further raise the artistic credibility of Indianapolis.

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

How could you get in touch with me? You can find out more about me and my shows at www.meganjacobstheatre.com. There is even a place where you can contact me directly!

Link Dump

aMUSEd

Wisconsin audition notice

Milwaukee production

Milwaukee review

Review of another Milwaukee production

Another Milwaukee review

Indy production

Indy

DivaFest in Indy

Review of the play

Dinner show near Sheboygan

A really interesting review

Coping with Autumn

Staged reading

Staged reading 2

 

The Playwright

Her IMDB page

Her personal/professional website

Her demo reel

Her New Play Exchange profile

Thanks again to Steven G. Martin for this guest post. 

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:

 

 

 

Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

A Hallowe’en Adventure by Effie Louise Koogle

Howdy all! Happy Halloween! Welcome back to Unknown Playwrights. This Halloween (just like last Halloween) we’re bringing you a Halloween play from the era of when tricks were given more than treats.

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From 1905. Honestly, thisis probably more interesting than our play. Apparently “hold-up” is a game. And two of the boys were dressed as girls. And one kid shot the other. All here.
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Also 1905. In Salt Lake City.

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1906. Dude literally scared someone to death.

They also had cooler postcards, too.

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OMG.

Let’s see what we’re up against today.

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Fair enough. I’ve done a lot of looking online and I can’t find a whole lot about the author. She was born in 1869 and died in 1947. She seems to have spent her whole life in Ohio. She had six brothers and sisters. The most interesting thing to me is that amongst 5 girls in the family only one seems to have married. And among all the sibllings, it seems only one or two married. I wish I knew what that was about. Even the Brontë sisters got married. More on Koogle later. Let’s meet our cast.

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Tarrytown…yes, that Tarrytown. Let’s check out the scenes:

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Poor Nell has been stuck in her room for a week. She’s been grounded – apparently seminaries  could ground their female students back in 1906. She was grounded for a “prank” and she’s got three days left on her sentence. Her friends Verda, Bess, Gloria, Gail, Freida & Gwendolin show up. Nell has been “ill” with a headache. She tells them not to worry…

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Don’t worry or them wrinkles will get you! Also, it’s wrong to be hypocritical and hypercritical.

The girls decide they should do something spooky for Halloween, but Bess sees a problem.

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She has a point. I love that the boys they’re after are seminary boys.

Nell suggests they go to…Sleepy Hollow.

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Bess reminds us of who lives in Sleepy Hollow.

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This dude lives there.

And boys…

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These guys seem cool.

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Take note: Fictional male characters in 1906 Halloween plays want a woman as handsome as she is venturesome.

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Miss Noesome’s seminary gals are the finest! And Glo Gould is a whole sugarplum!

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Pictured: Glo among her cohorts.

In what appears to be the prelude to a hazing ritual, the “ghosts” show up to obey their ghost master.

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Moans, groans and hisses…

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More hazing. Nell is then asked her name.

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I like how the description of the ghost sounds devolve to “Moans, etc. (Emphatic)”

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Time to tie up the girls (and Tom)! The boys/ghosts take them to the cave.

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Did she say beautiful cave? I know the most beautiful cave in the world.

And hot damn! Napoleon shows up and so does Rip Van Winkle.

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This dork…
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…meets this dork. Sadly, they don’t have a baby.

And amongst the ghosts of fictional and real-life people, a goddamned German doctor shows up. Because. Because? Oh, he wants their blood!

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“Vat iss dies sch*t? Vat die aktuelle fock?”

And Major André shows up.

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Sometimes dying for your country looks like this.

 

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“Young folks laugh” = play was written by an old person. And that other inhabitant of Sleepy Hollow pops up.

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Pictured: Sleepy Hollow’s most ballinist player: Ichabod Crane.

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Hells yeah!!!!

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Among the ghosts, the Headless Horseman is a loser. Hehe.

And for some reason a Native American female shows up. Maybe she’s a ghost because of all the Native Americans white Americans killed.

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And I know “squaw” is an offensive term that isn’t even found in any Native American language. But it’s found in this sad little play.

Eventually, the girls get scared and go back to their seminary.

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I was right about the hazing, which has killed a ton of people over the years.

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“IT WAS WORTH WHILE TO CLASH WITS WITH GIRLS OF THEIR CALIBER!”

This has several tropes in common with last year’s Halloween play.

  1. Boys dressing up like ghosts to scare girls. No gun in this one and no cross-dressing.
  2. Girls going to a “haunted” place wanting to be scared.
  3. No actual supernatural stuff.

Apparently, this was really performed at one time. The Koreshan Unity utopian community in Estero, Florida had a copy of this play in its papers.

I want to thank the folks at the state archives of Florida for scanning this play for me. So very, very kind of them.

Ms. Koogle was rather prolific in the early 1900s. Her output includes plays and sheet music.

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Pray Observe, We Must Conserve. 

1902: Ethics for Young People

1904: Twas Thee! Twas Thou! And This I Avow!

1906: The heir of Mt. Vernon

1906: Cupid’s Joke

1906: A Colonial Minuet

1906: Just After Christmas

1907: Up-to-date America: Or the Sweet Girl Graduate’s Dream

1908: Kris Kringle Jingles

1909: The Christmas Collation

1909: The Thanksgiving Songster

1912: The Buzzville News

1918: A bunch of rah-rah America stuff for WWI. And here.

1940: Ready for Kisses

Not sure the year on this, but Effie Louise Koogle just became very interesting:

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Uhhh.

If anyone has any information about Ms. Koogle, please let me know.

Thanks for reading and please check out last years’s Halloween play

And here’s a song about The Headless Horseman, by the Monotones (famous for their Book of Love)

 

 

 

 

Current Playwrights, Dude Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Gun Violence Plays (Diana Burbano, Mark Harvey Levine, Eric Jones, John Minigan)

Howdy and welcome back to Unknown Playwrights. We took a break from profiling playwrights for a couple months, but we’re back in full swing now.

This is a very special post profiling plays about gun violence, an American epidemic. If you need a tally, there is always the Gun Violence Archive.

Gun violence in America seems pervasive when compared with the rest of the so-called civilized world. Here are the lowest death-by-firearm rates.

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Stats from the ol’ Wiki.

I spent a significant portion of my adult life in one of the countries on that list. The only time I felt unsafe or was threatened by violence was when I ran into other Americans there.

Here are the highest death-by-firearms rates:

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Stats here.

The US is smack dab between Panama and Uruguay. It is also ahead of the scariest place I lived in my life. Also notice that the US has way, way more guns than anybody else.

Recent attacks have specifically targeted minorities. The El Paso shooter “targeted Mexicans” but also ended up killing a German. Some shooters target synagogues. Muslims are also a target, though some shooters have killed Christians and Sikhs by mistake.

Something needs to be done, but as long as we have a racist joke personified as president, that might not happen, since he clearly has more important things on his mind.

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Seriously, dude. Just shut up.
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Seriously.

We will take a look at what American playwrights are doing to take a stand on this topic. We’ll start with Diana Burbano who has written extensively on gun violence.

Salat al-Janazah

The first play from Diana is Salat al-Janazaha monologue based on the horrific murder of Sabika Sheikh and nine others in a Santa Fe, Texas high school last year. The monologue is brief, so I’ll post the whole thing here:

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Miss Sheikh was very active on social media. If you want to see the video she made after getting accepted into the exchange student program, it’s here.

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News coverage of her funeral is below.

 

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Here it is with the US flag, via here.

As for the point made by the play, not calling terrorism “terrorism” when it’s done by white people is a thing. Even Rhianna gets it.

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Warning: not a made-up graph.

Gun violence is an important issue for Burbano. She has written several other plays and we will explore those.

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Death’s Release

 

Her next play is Death’s Release, in remembrance of Kimberly Vaughn Hart, another victim of the Santa Fe massacre. 

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Here, the play brings in magical realism.

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In the Anglosphere, magical realism seems to be  a trope connected to Latin America, though of course not every Latin American work has magical realism and not every work of magical realism comes from Latin America.

Gabriel García Márquez tends to be considered to be the most prominent writer using magical realism.

Anyways, these kids are using magic.

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If you hadn’t noticed, the “magic” is working because the kids are “crossing over” as they’re shot – Ana’s just not aware of it yet.

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Hint: it wasn’t a wand.

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This last line is a great line. Instead of putting the onus on racist killers, it seems to be the victim’s fault they got shot, Ya know, for existing and stuff.

That also ties into the second-to-last line about leaving one’s backpack in the corner. Bulletproof backpacks have become a thing in America, because we’d rather put the onus on the victim instead of the murderer.

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Quite literally the 2nd stupidest thing I saw today. The stupidest was the queen suspending the UK parliament, which proves America doesn’t have a lock on stupid.

By the way, here’s a cop explaining that the bulletproof backpack won’t stop a rifle round – despite the fact the recent shootings have all been by automatic rifle.

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That’s a painful realization.

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And in a way, they have trancscended death by sending a message through. This is a heartfelt and charming play, written in commemoration of a horrible murder.

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Not one content to hammer at gun violence through a mere monologue and short play, Diana has written even more.

Rounds Per Second

Rounds Per Second focuses not only on gun violence, but also the different realities people in the US exist in.

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“I wasn’t really looking at you.” The Washington Post wrote a whole article about this.

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The white woman screwing up a name, just like John Travolta.

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Nice comeback there, Prof…

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Still, the white professor describes her own murderer as “brilliant.”

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Hehe. ALL North Americans.

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Thank God for honest characters! The housekeeper lets the professor know the truth. The professor’s entitlement is still showing.

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Death. The great equalizer.

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Diana Burbano, a Colombian immigrant, is an Equity actor, a playwright and a teaching artist at South Coast Repertory and Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble.
Written work: Ghosts of Bogota commissioned by Alter Theatre, winner NuVoices, Actors Theatre of Charlotte 2019, Sapience, writer in Center Theatre Group’s writers circle,  Policarpa, Oregon Shakespeare Festival Brown Swan lab 2017, Drama League Rough Draft series May 2017, Fabulous Monsters, Steppenwolf’s “The Mix.”,Latinx Play Festival, San Diego Rep 2017, Festival51 2016 winner, about women in Punk Rock, Picture me Rollin’ (featured at the 35th annual William Inge Festival and Inkfest at 2cents.), Silueta, (about the Cuban artist Ana Mendieta), with Tom and Chris Shelton, and the TYA Shakespeare mash-up, Caliban’s Island winner 2017 Headwaters New Play Festival at Creede Repertory.(Published by YouthPLAYS). Libertadoras, Vamping and Linda were written for the 365 Women a Year project and have been performed around the world, with Linda featured in more that 20 festivals over the last year, including Center Theatre Group’s community library series. She is currently writing for Rogue Artists “Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta. She is also under commission from Alternative Theatre in San Rafael, and is in Center Theatre Group’s L.A. Writers Workshop 2018-2019.
She has been a working actor since leaving the Professional Actors Conservatory in 1991. She originated the roles of Ama de Casa in the Spanish version of Menopause the Musical, Thumb in Imagine, and Holo-1 in the Labors of Hercules. She recently played Ana Guerrero in Jose Cruz Gonzales’ Long Road Today/El Largo Camino de Hoy Dialogue/Dialogos project at South Coast Repertory.  TV includes The People vs OJ Simpson, Cold Case, Betas.

She played punk Praetorian guard Viv in the cult movie musical, The Isle of Lesbos
Diana is a member of The Dramatists Guild and The Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights

God Forbid

Our next playwright Mark Harvey Levine has fashioned a three-page play (God Forbid) about those people who dread the day they will ever have to use their guns…while yearning for the chance.

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The fantasy begins…

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The phrase “orgasmic crescendo” needs to be in some sort of playwriting hall of fame.

The play ends with everyone saying a not-so-reassuring “God forbid” to one another.

Only a Matter of Time

Levine then takes the medium down to its essence, producing a one page play entitled Only a Matter of Time, which you may read in its entirety here:

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And that’s what the playwright does best: deliver a knockout punch in as little time as possible.

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Mark Harvey Levine has had over 1700 productions of his plays everywhere from Bangalore to Bucharest and from Lima to London.  His plays have won over 45 awards and been produced in ten languages.  Full evenings of his plays, such as “Didn’t See That Coming” and “A Very Special Holiday Special” have been shown in New York, Amsterdam, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Sao Paulo, Sydney, Seoul, Mexico City, and across the US.  A Spanish-language movie version of his play “The Kiss” (“El Beso”) premiered at Cannes, showed at the Tribeca film festival, and subsequently aired on HBO and DTV (Japan).

Open Carry

Our next playwright, Eric Christopher Jones tackles the intersection between racism and gun rights in America with Open Carry. Let’s take a look.

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Oh, the Alamo!

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“Don’t shoot! Hands up!” has been a part of the most recent civil rights movement.

The play sets up the conflict early by having two people standing up for their rights. The white man wants his right to bear arms. Specifically, he wants to be able to carry his weapon in the open. To read more about how open carry laws intersect with racism, check out this article.

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Must be.

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You can even get audio here.

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Tamir Rice was a 12 year old boy killed by Cleveland police while playing with an Airsoft gun.

Alton Sterling was a 37 year old man shot by Baton Rouge police.

John Crawford III was a 22 year-old man shot by police in an Ohio Wal-Mart for simply holding a BB gun he’d picked up while shopping.

Keith Lamont Scott was a 43 year-old man shot by police in North Carolina for just hanging out in his truck.

Trayvon Martin was a 17 year-old shot and killed by a local night watch/vigilante in Florida.

Any guesses as to what race these victims all were?

The only good news is that at the time of writing this, there have been 100 less police shootings this year than the same time last year.

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Putin’s original bitch. Pretty nifty. It’s even a woodcut.

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Aha, the mighty Raymond has arrived – but still the other characters don’t know his race.

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Officer Ray. Sigh.

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This play eviscerates the notion that 2nd Amendment advocates aren’t racist a-holes. This is from the Wikipedia page about the Oath Keepers:

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For a thorough explanation of the 2nd Amendment’s role in perpetuating racism, check out this article (the first time this blog has ever linked to Teen Vogue).

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Eric Jones  is a Medford, Massachusetts born, Minnesota & Texas raised artist. Mr. Jones is a graduate of Texas Southern University; B.S. Pharmacy. He has been involved with the Christian theater circuit since 1995 as a writer, actor, director and composer. Writing credits includes: Untapped Potential, Wolf Man Wedding, The Baked Potato Incident, Dreamland, American Skin , Freedom Quilt, Liberators and Fired! The Musical. Currently, Eric won 2nd Runner up for the Screenplay Competition at The Beverly Hills Film Festival 2016 for his screenplay Dreamland. His award winning  film he could wrote & produced Dreamland Murders film  was selected to the Marche Du Cannes Short Film Showcase 2016 hosted by NWC Cinemas.. Two Musicals got their premiere in 2018. Liberators An American Musical at The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival & Three Crosses at Ensemble Theatre’s Stage Reading Series.. “I would like to thank God, my family, WRIC church and the Houston Theater community.”

Product Reveal

Next up, John Minigan has a very short play about the confluence of the gun rights activism and Christianity in America.  Let’s see what “christians NRA” gets us on Google:

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Oh.

It even got us an Israeli site. Despite the whole “turn the other cheek” thing and the whole “don’t kill people” thing in the Bible, there’s a definite connection between Christian (White) Nationalists and boners for guns.

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Meet Holly, Christian mother of three. At least it’s not a Confederate flag. (?)

Texas’ resident dipshit Lt. Governor of Texas Dan Patrick even claimed the recent massacres in El Paso and Dayton were “moral failings”  [yeah, comitting a mass-murder would qualify as a moral failing. Thanks, Dan] and called for prayer in school. (Dude really said that)

Mr. Minigan’s play Product Reveal takes down this bizarre relationship:

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The play, while satiric, is not far off reality. What’s so weird is just the other day, fashion brand Bstroy had their own product reveal. Let’s see what they revealed:

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Oh, hoodies based on school massacres with their very own bullet holes. People will love this! (Photo by Michael Kusumadjaja)
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Wait, so people DON’T like school massacre hoodies? Who’d a thunk it? (Photo: Michael Kusumadjaja)

Every bit as stupid as the play’s product reveal, we are living in our own surrealistically violent post-modern satire. Sigh.

Minigan Headshot 2 2019

John Minigan is a 2019-2020 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellow in Dramatic Writing. His plays have been developed with the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Portland Stage Company, New Repertory Theater, the New American Playwrights Project, and the Great Plains Theatre Conference. Queen of Sad Mischance is a 2019 Gold Prize winner of the Clauder Competition and a 2018 O’Neill Finalist. Noir Hamlet—a Boston Globe Critics’ Pick, EDGEMedia Best of Boston Theater 2018 selection, and 2019 Elliot Norton nominee for Outstanding New Script—was produced at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. His work has been included in the Best American Short Plays, Best Ten-Minute Short Plays, and New England New Plays anthologies. He is past winner of the Nantucket Short Play Contest, the Rover Dramawerks Competition, the Longwood 0-60 Contest, Seoul Players Contest, and the KNOCK International Short Play Competition. John is a Dramatists Guild Ambassador for Eastern New England. Please visit johnminigan.com.

Our playwrights have been kind enough to answer some questions about their craft. The same questions were posed to each of them. I’ve organized their answers this way to show the diversity of thought amongst people whose goals are similar.
  1. How did you start playwriting?

Burbano: I started writing because good, challenging roles for Latina women could be counted on one hand and I aimed to change that.

Levine: I was at Carnegie-Mellon University as an Acting Major.  During my freshman year they announced they were starting up an Undergraduate Playwriting Program.  It seemed less crazy than acting.  I applied for and got into it.  So I got into the CMU Drama Department twice!

Jones: It was 1995, I was volunteering at a youth arts ministry and I was responsible for looking for material. What I read was least to be desired. So I desired to write the play myself. I’ve been writing ever since.

Minigan: I no longer remember the source of the quote, but I agree with it: “A playwright is a poet who got lonely.” I was a math teacher in a private school, writing poetry and a little fiction, and the drama teacher asked if I wanted to help with his program. Seemed like a good idea, and I quickly became much more interested in theater (writing, directing, acting, designing) than teaching math. The collaborative, fluid, and public nature of the work continues inspire me in ways poetry didn’t quite do.

  1. What are your influences?

Burbano: Women’s stories, especially unknown history. Caryl Churchill, Tom Stoppard, Sarah RuhlOctavio Solis, José Cruz Gonzáles

Levine: For short plays, David Ives most definitely.  He’s the master of the short play.  For playwriting in general, I’d have to say Neil Simon, Tom Stoppard and Alan Ayckbourn.

Jones: I’m a musical theatre fan. I love the songwriting of Pasek/Paul, Stephen Sondheim, Jason Robert Brown & the writing team of Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty. I really love Lynn Ahrens as a lyricist & Librettist. It’s very clever & moving.

Minigan: I’ve been really shaped by my experiences working with students in 31 years running a high school theater program. Theater kids are passionate, clear, committed, and usually awesome. And working with lots of great teachers, writers, directors, and dramaturgs has influenced me (Kevin Coleman, Bridget O’Leary, Miranda Jonte, Dan Burson, and more). In terms of the craft of writing, my influences are pretty eclectic: Paula Vogel, August Wilson, Wendy Wasserstein, Brecht, Pirandello, Beckett, George S. Kaufman.

  1. What is your most memorable production and why?

Burbano: I loved “Ghosts of Bogota” in staged reading at Actors Theatre of Charlotte. It was vicious and funny and UNSENTIMENTAL!  My biggest pet peeve is my work is played too seriously.

Levine: In 2005, I got to go to Curitiba, Brazil to see an entire evening of my plays — in Portuguese!  It was an incredible experience.

Jones: I wrote my first musical Freedom Quilt back in 1999. I had the opportunity to have the show workshopped for a young performers showcase at the Ensemble Theatre. What touched me was how they treated me like a Rock Star when I arrived. I’ll never forget that.

Minigan: I think maybe the 2014 NY Fringe Festival production of Breaking the Shakespeare Code because it was such a rush to have my first full-length NYC production be sold-out and well-reviewed, and because it was my first time being produced by Hey Jonte!, a production company I LOVE working with and which I’ve now worked with maybe five times. Also up there was this summer’s Edinburgh Festival production of Noir Hamlet, because I was brought in to be more than the playwright—I was production manager, lighting designer, and on-stage/in-character crew member. It was amazing to feel fully a member of a professional performing company. I don’t often feel that way as the writer.

  1. What is your funniest theatre story?

Levine: I once accidentally sent the same group of short plays to a theater twice.  The first time they rejected it, the second time they accepted it.  The first time they rejected it because they were a theater that did edgy plays — and these plays were not edgy.   By the time I sent it the second time, they were sick of doing edgy plays and wanted to do something fun.  My second submission of the plays happened to arrive at just the right moment.  Timing is everything. 

Jones: I substituted for a role from my musical Liberators because the actor was sick. I accidentally sang the old lyrics of a song that me & my composer insisted we cut out. I totally forgot. Nobody noticed but everyone in the cast was laughing.

Minigan: This summer, while “hawking” my Edinburgh Fringe show on a sidewalk, speaking to any and all passers-by and trying to get them to take a flyer advertising the show, one passer-by yelled at me, “Stop talking to the wall!” It’s one of the biggest laugh lines in the play—clearly the guy had seen the show and found the perfect place to use my line.

  1. What are your writing habits like?

Burbano: I clean the house and write in spurts. I usually only get 2 or 3 pages done a day.

Levine: Terrible.  I have no time to write, and have to squeeze it in here and there.

Jones: I Must have four things . A. Coffee, B. Encyclopedia Britannica, C. Thesaurus & D. Show tunes. Lots of Show tunes.

Minigan: I’ve gone from two-month-a-year playwright while I was teaching to full-time playwright since I retired last summer. I write pretty much every day, usually in the morning, for at least two hours, and sometimes return later after clearing my head. I think I work best on paper—either writing new stuff with pen and legal pads or revising in the margins of a printed script. I revise a lot. If it’s not at least draft 15, it can’t be ready.

  1. What advice do you have for new playwrights?

Burbano: As my great mentor José Cruz Gonzélez says, “Dare to suck!”

Levine: Read lots of plays.  Go see lots of plays.  Have your work read by actors while you sit and listen.  Learn how to be objective about your work (easier said then done).  And edit out anything you possibly can.

Jones: Keep on writing & keep on making mistakes. Once you learn from those mistakes, keep on writing again until you have a draft script you are proud of.

Minigan: Finish the first draft. Don’t overthink it. No one (other than you) cares if it’s any good. It’ll be easier to make it good later when you’re not having to invent the whole thing.

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

Burbano: José Cruz Gonzélez, Monica Sanchez, Matthew Paul Olmos, Elizabeth Szekeresh

Levine: Babs Lindsay, Rich Orloff, Alex Dremann and Patrick Gabridge.

Jones: Local Houston writers like Michael Weems, Denise O’Neal, Crystal Rae, Nicholas Garelick, Fernando Dovalina & Donna Latham. Why go to NYC when there is great talent in The Lone Star State?

Minigan: Just off the top of my head: Miranda Jonte is a fierce, clear writer with a unique, smart voice. Emma Goldman-Sherman is brave, passionate, and powerful. Patrick Gabridge’s approach to writing historical pieces that illuminate the present is amazing. Greg Lam’s ability to use sci-fi to write so clearly about who and where we are is also inspiring. And this guy, Bryan Stubbles. Maybe you know him? Incredibly imaginative work — always outside the box.

  1. What are common themes in your work?

Burbano: Feminism, and the normalization (i.e. seeing us as just people) of latinx women.

Levine: Someone once said my plays are about ordinary people in extraordinary situations.  I like that.

Jones: My themes always comes back to Perseverance , Redemption & Second Chances. Being a follower of Christ, it’s my duty to present positive stories of how you can mess up but still get back up again. I hope my audiences get the message that you should never give up, even when the chips are down.

Minigan: Almost all of my plays, in one way or another, are about characters who choose to (or are forced to) abandon certainty and move into the unfamiliar. I think I’m focused on getting away from the answers we accept and, instead, deepening the questions we ask.

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

Burbano: That you have to be your own fiercest advocate and that NO ONE is going to give you anything just because you have talent. 

Levine: Have your work read to you!  It’s so important to hear your plays out loud.

Jones: Playwriting is hard!

Minigan: Any success you have is going to take a helluva long time. So find people you love to work with and try to work with them as much as you can. And enjoy that work, on whatever ‘scale’ it happens to be. It’s more meaningful than any accolades. And support new work by your fellow writers. The rising new play tide raises all boats.

  1. What do you have coming up soon? 

Burbano: Ghosts of Bogota at Alter Theatre, and Actors Theatre of Charlotte. Hoping to turn that into a rolling world premiere with NNPN.

Levine: I have several works coming up in Asphalt Jungle Shorts, a festival of plays where the audience walks around Kitchener, Ontario, and encounters the plays on the street.  And the New Short Play Festival in New York City is doing four of my short plays!

Jones: I have three musicals coming to workshop in 2020 where I wrote lyrics & Book. It’s Three Crosses with Composer Joshua Davis L. I have War Letters with Co-Lyricist & Composer Dan Markosian & Please Come Home for Christmas with Co-Lyricist & Composer Gary Sironen.

Minigan: I’m continuing to try to get a production of Queen of Sad Mischance. It’s had a lot of national and regional recognition – and twelve readings or workshops so far – but nobody’s biting yet. Also pursuing leads on a third and also a fourth production of my comedy Noir Hamlet. Fingers crossed. And I’ve now got four new drafts of full-lengths that need MUCH revision. Lots of writing ahead.

  1. What compelled you to write plays about gun violence?

Burbano: Because it’s the single most important topic in our country. We martyr babies because of the obsession with weapons of death.

Levine: The insane number of mass shootings we have in this country. 

Jones: I love watching CNN every morning and I get my daily fill of how the second amendment is being misused and witnessing the constant death toll of our citizens at the hands of Domestic Terrorists.

Minigan: Product Reveal was written in pure anger – sort of giving the middle finger to the folks who conflate religion and gun culture/second amendment and talk about the “God-given” right to carry weapons of war into the grocery store. I’ve written two short pieces about gun violence, this and Velas Votivas, and am in super early stages of researching a piece that looks like it’ll turn into a play about religious cults and gun violence.

  1. What responses have you seen to your gun violence plays?

Burbano: Death’s Defeat has been a powerful reminder to people about how young and innocent  the victims are. I’ve not gotten any pushback. Yet.

Levine: I unfortunately have not been able to attend any of the productions of these plays yet.  I’d love to see the response.

Jones: I know it makes people think and it gets under your skin a little. But it’s a scratch that needs to be itched because gun violence has been irritating our country since its foundation.

Minigan: I love that one reader on the New Play Exchange called this play “the manifestation of the American contradiction.” That seems completely right. I’ve been moved by the responses folks have had (as readers, actors, and audience members) to Velas Votivas, too – a play that’s part of the #CodeRedPlaywrights project memorializing victims of gun violence.

  1. What advice would you give a playwright who wants to be a catalyst for change? 

Burbano: Write with your feelings, anger, righteousness. And don’t be afraid to piss people off.

Levine: Don’t just preach to the choir.We have to reach the people who disagree with us.

Jones: Don’t be afraid to take the responsibility to put others to task when they are not stepping up! Life is too short just to live life trivially. Our words. Our dreams. And our actions must have weight. Just like original thoughts & black lives, they matter too.

Minigan: Be honest and bold in what you write and you will inspire those who agree with you and anger those who don’t. Be sneaky and sly and maybe you’ll get those who don’t agree with you on your side. It’s probably important to do both of those things.

  1. Personally, what role should guns play in America, if any? 

Burbano: They should be melted down and turned into sculpture. Owning a gun is something only frightened people do, and I would rather live with joy. 

Levine: We should have a few handy in case the British invade again.  Other than that…

Jones: I believe that every American should have the right to protect themselves. I come from a family of hunters & fisherman. However, we don’t need assault weapons to do so. The USA needs responsible Gun Reform & background checks for responsible gun ownership. If not, we won’t survive as a Republic.

Minigan: You like the second amendment? Buy a musket.

Hopefully through these writers’ work, you can see how artists can use their voice for advocacy.

While you’re with us, please check out our Unknown Playwrights (living & dead), Monologue Mondays and Theatre Horror Stories.

Until next time…

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Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past

Hennie Raché

Unknown Playwrights is finally back posting about…unknown playwrights! Following a summer of deviant debauchery diligent study, the exciting world of unknown theatre comes alive.

This week we feature our first German-language playwright. No, it isn’t Schiller, Goethe  or Brecht. I know, I know…Germany has actually produced more than three playwrights.

Our playwright’s name is Hennie Raché and she was born Hennie Fock in Hamburg in 1876. She married the writer Paul Raché in the early 1900s.

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Our playwright…

Finding any online works of hers was difficult. The extant one act play I found pretty much has one thing to recommend it: a very evil villain. In fact we could coin the word “evillain.”

The play is entitled Belsazar. It draws upon the Biblical story of Belshazzar. For those unfamiliar with the story, Belshazzar was a Neo-Babylonian king. Previously, the Babylonians had defeated Judah and looted the Temple in Jerusalem. In the book of Daniel, Belshazzar has a big party and uses the cups from the Temple. God doesn’t like this. A hand writes something the wall. Belshazzar freaks out. All his wise men can’t read it. But Jewish captive Daniel can. He saves the day by explaining the meaning.

“MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed … and found wanting;” and “PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Note: this where the English idioms “the writing on the wall” and “have been weighed…and found wanting” come from.

Belshazzar rewards Daniel, but is killed that night and the Persians take over his kingdom.

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Belshazzar’s feast, according to the film Intolerance (1916). I doubt Raché’s one-act on the Hamburg stage looked much like this.

The Biblical story provides the skeleton of the play.

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Things ae getting pretty wild here at Unknown Playwrights. Should that illustration be our new logo?

But Raché has made this a play a conflict between Belsazar and a Jewish female captive named Rahel. It’s pretty melodramatic, and not in a Sirkian way, either.

The only points worth exploring in this post that might be beneficial to other playwrights are:

  1. How thoroughly evil Belsazar is.
  2. How does the Queen react to Belsazar getting all rapey with Rahel?

Belsazar is talking to his military aide Issar:

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Belsazar: It’s good, Issar. Then the party should begin. But before that one more thing: Tell me, where is the Jew, who you have captured because she does not want to worship Baal and Astarte?

Issar: She is here, King. I left them under the care of two soldiers.

Belsazar: No harm done to her?

Issar: No, sir, she is intact and her defiance is unbroken.

Belsazar (pensive): She was beautiful, the Jewish woman – she pleased my eyes well … (to Issar): Go, Issar and bring her here to me … maybe I’ll succeed, what you can not do. Go, let her come.

[I’ve chosen to translate the feminine noun Jüdin as “Jewish woman” and sometimes “Jew” because “Jewess” sounds like something Trump would say. But there is an opposing viewpoint about that word. ]

[And…”maybe I’ll succeed” – sure hope you don’t. Primo douchiness, right here]

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Two soldiers bring in Rahel. She has magnificent flowing strawberry-blonde hair. Her loose robe is white. She stops a bit to the right of the canopy. The king waves for the two soldiers to leave.

Belsazar (looks at Rahel for a long time): Do you not know how to greet a king?

Rahel: Like every human. I bowed my head as I entered. (short break)

Belsazar: You are one of the Jewish women brought here from Judea?

Rahel: It’s as you say!

Belsazar: You do not like to be here?

Rahel (bitterly laughing): Like?! I curse the moment I had to leave home, and I curse the hour when my eyes saw Babylon. (short pause) The life of the captivity seems to me unbearable!

Belsazar (somewhat mocking): But – you live?

Rahel (rigidly): I live! I am waiting for the hour when the Lord God will redeem us out of your hands! I live and wait for the hour that will make you our servants!

[One way to make a tough villain is (obviously) to have a tough protagonist.]

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Belsazar (smiling): You will have to wait a long time! The gold of your hair will bleach, your eyes will be closed for a long time, and still Judah will be a part of Babylon!

Rahel (heartfelt): Our God will not let his punishment last forever. He will be gracious to his children!

Belsazar: Your God? – You have been found sacrificing to your god.

Rahel: I did it.

Belsazar: Do not you know that the penalty for it is death?

Rahel: I know it. I do not fear death.

Belsazar (smiling): Maybe not death. But there are tortures that make even the most fearless shudder. Remember that, proud Jew!

Rahel: I’m not afraid of the pain either!

[Jeesh, you mean her strawberry blonde is gonna go full blonde because she’ll be dead and the sun will bleach her hair??? So cruel.

And if she isn’t afraid of death, I doubt she’s gonna fear pain. I mean, what’s the point?]

Here Belsazar tries out the “getting-to-know-you” routine. He learns her name is Rahel.

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“Hey, this isn’t proper stageplay format! The name indents more than the dialogue” saith every theatre ever in 2019.

Belsazar: Rahel … Who is your father?

Rahel: Joshua, the rabbi – you killed him.

Belsazar: I remember. He also sacrificed to his god and was burned. (musing) What god is he for whom you suffer death and torture? Tell me, is he a god of love?

Rahel (loud, convinced): He is a god of revenge! And he will crush those who blaspheme and deny him!

So Belsazar, with all the smoothness of Donald Trump a creepy old dude who’s gotten his way his whole life tries to convince Rahel by pointing out the hedonistic virtues of Baal.

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Belsazar: A God of Vengeance? A miserable god! (He gets up and walks down the two steps, stops in front of Rahel) Shall I tell you about our gods? Do you want to hear about Baal and Astarte? They are gods of love – shall I tell you, Rahel? Shall I tell you about the gardens of love in which Baal sits enthroned and gives a thousand joys to those who serve him? Would you like to become a priestess of the Astarte? Do you know how sweet the love is and how full of bliss the dizziness of the senses? – Look at me, Rachel, shall I tell you about love? Shall I teach you how to serve Baal and Baaltis, our gods? – I will be a good teacher, Rahel, for I have been in the gardens of love for a long time! – You will be a goddess in my arms, Rahel, we shall be like Baal and Astarte … my love shall warm you like the sun and you will desire her as you desire for the light of the sun … ( urgently) Look at me, Rahel … (he wants to take her hands)

[He wants to be her “teacher” because he’s hung out in the “gardens of love” for a long time. No thanks.]

Later he offers her to be his queen. Surprise, surpeise, she turns him down.

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 Rahel (with contempt): Do you believe that you can buy Rahel’s love for a throne and purple? Verily, you judge the pride of the Jew low! Are the women of your people for sale for a handful of gold? And me? O you, whom I respect no more than the dog that lies at the threshold of my house!

Belsazar (uttering a hissing sound of rage, slowly approaches Rahel and stops in front of her, hissing): If you do not fear death and pain, I will torment your soul until it dies in your womb. Should not my power be stronger than your defiance? (he approaches the curtain) Hey, Issar!

Okay, so “hissing sound of rage” might’ve been scarier in 1904 Hamburg than in 2019 Internet. But threatening to “torment your soul until it dies in your womb” is a bit much.

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Belsazar (hissing to Rahel): Woman! I will defile the altar that you have built in the heart of your God!

Rahel wants to leave. [I do not blame her]

Belsazar: Stay! You should stay! I will look for the place where I can wound your proud heart! And if you do not want to give me your love, let your pain be my lust.

[Some women do like a “bad boy” but this is venturing into Idi Amin territory now]

So Belsazar has his little party.

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This party.
babylon
Last month’s church social.

He invites Rahel to sing. You can guess how that goes.

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Belsazar: You don’t want to? Should I loosen your tongue so that it becomes as pliant as a snake’s tongue? – Should I pour molten lead into your throat to make it supple? Maybe you can sing then?

Rahel (proud): Do as you like!

Belsazar (to the people): Do you hear the Jewish woman? She has the courage of a lioness. Do you see how she shows the claws? Oh, I like that!

[Belsazar certainly is one vicious bastard. And he goes after emotionally unavailable women.]

Now the king drinks from the Temple cups. Rahel refuses to do so. One cool thing Rahel does is that when Belsazar orders his wives to drink from the cups, Rahel convinces them not to, thus sparing his wives from the God’s wrath.

The mysterious words are written. Belsazar freaks. He calls his wise men. They know nothing. The queen shows up. Doesn’t say anything about his rapey ways, but she does suggest Daniel can interpret the writing. Yes, that Daniel.

Daniel pops in and tells Belsazar what’s up. Belsazar doesn’t like what he hears (that he’ll lose his kingdom and die). He goes into a tizzy, lashing out at his minions, Daniel and Rahel. He also says:

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“Oh Prophet, your words were cheap…Jew, I laugh at you”

A couple things here:

  1. I dunno if it’s the zeitgeist, but in 1901 the German playwright Hermann Sudermann published a tragedy about John the Baptist. It contained this line: Screen Shot 2019-09-04 at 1.26.15 PMHerodias: You see, I laugh at you, you great Prophet! (She laughs) [Did German theatre had a thing for laughing at prophets then?]
  2. This is the Charles Bronson moment in the play. The villain does something and you know he’s got approximately 10 seconds to live.

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Rahel (drowning out the noise in a strong voice): Kill him! Kill him! He cursed God! (the peasants attack Belsazar, who extends his hands defensively) Kill him, kill him, the wicked man the Lord has marked! Kill the Blasphemer!

Belsazar (in a horrified voice): Rahel!

Rahel (again, drowning everything): Kill him!

Belsazar sinks to death on the steps of the throne.

Rahel lets out a loud cry of triumph.

Curtain.

[Curtain indeed]

Yay God! Yay Jews! Boo hissing rapey misogynistic anti-Semitic rulers of Neo-Babylonia.

This was the only play of Raché’s I could find online. It was performed in 1904 at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg (the theatre has been there since 1843!). It was then published in a theatre periodical, Bühne und Welt. This is really an amazing resource for early 20th Century German theatre.

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Look at the artistry involved. This is the cover of the bound volume containing Belsazar.
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Holy hair rollers, 1904 Germany!!! (from inside the above volume)

Bio: adapted from her obituary.

Hennie Raché was born as Henni Fock on August 15, 1876 in Hamburg. She was an orphan by age 16 and worked as an educator and tutor.

She published some poems and short stories in her hometown’s Hamburger Fremdenblatt. This brought her to the attention of editor Paul Raché. They married at the end of 1900. She achieved success quickly. Her plays were performed in Hamburg and even overseas. She became sick in October 1904. The disease was pronounced incurable. She suffered with admirable patience and fortitude before succumbing on June 18, 1906 at the age of 30.

Links….

Her life:

German Wikipedia

Obituary

Her work:

Several poems.

Liebe (a novel) 1901 [Love]

Nocturno. Pathologische Liebesgeschichten 1902 [Pathaological Love Stories]

Über der Liebe (full-length play) 1902 [About Love]

Die Scham. Geschichte zweier Ehen. 1903 [The shame. The history of two marriages]

Das heilige Leben (play) 1903 [The Holy Life]

Ecce Ego [play] 1902.

Belsazar (one act play) 1904.

Das Gasthaus zum deutschen Michel. 1905. [The Guesthouse of German Michel]

Töff-Töff. (one act play) 1906

Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

Mary Pix

The 1690s. The London stage, much like Britain itself, was in a state of flux and turmoil. The merry ways of the Restoration, along with its sex comedies, had changed. James II had died without an heir. Rebellions sprung up. A Dutch king was imported and local and foreign wars increased.

Meanwhile, the theatre in London’s mainstays were becoming less popular. While people are unsure of the reason (it could be that people’s tastes simply changed over a generation – how many people remember Kim Cattrall from Porky’s vs. that one show).

Carving out a living as a playwright was just as precarious as now, it seems. There were a few ways one could make a living as a playwright. One was to be the resident playwright with a yearly contract. John Dryden did this. Another was to get the elusive commission. Thomas Shadwell had a couple of these.

The other way was to simply submit the play to the theatre. This still didn’t guarantee payment, as the play had to run three performances before the writer got paid  – from the profit of the third night. After the theatre’s expenses for that night had been cleared. In the beginning of the Restoration, they were paid ONLY on the third night. However, by the 1690s they had negotiated payment on every third night. One imagines they would’ve pressed their friends to go, kinda like when one’s playwright friends in New York send you a Facebook invite you to their play when you’re in, say, Bekasi.

After the play’s initial run, the play entered the theatre company’s repertory. Residuals and copyright fees were totally not a thing. All chances of making money from a new play died after the final curtain of the final performance. How depressing.

I should also mention that nearly all plays were written by dudes and the theatre, as with society, was dominated by men. True, women were allowed (gee, thanks) onstage after the Restoration, but their presence provoked more lurid rape scenes and of course the breeches role. Naturally, by the 21st Century everything is peachy in modern English-speaking theatre.

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Yes, “breeches role” is my browsing history now. Photo from here.

Mary Pix seemed to have the cards stacked against her simply by being born at that moment in history in 1666 in Buckinghamshire. As if living in a creepy, rapey, pre-electricity England wasn’t bad enough, her headmaster father died when she was “very young.” According to the gossip rag known as Wikipedia, she was courted by her dad’s successor, Thomas Dalby, at the school, but he left due to a smallpox epidemic one year after the schoolhouse mysteriously burned down. Slut-shaming Wikipedia was on the scene:

Rumour had it that Mary and Dalby had been making love rather energetically and overturned a candle which set fire to the bedroom.” (You can seriously read the original here.)

Because, you know, banging dad’s replacement and burning down schools when you’re a teenaged girl go hand in hand.  

I reckon she probably got pissed at creeper Tommy and burnt the damn thing down to be rid of him – or at least so he can’t have a work/creep-place.

Mary married (hehe) a merchant at age 18. She had a son who died young. The couple moved to London, had another son and BOOM Pix burst upon the literary scene in 1696 at the age of 30 when she published her only novel, The Inhumane Cardinal and two plays, Ibrahim, thirteenth Emperour of the Turks and The Spanish Wives.

Sadly, The Inhumane Cardinal isn’t an expose of birds committing war crimes.  

DeborahYaworsky_cardinal-300x225
They don’t look cruel. Via this cool site.

Interestingly enough, Pix found success the same year as two other amazing female playwrights, the awesomely-named Delarivier Manley and Catherine Trotter.

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Mary Pix, a badass for all seasons. Via the wiki gods.

But with success comes hatred, and for women, a particularly virulent, penis-having hatred. The success of these three ladies provoked a play, The Female Wits, which attacked them. Pix was portrayed as a fat, ignorant yet kind, oaf named Mrs. Wellfed. Things were less subtle back then. The play was written anonymously, because male bravery knows no bounds.

Pix was connected to The Theatre Royal (currently owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber) until that theatre produced The Female Wits, after which Pix took her talent to the theatre at Lincoln Inn Fields. She seems to have been mentored by the great William Congreve.

In 1697, Pix sent her play The Deceiver Deceiv’d to The Drury Lane Theatre run by rival playwright George Powell. Note to self: Do not send plays to rival playwrights. Second note to self: Find rival playwrights.

He rejected her play and totally produced a play with the same plot. Plagiarism, anyone? There was much “anonymous” letter writing to newspapers and a mini-scandal occurred. However, Pix’ reputation remained intact. But after that, she only attached her name to one other play, though we think she published seven more.

The first play we’ll review is the awesomely-titled Ibrahim, the thirteenth Emperour of the Turks.

Imitation Maltin summary: Spoiled brat/psychopath (and Ibrahim’s favorite mistress) Sheker crushes on stud-soldier Amurat who in turn loves winsome Morena. Sheker unleashes a wave of violence upon everyone in the story, including the titular Ibrahim.

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“You call me MRS. Pix.” Via a great learning tool.

You can also learn about the real Ibrahim. Never a good sign when historians dub you “the Mad.”

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Relatively well-written female characters for the era.
    1. Morena, despite being put upon a pedestal by Amurat, is more or less a fleshed out character, albeit a victim.
    2. Satanic spitfire Sheker is a consistently evil character with clear motivation – she has more depth than the infamous Iago in Othello. She loves and she hates. Almost like a real person. And she ruins people’s lives, almost like my old boss.
    3. Sheker’s slave (and apparently only friend) Mirva and Morena’s slave/buddy Zaida/Zada/Zayda (nobody used spell check back then) serve as brief foils to their mistresses – even they have a bit more depth than what one is used to seeing in the era.
  2. Dialogue and pacing
    1. In general, speech feels more natural than one would imagine.  Much of the dialogue is effective – here is Amurat telling his friend Solyman how much he loves Morena, but also senses Sheker’s danger.

AMURAT

Oh Solyman! forgive the frailty of your Friend,

Forgive the follies that Imperious love creates,

Here the Mufti writes, that on earnest business

He craves my presence, if he hath discover’d

The Adoration that I pay his beauteous Daughter,

And then forbid it, how lost a thing is Amurat,

For I know well, though her poor Slave shou’d suffer

A thousand wracks, she’d tread the rigid paths of Duty,

And let me die, rather than forfeit her obedience.

Here is Sheker, all butthurt that Amurat has rejected her advances and left. Mirva is her slave and Achmet is Ibrahim’s eunuch.

SHEKER

Gone! O Devil!

Keep down, thou swelling Heart!

Or higher rise, that I may tear

Thee with my teeth! Mirva!

Break all the flattering Mirrors!

Let me ne’er behold this rejected Face again!

Have I seen Scepter’d Slaves kneeling

At my feet, forgetting they were Kings,

Forgetful of their Gods, calling alone on me;

Passing whole days and hours as if measur’d

With a Moments Sand, and now refus’d

By a Curst Beardless Boy! my Arms too

Open’d, all my Charms laid forth! (for

The Joys of Love are double, when our

Sex desires) heedless and cold he flew

From my Embrace; swift as I will do

To form his ruine—Achmet! I come!

‘Tis he must raise this raging Tempest higher,

Though cold to me, his Bosom’s sure on fire.

Finally, this is Solyman dishing it out to Ibrahim (who has done something terrible to Morena). Solyman truly is a great friend to Amurat. I love the simple stage direction at the end: “Fight.”

IBRAHIM

Traytors are ever loud—

And to colour their own detested sin

Rebellion; with impudence, and calumnies

Bespatter the Throne, they dare attack.

SOLYMAN

Was there a Slave throughout thy wide

Dominions, whom blind fate had cursed

With Wealth: His forfeit—Head

Pay’d for his crime: Whilst his extorted

Treasure fill’d thy coffers, and supply’d

New Luxury. Did vertue Reign in

Any Man, a life Austere; or active Valour

Like our great Progenitors: Strait you,

And your Minious thought, this lookt

With a Reflecting Eye on your Debauches:

Dispatch’d the pious Wretch, and sent him

To his Friends above; then Women

You monopoliz’d—let her be Wife

Or Virgin, fair as Heaven, or monstrous as Hell:

Witness your Armenian Mistress; all serv’d

As fuel to that consuming fire your Lust;

Nay, even the Relique of our late glorious

Emperour, was not free from your Attempt,

But that her Lion Resolution made your

Coward Heart shrink back.

IBRAHIM

What!—ho!—

Is there none to secure this Traitor?

SOLYMAN

I tell thee, Lost degenerate King,

There’s not a Soul will move a Tongue

Or Finger, in thy Defence; thou standst

Forsook by Heaven, and Human Aid—

Think now upon the fair Morena!

And if thy heart of Adamant unmov’d

Cou’d hear an Angel pray; if the angry Powers

So punish’d her spotless Innocence: What

Horrours must remain for thee; who bend’st

Beneath the weight of thousand thousand Ills?

IBRAHIM

Come on, thou Rebel!—

No Souldier sure thou art!

Thy Tongue’s thy sharpest Weapon—yet

If thou wer’t; and did thy acts excel the

Foremost of my Royal Race; thy Ignoble

Tomb must blush to hold thee, the name of Rebel

Wou’d blot out the Hro, and leave thy Fame

Detest’d, to the honest World; as thou

Hast Represented mine!

SOLYMAN

My injur’d Friend, and that unhappy Beauty

Whom thy Lust hast ruin’d, gives Iustice to

My Javelin’s point, and sends it to thy heart!

Fight.

Combined with well-placed dialogue, the action moves quickly.

  1. Emotion
  1. The characters express their emotions well. I was going to include examples here, but I feel the above dialogue examples work well. It is a very emotional piece.

LOWLIGHTS

  1. The play is ignorant of Ottoman culture, religion and – uh, everything.

Even though The Merchant of Venice continues to be produced, for better or for worse, Ibrahim  is basically “old English people pretending to be Turks” and as such would rightly be deemed offensive by pretty much everyone. However, considering its dramatic, tragic and emotional strength as well as historical significance, there are at least two ways the production could be successful.

  1. Go all out on the Turkish/Islamic/Ottoman culture. Go find a cultural consultant and modify the Hell out of it to suit the 21st Century.
  2. Re-set it somewhere else, for example amongst Mormon polygamists. Note to self: totally write “Ibrahim, 13th Emperor of Utah.” 

OTHERLIGHTS

  1. The ending. The ending is harsh. It’s a tragedy and ends like a tragedy.
  2. The title. It makes me want to see 12 prequels and a possible sequel.
  3. There’s a weird song in the middle of the play, because. Just because.

The second play I planned to read was The Beau Defeated. This play was so impressive that the Royal Shakespeare Company thought it was the bee’s knees this year, so they renamed it and you know the rest. Except I tried to read The Beau Defeated and Bryan Defeated or The Blogger Defeated would be more apt titles. You know those plays that are just people talking? Yep, it’s one of those. I’m assuming they chose the play because it’s been regularly produced elsewhere and it is rather tame – it’s like if Quentin Tarantino wrote an episode of Murder, She Wrote and then everyone would just watch that episode instead of True Romance. Anyways, I couldn’t finish The Beau Defeated. It finished me.

But Mary Pix did write an awesome comedy entitled The Innocent Mistress. The plot is extremely convoluted – much more than Ibrahim. I’m leaving the plot synopsis to a smarter mind, that of Jose M. Yebra in his The Flourishing of Female Playwriting on the Augustan Stage:

The Innocent Mistress is a multiplot play with several interwoven love intrigues.  Sir Charles is married to an older woman, Lady Beauclair, supposedly a  widow, who is very different from the witty heroines of other Restoration plays. In fact, she is presented in the Dramatis Personae, together with her daughter Peggy, as “an ill-bred woman”. Her marriage to Sir Charles cannot work  since it is just the product of socio-economic interests. Being Sir Charles a younger brother with no estate, and Lady Beauclair a wealthy woman, Sir Charles’ friends and family induce him to marry her. At the end of the play, we learn that the marriage  is not valid for two reasons. Because it has not been consummated and because Lady Beauclair’s first husband, Mr Flywife, is alive and back to London after several years of voluntary exile in Jamaica. The re-encounter of Mr Flywife and Lady Beauclair makes Sir Charles free to marry Bellinda, his niece’s friend, whom he has been courting throughout the play. Bellinda, whose real name is Marianne, lives at Mrs  Beauclair’s (Sir Charles’ niece) under an assumed name after having escaped from a forced marriage. Mrs Beauclair, presented in the dramatis personae as “an independent woman”, fulfils and updates, together with Sir Francis Wildlove, the “happy couple” stereotype of Restoration comedies. The plot turns around Mrs Beauclair’s attempts to reform Sir Francis from his initial rakishness  to his final “faithfulness”. His reform process is slow. The rake only changes his attitude and reveals his true feelings for Mrs Beauclair when, due to a misunderstanding, he thinks she has married another man. Another couple is formed by Beaumont and Arabella. The former is, like Sir Charles, a character with an “incorruptible” morality, whom Bellinda’s father has sent to find her after her brother’s death. Arabella, her father thinks, has her fortune and person controlled by Lady Beauclair and her stupid brother Cheatall. Once Arabella is liberated with the help of Lady Beauclair’s servant Eugenia, she can marry Beaumont. There is yet another marrying couple at the end, Lady Beauclair’s “ill-bred” daughter, Peggy, and the social parasite Mr Spendall, who tricks both mother and daughter into believing he is a man of quality with a fortune to  inherit. Once Mr Flywife comes back and Peggy’s fortune –the only reason for Spendall’s interest in marrying her– fades away, Peggy is punished with a lazy husband with no fortune. Likewise, Mr Spendall must deal with an ill-bred girl with no properties so far. Finally, even the servants Eugenia and Gentil marry just the way their “betters” do, thus following Roman comedy tradition. Only Mrs Flywife (the mistress of Mr Flywife while in Jamaica) is left outside the marriage fair. We learn that both have been living together, but Mr Flywife, after his first experience, prefers not to marry again. Thus, when they are back in London, the former has to live with Lady Beauclair again, and the second becomes the odd one out in the comedy happy ending.

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From a USC production in 2001. Via here.

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. This play is beyond funny. It’s kinda like a 17th Century pervy sitcom taking satire pills. That is the beauty of this work – it comes on the heels of the anonymous attack on Pix, Trotter and Manley. A heck of a punchback against the misogyny of the theatre. In punching back, it cranks the hyperbole up to “atomic” and KA-Boom! The bombs fall.
  2. The dialogue carries the play. Especially put downs and what have you. Here are some examples of the dialogue.
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2014 production at Bristol Old Vic Acting School.

This is a dialogue between Sir Francis Wildlove and Beaumont when they first meet up. Subtle it ain’t.

SIR FRANCIS

Get me some Small Beer, and dash a little Langoone in it; else ’twill go down my burning Stomach ten degrees colder than Ice: I should have met my old Friend and Collegian Beaumont,who came to Town last night, but Wine and Women drove it clear out of my Head.

SEARCHWELL

Sir, he’s here.

ENTER BEAUMONT.

SIR FRANCIS

Welcome dear Friend, I prithee pardon my omission, faith ’twas business that could not be left to other hands.

BEAUMONT

Women I suppose, and that excuse I know a Man of your kidney thinks almighty.

SIR FRANCIS

Even so well by my Life, I am heartily glad to see you, why thou hast been an age consin’d to barren Fields and senceless Groves, or Conversation stupid and dull as they: How canst thou waste thy Youth, happy Youth, the very Quintessence of Life from London,this dear Epitome of pleasure?

BEAUMONT

Because excess of drinking cloys my Stomach, and Impudence in Women absolutely turns it; then I hate the vanity of Dress and Fluttering, where eternal Noise and Nonsence reigns; this consider’d, what should I do here?

SIR FRANCIS

Not much in troth.

BEAUMONT

But you, my Friend, run the Career your appetite directs, taste all those pleasures I despise, you can inform me what humour’s most in fashion, what ruling whim, and how the Ladies are.

SIR FRANCIS

Why faith there’s no great alteration, the Money is indeed very much scarcer, yet what perhaps you’l think a wonder, dressing and debauchery increases; as for the Damosels, three sorts make a Bushel, and will be uppermost: First, there’s your common Jilts will oblige every body.

BEAUMONT

These are Monsters sure.

SIR FRANCIS

You may call it what you please, but they are very plentiful, I promise you: The next is your kept Mistress, she’s a degree modester, if not kind to each, appears in her dress like Quality, whilst her ogling eyes, and too frequent Debauches discovers her the younger Sister only to the first.

BEAUMONT

This I shou’d hate for Ingratitude.

SIR FRANCIS

The third is, not a Whore, but a brisk airy, noisy Coquette, that lives upon treating, one Spark has her to the Play, another to the Park, a third to Windsor,a fourth to some other place of Diversion; She has not the heart to grant ’em all favours, for that’s their design at the bottom of the Treats, and they have not the heart to marry her, for that’s her design too Poor Creature. So perhaps a year, or it may be two, the gaudy Butterfly slutters round the Kingdom, then if a foolish Citt does not take compassion, sneaks into a Corner, dies an Old Maid, despised and forgotten. The Men that sit those Ladies are your Rake, your Cully, and your Beaux.

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That Bristol Old Vic production via here.

Here’s another bit between husband and very unhappy wife:

MRS. FLYWIFE

Well, well, thou art a good Boy, prithee no more wrangling Fubby;I vow and swear to morrow I’ll be as great a Slattern as ever was, if that will please you, so I will.

MR, FLYWIFE

Ay, and want to go out to day, for all the gazing Fops to ad∣mire, tho’ I have told you, I can’t appear till I have enquir’d into my affairs, then to morrow, if you stay at home with me, Sackcloth will serve turn.

MRS. FLYWIFE

Lord, you are so froppish, if I was your Wife, sure Fubby,you would not be so jealous.

FLYWIFE

My Wife quotha! no, no, I was once bewitch’d, but I found such a Plague, that—No more Wives, I say.

MRS. FLYWIFE

Well, I’ll be any thing to please Fubby;Will you go in? Our Breakfast will be cold.

Note: “Bottle of hay” seems to refer to a bushel. The phrase is used in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well.

Finally, there’s this joyous bit of dialogue. Lady Beauclair is angry at Mrs. Peggy.

LADY BEAUCLAIR.

Ye ye, ye damn’d Quean, he is here,—ha!—and his Minion with him!—let me come at her—

Leaps, and catches hold of her.

SIR CHARLES

Hell and Furies! my Wife!—Madam, why all this Rage? Don’t you see my Neice? the other is a Friend of hers, a Woman of Honour.

LADY BEAUCLAIR

Your Neice is a Pimp, and she’s a Whore! I’ll mark her—Sirrah—Villain! Oh, oh my Fits! my Fits!

“Your niece is a pimp” really isn’t used so often these days.

If pervy humor and insults aren’t your bag, then I don’t recommend the play.

LOWLIGHTS

  1. Characterization and plot take a back seat to dialogue and humor – the plot seems to be a series of complicated situations thrown together to stir conflict and humor.
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A London School of Acting Production circa 1997, aka Nightmare Fuel. Via the director’s site.

OTHERLIGHTS

  1. There’s a mystery that’s bugging me. The play mentions an Indian woman who is variously named Mrs. Bantam/Banter/Bantum – and who, it is implied, runs a brothel called the India House. To add to the confusion, one character has been away in “the Indies” for a long time. Now this usually referred to what is now Indonesia and thereabouts. And Banten is a city on Java. Where cute little bantam chickens come from.

Despite (or because of?) her notoriety, Mrs. Bantam/Banter/Bantum NEVER appears. A sequel, focusing on the adventures of an Indian madam in 1690s London might be pretty cool.

I’d love to see a modern production of this complicated, yet hilarious play. Here’s a trailer from a modern production with Pachelbel, too! 

Mary Pix succeeded in a world much more difficult than our own. She beat each and every odd to give us a strong canon of plays, poetry and a novel. She should be admired and remembered for her skill as a writer as well as her tenacity.

Her plays deserve to be remembered, studied and performed just like that one dude whose plays seem to have a stranglehold on English-language theatre four centuries after his death. Instead of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, maybe we can have the Utah Pix Festival. Ibrahim couldn’t be any worse than what they’re doing. (Note to Utah Shakes: It’s 2018 and the only play you figured you could produce is an anti-Semitic English play from a time when Jews weren’t even allowed in England? Cool story, bro. Check out Mary Pix, please).

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Character of Spendall in a 2014 production at The Bristol Old Vic Acting School. Via the actor’s site.

What do you think of Mary Pix? Would you like to see more of her work?

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

Here is a link dump related to any and all things Mary Pix-related.

The Plays

Ibrahim, the thirteenth Emperour of the Turks (1696), full online text.

The Spanish Wives (1696) full online text

A Printer’s Dilemma

The Innocent Mistress (1697) full online text

Cast from a 1983 production

Review of a 1997 production

Blog post from 2006

Another blog post from 2006

Review of a 2014 production at the Old Vic school

Another review of ditto

Some drama school production with Pachelbel

The Deceiver Deceived (1697) full online text

Queen Catharine; or, The Ruines of Love (1698) full online text

Interesting essay about said play.

The False Friend; or, the Fate of Disobedience (1699) full online text

The Beau Defeated; or, the Lucky Younger Brother (1700) full online text

Production from 1995

Review from 1996

Staged reading from 2016

Production from 2018

Review of said production

Female relationships in said play

Several trailers for a 2008 production

Trailer for a renamed version in Shakespeare’s hometown

The Double Distress (1701) for sale here

The Czar of Muscovy (1701), attributed to Pix although not published in her name  Plot synopsis here

The Different Widows; or, Intrigue All-A-Mode (1703), attributed to Pix Plot summary and chart

Zelmane; or, the Corinthian Queen (1705), attributed to Pix (though some scholars still debate this attribution including here)

The Conquest of Spain (1705), attributed to Pix  Discussion in a book

The Adventures in Madrid (1706) attributed to Pix. Print on demand!

The Female Wits (1697) the play written to mock her. Full text online

 

The Playwright

Entry in the DNB

Blog from 2006

Hype from the RSC

A little Q & A

 

Current Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Andy Rassler

Our first modern playwright hails from North Carolina, USA. Andy Rassler has acted, directed and taught theatre for decades. In the last few years she’s begun to see success as a playwright.

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Andy Rassler, our playwriting hero.

Generally her plays are humorous, positive and carry a message. However, they are by no means saccharine. Rassler’s years as a theatre teacher has informed her understanding of what Theatre for Young Audiences entails and she excels at it.

The first piece we’ll study is Dante’s Inferno Six. Despite focusing on youth plays, this 10 minute play is set in the reception area of the sixth level of Dante’s Hell. This is where heretics end up.

Uberti and Cavalcanti are the two secretaries and basically they are each other’s Hell.

This is from the midst of one of their flare-ups:

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Like many American workers, they actively hate their customers/clients, as exemplified here:

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Now that I think about it, people going to Hell might be kind of annoying and I would probably grow to hate them. Anyways, this Satanic version of the Battling Bickersons meet their match when their next victim, the heretic Margaret, is totally okay with going to Hell.

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Needless to say, Rassler’s Dante’s Inferno Six is a fun play for those who think Hell would be a fun thing. It also highlights something Rassler is adept at: dispelling stereotypes and upending expectations. We, the audience, have been taught to fear Hell (unless you grew up in this church) – yet Margaret is pretty nonchalant about facing that flaming tomb. Ironically, these same flaming tombs have lent themselves to an Xbox game. Here’s a vid of the performance. 

Now on the what may be termed Rassler’s magnum opus

Clothes Minded is a witty, honest one-act that expertly dissects prejudice in America.

The plot pretty much mimics real-life, except with fabrics in a washing machine. All the whites are getting washed together (as they do) when a sock of color shows up. The white fabrics lose it and freak out. However, unlike many real-life scenarios, this play has a happy ending.

Here is a choice moment:

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This really reminds one of racists’ arguments that they just want “the other” to follow the law, no matter how intrinsically stupid said law may be.

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Ker-plunk! From YouthPlays.

Since all this is set in a washing machine, there are numerous references to swimming, which harkens to not just the past and stereotypes about black people swimming but also the recent spate of “white people calling the cops on black people for living” – most famously Pool Patrol Paula and ID Adam.

This interaction and Colored Sock’s mini-monologue here is effective.

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That line “We’re not bad people” is rich. We’ve been hearing it oh-so-often.

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It’s “the other!!!” Via YouthPlays.

The play is peppered with racists’ go-to talking points.

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“Jacked-up” is right.

Some of my best friends…” is a hilariously bad argument. Even Hitler protected an Austrian Jew he liked, so keep that in mind before you start with that argument.

Here’s another:

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Ah yes. The siren call of eugenics. This is an extreme example of “following the law” – albeit a “natural law” that someone just made up.  

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Beware, the rag pile. Hehe. Labels can be some dangerous medicine.

So far in this blog, I haven’t talked much about my personal life, but I will share my own experiences growing up in Utah as a non-Mormon (that’s a label!) – the labels I was given ranged from “non-believer” to “Satan worshipper.” [insert about 1,001 other negative experiences here]

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Rehearsal time for Clothes-minded.

Much like the parents in Rassler’s play, this idiocy started with the parents. I heard “My mom says I can’t play with you” more than once. In this way, Rassler’s play spoke to me. The Colored Sock character is way too nice to the neighbors. Lucky for them.

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Oh man. This hits the nail on the head. The way some white people will speak in hushed tones about someone who married/had a relationship out of the race.

I was at a museum in Utah once and the lady working there was yapping on about Orrin Porter Rockwell and his multiple wives and at the end she whispered “and his Indian wife.”

And then (gasp!) tragedy happens.

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Eventually things work themselves out. This is a well-written play with a positive message and good roles for kids. The play was recently published by YouthPlays.

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They turn on their own, via YouthPlays.

Now is a chance to learn more about Rassler from the playwright herself:

How did you start playwriting?  

I started writing about 10-12 years ago. My theatre class always competes in the 1-act play festival in NC. We were having a really hard time finding a piece that we connected to, so the kids said, “Why don’t you just write one?” So…I tried it. And I loved it so much. We used the piece I wrote (called—pretentiously enough—‘Minor Paradox’)!

What are your influences?

For the cadence and style of dialogue, I attribute my style to Neil Simon, mostly. I don’t know that I’d call any other playwrights ‘influences’.

What is your most memorable production and why?

Of my own pieces, the most memorable was the one-act version of ‘In the Jungle.’ This play was inspired by my twin sister, Annette, who has cerebral palsy. The students who embodied the characters were so dedicated to the piece and when we performed it at the contest, there were many, many audience members in tears. I was approached multiple times afterward with meaningful and thoughtful words—it was magical.

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

My least memorable? I don’t remember…lol.  No, I can barely remember a 10-minute piece I had produced at a local community theatre. Just didn’t work.

What’s your funniest theatre story?

Of all time? Hmmm…It was not funny at the time, but one of my students pushed me to use actual profanity. He had missed an entrance and I was in the back of the auditorium watching his classmates try to cover for him. I rushed out of the theatre, back to the dressing room, and there he was just yakking it up with his home girls! I said, “You’re on! Now!” and he kind of sauntered toward the door—so I grabbed him (literally) and said, “Get your <$*& butt out there!”—Now, I just shake my head.

What are your writing habits like?

I’m sporadic. Sometimes, I’m writing every free chance I get—then there might be weeks where I don’t write a word. When there’s a deadline looming that I want to submit, I’m gangbusters. I will do all my chores and other things in life, then sit down and dedicate 2-4 hours just to get the words out on the ‘paper’. Outline, write, write. Re-outline, write, write. Rewrite.

What advice do you have for new playwrights?

Don’t be intimidated that there is magic to this craft. There isn’t any magic or specialized something you need to get started. You have a story: tell it. Then you can use all the resources you can find to fine-tune that story.

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

How about—Bryan Stubbles?!  I have not had the chance to read many ‘unknown’ writers. Sorry.

What are common themes in your work?

Handicapped people, outcasts, people on the fringe.

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

I wish I knew how important it was to have a network of people to support your work. I feel pretty isolated, but I’m working on building connections.

In regards to Dante Inferno Six, why is Hell so funny?

If it weren’t, it would be devastating. It makes me think of those awful times when you’re not ‘supposed’ to laugh, but if you could, it would help everything.

Please describe the process that created Clothes-minded.

A local community theatre put out a submission opportunity for 10-minute plays with the theme ‘Diversity’. I thought about that theme and all I could think of to write were things that were so corny, or cliché, or I had no business writing them because I know very little about actual diversity. I thought about the concept of segregation—separating by color—and it segued into ‘What else do we separate by color?’=laundry! Ta-da!! Someone at the 10-minute play commented on how weird it was that there were only 3 items in the load, and I thought, “Hey, this would expand to a one-act in a pretty cool way.” Ta-da!!

How are the kids and audiences responding to Clothes-minded?

My students LOOOVED performing it and the audiences were greatly amused. It’s been produced by two other groups (besides mine) already in just a few months, so I’m hopeful it will go places!

What has the feedback from People of Color or other minorities been like?

The cool thing at the very start of this is that I had a person of color playing a white sock. It was wildly cool to have discussions at rehearsal—and audience members were trying to wrap their brains around that concept. I’ve honestly had nothing but positive feedback from everyone who’s seen or been in it.

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

Question: What is your ultimate goal as a writer?

Answer: To get productions of as many of my shows as humanly possible and to leave a legacy of meaningful work behind when I go. I know I won’t know it happened, but I’d love for a production of my show to happen 250 years down the road and it’s just as relevant and meaningful as today.

Before I list her productions, do our readers have any questions for Andy? Please comment below.

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

Rassler’s work has seen multiple productions, mostly in North Carolina, but also in Minnesota and Germany. Below is a list of plays and productions ( with links to sites or reviews):

September 2014: Walt Grace, One Act New Play Festival. Lee Street Theatre, Salisbury, NC

March 5-6, 2016: Dear Stephen, We Like Short Shorts. Storefront Theatre, Waxhaw, NC

April 7-9, 2016: Kiss A Squid 2016 Asheville National 10-Minute Play Festival Winner. Located at the The White Horse in Black Mountain, NC

June 10-19, 2016: A Foot and a Half Old Courthouse Theatre, Concord, NC

June 16-18, 2016: Don’t Bleed on Me, Lee Street Theatre, Salisbury, NC

August 26-27, 2016: Bless Me, Father, Lee Street Theatre, Salisbury, NC

August 25-28, 2016: Number Ten, Old Courthouse Theatre Concord, NC

October 2016: Don’t Bleed on Me, NCHS Entry, NCTC One-Act Play Festival, North Carolina

November 15-16, 2016: I’ll Bet You Didn’t Know Cary Playwrights’ Forum, Cary, NC

December 2016: Star of Wonder, Lee Street Theatre, Salisbury, NC

February 1-5, 2017: In the Jungle, UBI Theatre, Leipzig, Germany

August 12-13, 2017: I’ll Bet You Didn’t Know, Old Courthouse Theatre Concord, NC

September 15-24, 2017: Clothes Minded, Eden Prairie Players, Eden Prairie, MN

November 14-16, 2017: In Heaven There is No Beer, Cary Playwrights’ Forum, Cary, NC

 

Two of her plays have been published. Clothes Minded was published by YouthPlays and is available on Amazon.

Kiss a Squid is in Smith & Kraus’ anthology Best 10 Minute Plays 2015 and Don’t Bleed On Me is in Best 10 Minute Plays 2017

Andy’s personal website is here.  

Another profile of Andy from this year.

Several of her plays are available to read at her New Play Exchange page.

Thanks Andy!