Current Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Lydia Valentine

Howdy everyone and welcome back to Unknown Playwrights!

Exciting, emerging playwright Lydia Valentine comes to us via Aliquippa, Pennsylvania and currently resides in Tacoma, Washington. In fact I stole her biography from her New Play Exchange page:

Lydia Valentine is a poet, playwright, and educator who believes in the power of good, the healing capacity of writing and reading, and the necessity of the Oxford comma. A passionate advocate for equity and social justice, proud mom, and card-carrying Blerd, Lydia grew up in Aliquippa, Pa, a small, steel mill town north of Pittsburgh, where she spent many hours of her youth at B.F. Jones Library.”

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The library where she spent her youth looks pretty badass, even in 1937.

“She now lives, reads, and writes in another gritty city, Tacoma, WA, where she has been runner-up for Tacoma Poet Laureate twice. Lydia has recently completed her first play, Aliquippa, which has had readings at empathos company, and has been Assistant Director and Dramaturg for play productions with Toy Boat Theatre Company, empathos company, UW-Tacoma, and Tacoma Little Theatre.

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Our playwriting hero!!!

She has crafted an incredibly deep, heartfelt play set entirely in her hometown.

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Really digging the stylized title page…

The play focuses on the Lockwood family:

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There’s only one character who isn’t a blood relation.

The play starts with Naomi, a woman stuck in a type of twilight zone due to past misdeeds and happenstance. Her own mother (Mama Shirl) barely acknowledges her. Same with her own daughter, Rachel. One could say she’s a loser in a hero sandwich. Mama Shirl is the ultimate survivor. Rachel is hopeful to return to school to finish her college degree. Both women have their lives in relative order. Naomi does not. The following is what happens when she calls her daughter.

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Calls her own daughter a heifer. And again…

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I don’t blame Rachel for not wanting to talk to her mother. Sometimes Naomi takes care of Rachel’s son Tamir. She does the best she can. Naomi also dreams of opening a commuity center in town.

The play really swings into motion when Tamir gets bullied and attacked on account of his race. Naomi and Rachel’s reactions reveal the generation gaps that exist in the play and provide much of the conflict:

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So…racism in American elementary schools is totally real.

Not-so-coincidentally in Pennsylvania.

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Bring back slavery, huh?

Beyond the racist teachers, there’s that whole other oil drum of Nazi worms: racist students. Recently, an entire school district in Minnesota was sued for allowing racist bullying. In New Hampshire, an elementary school student was bullied and then the school board attacked the mom, because they suck. Back in Harrisburg, in our favorite state of Pennsylvania, the same dang thing. Meanwhile, in America’s bleach stain, aka Utah, some white kids tried to wash a girl’s skin color off with a solution. What the Hell, America?

Naomi tries to give Rachel advice on how to handle the situation. Rachel reminds Naomi of the reason her kids got taken away.

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Naomi is still in the denial phase about a lot of things.

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A reading of the play.

On a side note, one thing I love about the play is the description:

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We know exactly what world Mama Shirl inhabits just from reading that description.

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Oscar and Isaac almost get into trouble and relate the situation to Rachel.

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Oh look! Short Fatty is getting his prayers answered. 😏

When Rachel mentions they could’ve modified their behavior to avoid a situation, Oscar and Isaac talk to Rachel about the realities of being a young black man in modern America.

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For anyone not familiar with the cases the play references, Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri basically for not walking on the sidewalk being African-American.

Philando Castille was killed in Minnesota (that place, again) for supposedly having the “same wide-set nose” of a robbery suspect.

Eric Garner was choked to death for selling cigarettes one by one being African-American. It only took the NYPD five years to fire his killer.

Freddie Gray was killed in a Baltimore police van for having a legal knife being African-American.

Isaac and Oscar’s dialogue/reality lesson continues:

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Mostly.

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Naomi goes off on her mother, Mama Shirl, when Mama Shirl mentions Rachel’s early plan to be a doctor and things didn’t quite turn out like that.

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Naomi does a good job of upending religious hypocrisy, where people can pick and choose what God’s plan is and what’s someone just screwing up.

Rachel relates when Mama Shirl caught her trying a beer.

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There’s some good-natured sibling rivalry between Rachel and Isaac. Isaac is the family member everyone seems to have their hopes pinned on. He’s a college football star and has plans for the NFL. In reality, only 1.5 percent of college players ever make an NFL roster.

Aliquippa is kinda famous for producing NFL players like Hall of Famers Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett, and Ty Law, as well as Darrell Revis.

There is some engaging banter between Rachel and Oscar.

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Another Isaac zinger:

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The main thing audiences and readers should know is that Aliquippa was once a small, yet economically robust steel mill town. This lasted for most of the 20th Century until the mill finally closed in 1984. A quick look at the town’s historical population can give some clues:

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From here.

When your town has 1/3 of the population it had 90 years ago, your town might be in trouble.

To get a more visual picture of what ails Aliquippa, check out this photo essay from 2015.

In more positive news, Aliquippa’s government recently released a blight-to-bright plan.

But it’s still a place where a school board member is accused of threatening to stab a couple seventh graders.

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One cool theatrical device the play uses is the freezing of time. Naomi is asking to borrow money from her daughter. The play uses this instance to freeze action and time.

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Rachel is then free to comment on the situation.

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Later, Mama Shirl’s sancto self gets served by Naomi.

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Maybe this limbo that Naomi lives in isn’t entirely her own doing. Naomi isn’t done unloading on Mama Shirl.

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As much as the play explores the dynamics that made Naomi the woman she is today, the present-day takes over. Oscar has something horrible to report.

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Isaac caught a stray bullet.

From tragedy, comes some type of positivity. Several family members are able to move forward with the community center they were planning. Rachel also makes peace with Naomi and is almost set to go to the West Coast for school. Naomi is kinda, sorta closer to making peace with Mama Shirl.

Some really cool things about this play:

  1. Theatricality. Already mentioned above, the play plays (hehe) with time and memory to create a theatrical experience.
  2. Local flavor aka local color. This is a tradition that hearkens back to writers like Bret Harte, Frances E.W. Harper and Charles W. Chesnutt, where a work of literature is rooted in a specific time, place and culture. In Valentine’s work, we inhabit the world of a family in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. The play even uses local terminology such as “Quip” “jitney” and  “PennDot.” We can feel life in the dying steel town. This is reminiscent also of the work of Stacey Bryan, Yolanda Mendiveles and Benjamin Gonzales, all of whom have been featured on this blog.
  3. Issues of the day. Not only does the play address racism, the Rust Belt, and police violence, but there is a gender role subplot regarding Tamir, who likes his hair long and dresses up like a cowgirl.

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This causes some conflict among the different women in Tamir’s life. He also plays with Pony Princesses.

4. Uniqueness. Slice-of-life dramas depicting African American families are sorely lacking on the American stage. This would be welcome relief from the bazillionth community college production of The Mousetrap.

Ms. Valentine was kind enough to answer some questions for us.

1. How did you start playwriting?  

I have always been a fan of theater and have taught many plays to my students, but it was not until I applied to Goddard College’s MFA in Creative Writing program that I considered delving into dramatic writing.  I am primarily (and have always thought of myself as) a poet. However, I decided that if I was going to get direct instruction in craft, I wanted to take a shot with a new genre.

2. What are your influences? 

My biggest influences are my experience as a Black woman and mother and the fact that for too long the narrative of those who are usually marginalized, silenced, or ignored (BIPOC, the LGBTQIA community, women, etc.) has been crafted and told by others.  There is a short allegory that I find striking in relation to this.

The young boy went to his grandfather and said, “Grandfather, is it true that the lion is the king of the jungle?”

“Yes,” said the old man, “but why do you ask?”

“Well,” said the boy, “in all the stories that I read and even in the ones I hear, man will always defeat the lion. So, how can this be true?”

The old man looked his grandson in the eyes and said, “It will always be that way, my son, until the lion tells the story.”

Moving beyond what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls “The Danger of the Single Story” is crucial.

In terms of writing, I am definitely influenced by August Wilson, whose plays celebrated the everyday experiences of Black people and were all set in Pittsburgh, where he grew up. I am from Aliquippa, a small city just north of Pittsburgh, so Wilson has long been on my radar.  Other playwrights I consider to be influential are Lynn Nottage, Dominique Morrisseau, Kirsten Greenidge, Henrik Ibsen, and Shakespeare.

3. What is your most memorable production and why? 

(In terms of my play, Aliquippa, I have had several readings, and all of them are memorable, but two stand out in particular. When I first finished the script, we had a closed reading for which my sister, daughter, son, nephew, and I provided the cast. It was incredibly poignant for me to hear my words brought to life by these people who are so important to me. The other one was a larger reading with actors we’d cast.  Watching the audience respond to this story and these characters convinced me that this play was one to which anyone could connect.)

I worked on a production of Clybourne Park as the Dramaturg and Assistant Director for Toy Boat Theatre in conjunction with the University of Washington Tacoma. This was a memorable experience because the cast and production team gelled as a family. Rehearsals were full of levity and intensity in equal measure. I love to laugh.  There were no egos or prima donna moments. The most important thing was bringing the story to the stage. There are very dark comedic elements that resonated with many in the audience, in particular those of us who have long had to keep our sense of humor to get through trying times. Also, because the play deals with themes of dislocation and gentrification, there were parallels for what is happening in Tacoma right now.

4. What is your least memorable production and why?  

The one that hasn’t happened yet! I have been submitting Aliquippa to festivals and calls for plays, but I have not yet had any success. So many venues require a script to be submitted by an agent, so that leaves me out of the running.

5. What’s your funniest theatre story?   

I co-adapted the script of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House with Marilyn Bennett and served as Assistant Director for the production, which was staged as a part of Tacoma Little Theatre’s 100th season.  After the show on opening night, a member of the Board of Directors said a few words to the audience, then invited Marilyn to speak, and after that called me forward. I am fairly shy and also autistic, so not only was I mortified but also the first words out of my mouth were, “Well, this is mortifying.” In retrospect, I think it’s pretty funny, but at the time I felt a little bad when I saw the look on the board member’s face at my pronouncement.

6. What are your writing habits like?    

I wish that I could say that I write in the morning during my almost two-hour commute to work and again on the trip home. I take the train or bus for that specific purpose (and also to avoid the stress of navigating the traffic on I-5). I’m not a morning person, though, so I am barely able to form coherent thoughts that early, and in the evening, after teaching all day, I usually just pull up a game on my phone and listen to an audiobook until I get home.  My best writing time is late at night. I curl up in my giant, cushy armchair and type away. Unfortunately, I have to go to bed pretty early, so I have been scheduling writing dates with friends and my sister because being around other creatives always gives me the boost I need to write.

7. What advice do you have for new playwrights?  

The best advice that I have been given was from one of my advisors at Goddard, Darrah Cloud, who also happens to be a poet and playwright. After reading my very first attempt at starting Aliquippa, Darrah told me, “Stop writing this as if it’s fiction.  It’s not. Write it like poetry.” What I took away from that was to listen to the voices of the characters and let them tell the story that they were trying to tell.

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

Playwrights Christina Anderson (How to Catch Creation), Kirsten Greenidge (Luck of the Irish), and Donte Felder, who has produced several plays in the Seattle area. His next production, Blerds Comics and Cafe, which leans into speculative fiction and explores the nuances of the comic book world, gun control, and race, will premiere in the fall of 2021.

9. What are common themes in your work?  

Family and familial love are big themes for me, whether related to actual family units or the found families that we create for ourselves. I am somewhat fixated on the collective loss and grief that impacts the physical, emotional, and mental health of Black people, as well as the intersectionality of various identities (race, gender, queerness, neurodiversity, class).

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

I wish I knew more about the ways to get a play from page to stage and which options for getting plays out into the world were the best ways.

11. How autobiographical is Aliquippa?

While it takes place in my hometown, Aliquippa is not autobiographical at all.  At the same time, I can recognize aspects of myself – often amplified – in each character: Naomi’s fierce love for her family, Rachel’s tendency toward seeing things in black and white, Mama Shirl’s faith, Isaac’s optimism, Oscar’s loyalty, and Tamir’s naive pragmatism.

12. What have the audience reactions to Aliquippa been like?

The response has been positive! While on paper, Tacoma is similar to Pittsburgh demographically, the ethos of the Pacific Northwest is vastly different from that Western Pennsylvania, so I was wary of what the response would be as I’ve workshopped it here, because I did and do not want it to be misunderstood. However, the feedback of audience members from a variety of backgrounds has been that they can relate to these characters despite what are – at times – quite different circumstances, and that is gratifying.

13.  What have been the biggest obstacles in getting Aliquippa a full production?

Three things come to mind: time, money, and connections, with time being the biggest of the three obstacles. I am a full time teacher in Seattle, and I live in Tacoma. I’ve already talked about my gnarly commute. I’d love to have the time to focus on making the connections and obtaining the funds to find the right space, fill out the roster of actors and production team, compensate those involved, market, etc. Chevi Chung of empathos company is doing a phenomenal job shepherding me through various stages of the process, but my ability to make progress is hampered by only having fits and starts of time.

14. Aliquippa has some themes and a character name in common with Angelina Weld Grimké’s play Rachel. Are there any connections between the two? 

It’s interesting that you mention this play because I did not have any familiarity with it until one of my students did a presentation on Angelina Weld Grimké and Rachel just a few months ago. While I have not read the play myself, I do not feel as if they are that similar based on what I know of Rachel. Both of my thesis advisors made comparisons to Lorraine Hansberry’s Raisin in the Sun, and I am incredibly humbled to have Aliquippa even mentioned in the same sentence as Raisin.  “Lydia Valentine has written a tour-de-force family play that rivals Raisin in the complexity of its characters, the pain of its situation, and the beauty of the writing. I do not make that comparison lightly. Hansberry is a hero of American letters, and I see the same potential in Lydia to write people onto the stage from whom we have not heard before, and to make the most seemingly mundane conflicts central and epic.”- Darrah Cloud

15.    What are you currently working on?

I have two new plays I am working on concurrently. One explores the experience of being a black autistic woman, and the other is a one-act centering on a found family of three socially awkward, female or gender queer superheroes.

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Lydia! I think we’d all love a play about socially awkward, gender queer superheroes.

To connect with Lydia, you can follow her on Twitter. If you have access to the New Play Exchange, her play is available to read there.

Thanks for ready and we’ll catch you in a couple of days forMonologue Monday!

Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

St. Valentine’s House by Frances Gillespy Wickes

Howdy all and Happy Valentine’s Day!

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We here at Unknown Playwrights have found a wee Valentine’s Day play from 1916 from a writer who seemed to have led a much more interesting life outside writing children’s plays. More on that later. But now, the play’s the thing.

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I can see this story has been influenced by the folklore of another commercial holiday.

This play comes from a book of children’s plays.

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YASSSS! 

The play finds elves hard at work making Valentine’s Day cards.

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BTW, a Valentine’s Day card from 1916 looked like this:

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Man, them elves put in a lot of work.
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You can buy this one on Etsy.
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If only managers at Cracker Barrel were this easy to please. 

What’s really cool is that the elves have a drinking working song.

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Then a lost child shows up and everyone gets into a tizzy.

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Old Man Valentine explains where “valentines” come from. Hint: not storks.

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Ahhh. Child labor! A labor of love. And when the child doesn’t understand?

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Unknown Playwrights: Second Elf, you’re a dick. I’m gonna fry you in my wok and serve you on toast.

Prblem solved.

The play was illustrated by that illustrious illustrator Marie Abrams Lawson who married the Caldecott and Newberry Award-winning Robert Lawson.

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“I bring women with giant butterfly wings on their backs and some sort of weird plant on their heads.”

Then the bad guys show up.

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The blown comb sounds scary. 
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They’re edgy. 
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I hate Sally, too. 

It turns out there’s a Sir Valentine who lives nearby and is responsible for cruel tricks on Valentine’s Day. Like that time in junior high when I got a rose from someone who didn’t put their name on the card and all the kids made fun of me and said I ordered it myself. And my name was misspelled. That’s Sir Valentine’s fault.

I don’t like this Sir Valentine chap at all.

The elves ask the child to make a Valentine’s Day card for her mom which is sweet and touching and reminds me how confused I was as a kid when I learned kids got Valentine’s Day gifts for their moms. It kinda makes sense, considering where I grew up.

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That’s kinda sweet.

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Mom’s gonna love that massive valentine!

The author, Frances Gillespy Wickes, had an interesting career that went beyond children’s plays. Here are some basics:

That almost wraps up this week’s post.

Don’t forget to check out other Unknown Playwrights, Monologue Mondays, Theatre Horror Stories or last year’s Valentine’s Day play.

If you are member of the Dramatists Guild and want to see the writer of this blog elected to the Guild Council, you can totally vote for him here.

In honor of Valentine’s Day and all the trauma it inflicts, let’s listen to a sad country song.

 

Current Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown 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, 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.

Mark Harvey Levine - Playwright Photo

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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Current Playwrights, Dude Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Greg Hovanesian

Our next living playwright to be profiled is Greg Hovanesian. Greg is a based in Boston, MA.  His plays have been produced and/or developed by Boston Actors Theater, Playwrights’ Platform, Hovey Players, Image Theater, UAE Theater Festival, Jacklyn Thrapp LLC, Generic Theater, Centastage, and Ya Bird? Productions. It looks like he won’t stay unknown for long.

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This is Greg.

The first play of Greg’s that I read was Monologue for a Woman. The play is only two pages long, so you can read it here:

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This is an interesting discourse about honesty, but also about the banalities of life. The unseen interviewer(s) ask questions, but none of them contain any relevance. In fact it is the irrelevance of the unheard questions that provide the play’s relevance (and satire). But the character in the play can see through this irrelevance and calls them out on it in her own way.

The writing is sparse with a well-laced use of repetition in the “Good. Great. Good” progression.

Monologue for a Woman has had readings at Centastage’s Write On! and Playwrights’ Platform, both in the Boston area.

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This looks pretty cool, but this isn’t the play we’re reviewing.

Greg did have a full-length production of a “Tinder meets vampire” play entitled Thirsty in Boston. The entire play is on Youtube. The beginning is here:

 

Apparently both the evening and matinee shows were recorded. Here is the matinee:

 

The second play I read was Fat Ugly Pigs on Camera. I read it because it has an awesome title. No, it’s not about my high school reunion. But about the porn industry in an alternate reality, dominated by women. The summary follows:

Sue has some problems. In a world where women, as opposed to men, run the internet porn industry, she’s a successful producer. But that success has bred enemies: the courts, the FBI, and of course, her own son. As her world unravels, and as people who she loves become irrevocably damaged, the cameras continue to roll, capturing scenes of love for millions to see. There may be only one thing that can save her, and everyone else, from the madness…an act of violence, a piece of salvation, for all the world to see….

Now the amazing thing is, this play is not a comedy. The story is universal enough that it transcends the setting – this is a play about someone whose lifetime of bad choices catches up to her.

The scenes involving Jake (a lad in his 20s) are interesting because sometimes they play out like the beginning to a porno:
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This pretty much reverses the male/female power trip of the American patriarchy. Sue can be just as creepy as any dirty old man. Is it the beginning of a sex scene? You’ll just have to watch and find out. Hovanesian tempers the drama with humor.

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Run, Jake, run! Sue is in her 60s or 70s and tells herself that everyone is “family.” A very dysfunctional, incestuous family. All the people she works with treat Jake pretty much how you’d imagine male pornographers treat young women: as a commodity.

Sue (and the “family”) convinces herself that her company sells love, not sex. Towards the end, as their world closes in around them, Jake decides to turn the tables on Mary, a company gofer in her 40s or 50s.

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Some realities suck. This is an interesting play with well-written characters. There are three great roles for female actors here and one for a guy. By flipping the gender dynamics, Fat Ugly Pigs on Camera indicts American society to its core.

Fat Ugly Pigs on Camera had a reading at Playwrights’ Platform this year.

This is normally where I drone on about some dead playwright, but with living playwrights, we have the benefit of talking to them in the here and now. Greg has been kind enough to answer a few questions. Let’s learn about Greg and his craft in his own words:

  1. How did you start playwriting?

It’s sort of a long and convoluted story, but I guess it goes like this: I’ve always liked to tell stories and write creatively.  In high school, I took creative writing classes. And then I just sort of stopped for 15 years or so: I was writing a lot, whether it be academic history papers in college or pseudo-pop culture analysis on my blog, but not stories.  In 2015 I pushed myself back into writing. In a way it was to add some meaning to my life: I felt sort of stuck in a rut and needed to fill a void in my life. I wrote a few screenplays because I love movies, but I realized that not being in Hollywood is a huge obstacle to successfully doing that.  And there were other things about screenwriting that depressed me. Ultimately, I wanted my stuff to be heard. So I started writing plays. When I wrote my first plays I was going through a very difficult time in my life: my first 4 or 5 plays, and my first full-length, a play called PLATTSBURGH that takes place in a supermarket, were very self-therapeutic to me.  My life was a mess, things were out of control, and the only way to make the world feel okay was to write plays. They were my medicine.

  1. What are your influences?

I think everything in life influences me.  Conversations I hear on the street, movies I watch, music I listen to, strange occurrences that I’ve witnessed while I’ve been living on this planet.  Music and movies are huge influences: I could go on and on about the bands and directors who have inspired me, the list is too huge. In terms of writers, Michael Crichton was probably the biggest influence on me as a child: when I read Jurassic Park, I learned not only that I love to read, but that I could write.  I was a huge Crichton fan as a 10 or 11 year old. More recently, other writers, such as Chuck Klosterman and Bill Simmons, opened my eyes to ways in which to read into the normalness of pop culture in ‘non-normal’ ways.  Cormac McCarthy is my favorite novelist ever: his Western stuff, the stuff that takes place in Texas and Mexico, is amazing. Michael Herr’s Dispatches is probably the most jarring book I’ve ever read, and it still influences me today: I read it while living in Vietnam, where I was a teacher for four years.  Kafka holds a place near my heart, and I’ve recently started reading some of Joyce’s short stories from Dubliners, and I think they’re amazing.  As far as playwrights go, well, just about everyone I’ve read influences me in some way or another, and I’ve tried to read as many playwrights as possible for the last three years or so.  I think I’ve read plays by over 100 playwrights at this point. Some of the top influences would be Suzan-Lori Parks, Henrik Ibsen (because he tackled big issues fearlessly), August Wilson (the greatest monologues ever written), David Mamet (people love to hate him these days, but his dialogue in the ‘80s was fire), Annie Baker, Sam Shepard, and others I can’t think of now.   But my playwright hero is Harold Pinter. Pinter’s at the top of the mountain for me.

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Scene from Water, via here.
  1. What is your most memorable production and why?

Probably my first production ever, which is a one-act called WATER.  I wrote it in February of 2016: it was at the height of the heinous situation with the water in Flint, which of course is still ongoing: the government says the pipes are clean, but people are still drinking bottled water.  There was something so egregious about everything that was happening: to me, it transcended politics. It was about right and wrong, not left and right. So I wrote a play about it. I was very new, so I didn’t know what to do with it.  A few months later, I found out that the playwrights group I had just joined, Playwrights’ Platform, had a festival. So I submitted it and it got accepted. The festival is very DIY: it was like, ‘Congrats, you’re in! Now find a director and actors.’  I didn’t really know many people yet: I had no idea how I’d find a director, and then I reached out to some classmates from a screenwriting class I had taken, and lo and behold, someone responded that she was a director. And I was incredibly lucky: I still work with that director today.  We’ve been a creative team for over 2 years. Anyway, the whole production was a circus: we couldn’t find actors for the male roles, everyone was out of town on vacation. So one day I just said, “I’ve taken 11 acting classes…I’ll do it!” And she was like, “Yeah?” And I was like, “Yeah.”  Then we rounded out the cast with one of my childhood friends, who had never acted but had done a lot of stand-up. We were a rag-tag team and had no idea what we were doing. And it was out of control from day one: everyday it was a new crisis. I was pretty much having a heart attack for an entire month.  But we rehearsed the hell out of it, and we got up there on stage and did really well. We won three awards. So I would have to say that was probably a high point.

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

I can’t really say that I have a least memorable production of something I’ve written.  But there have been two I couldn’t attend: one was a monologue in New York, and the other was a one-minute play in Dubai.  I got to see some pictures, but it’s not the same. I wish I could have been there.

  1. What’s your funniest theatre story?

Probably something that happened in rehearsals.  In addition to being a playwright, I’m a pretty active actor and producer, so I’ve been in my share of rehearsals.  I don’t know if one thing sticks out: usually someone muffs a line really badly, and it comes out totally horribly, but it ends up being hilarious, and everyone laughs.  That might be something some playwrights have nightmares about! It’s usually stuff like that: funny little moments you don’t remember later. But there is actually one thing that comes to mind as a funny moment.  The second full-length I ever wrote was a play called THIRSTY. As soon as my director and I had one play under our belt, we were like, “Let’s do a big one!” It was a pretty crazy and ambitious thing to do; we had no idea what we were getting into or how much work it would be.  It was an exhausting project. Anyway, THIRSTY was a pretty wild play about vampire-like beings and online dating, and the apps both they and humans use for dating. And so late in the play, there was a fight scene with a dildo. I can’t take credit for the idea: originally, I wrote a golf club as a weapon.  And my director was like, “No, too dangerous.” So I rewrote it with a wiffle ball bat…and she was like, “Mmmm…how about a dildo? Since this character, Micah, is a sort of a sex fiend. He’d probably have one.” And I was like, “Yeah!” So I rewrote it, and then during rehearsals, I bought the biggest dildo I could find on Amazon.  So one night during rehearsals, the lead actor had the dildo and was sort of playing with it without realizing it: slapping it on his back, swinging it around, that kind of thing, during some downtime while the director was talking. One of the actors took some pics of him and we all kind of laughed because it was pretty hilarious at the time.  So yeah….maybe that’s my funniest theatre story…but I don’t know, really.

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Scene from Roboteacher. From here.
  1. What are your writing habits like?

I’m a weekend warrior.  I work during the week as an ESL teacher, so I have zero time to write during the week.  On Saturdays and Sundays, when I’m writing, I wake up early: 6am is perfect. I make my coffee, eat breakfast, listen to some NPR, drink my coffee, read some news, and then bang!  I’m writing. I like to write for a few hours: usually I finish by 11am or so. Sometimes I’ll go past 12. Eventually, I’ll hit a wall, and then I know to stop writing. At that point the quality starts to dip.  I just leave and come back the next morning.

  1. What advice do you have for new playwrights?

First, read plays.  Lots and lots of plays by lots and lots of playwrights.  Read lots of variety. Go to the Wikipedia page for Pulitzer Prize in Drama, then go to your local library and check some of them out.  Read short play anthologies and long plays. Once you feel you’ve read enough plays so that you have a feel for it, start writing. And don’t look back.  Write, write, write. Once you have some plays written, find a playwrights’ group and join it. Very important. Plays need to be heard, not just written.  They need to be test driven by actors. And actors are the most important people playwrights can meet. Actors know scripts: they know what makes scripts good, and what hurts them.  They are your allies. They want to help. Meet actors through playwright groups, and start to create some relationships.

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

It’s a difficult question to answer, because I think it’s tough to find the writers who are out there and aren’t getting the attention they deserve.  You have to work hard and search for them. The main place to look is on the New Play Exchange, known as NPX, which is a sort of social networking site for playwrights.  Recently you posted a list of NPX writers on your FB page who you think deserve more attention, which is really cool. Some of the playwrights I’ve read and enjoyed on NPX are Jennifer O’Grady, Jordan Elizabeth Henry, Lee Lawing, and Asher Wyndham, and of course yourself, Bryan Stubbles.  I’m hoping to be able to discover more playwrights that I enjoy soon, and maybe, through the process of word-of-mouth and reviews, I can help them to become more recognized.

  1. What are common themes in your work?

In all honesty, I’m not really sure.  It’s funny: before I was writing this stuff, I would watch a lot of movies by the same director, and search for recurring themes.  But I don’t really think about themes when I write. That being said, I do think there are recurring themes that I tend to re-visit, somewhat unconsciously.  A lot of my plays have a touch of the supernatural: I don’t think life is as normal as most people think it is, and I like to play with that idea, the supernatural just below the surface.  I’m not sure if I’d call them ghosts, but ghost-like people show up in my plays from time to time. I’m a huge fan of the films of Guillermo del Toro, in particular The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth.  I also love The Seventh Seal and the first couple seasons of Six Feet Under.   They all have a lot of mixing of those two worlds, the dead and the living, the supernatural and the real, and I like that.  I also like to write plays that happen in an alternate universe, a place similar to what we know, but distinctively different.  I think those places are interesting worlds to work in. They give you a lot of freedom to go wild and say whatever you want, whether factual or not, while staying on a plane that is easy for people to understand.  And I also like to write about technology from time to time: I love The Twilight Zone and the old Black Mirror episodes, the British ones, before they became not as good in the 3rd season.  I think it’s almost impossible for technology not to come up in writing these days, at least in the stuff I write: it’s everywhere and it’s always changing.  It’s fascinating and scary.

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Scene from The Look, via here.
  1. What is one thing you wished you knew now, that you didn’t know starting out?

I think the point of starting out is that you don’t know much.  When I started doing this, I knew zero anything: I had read a book on screenwriting and taken a screenwriting class.  That was it. But that made it kind of fun: I just jumped in without knowing anything about anything, and knowing zero people.  It’s been fun to learn on the fly.

  1. In Fat Ugly Pigs on Camera, a lot of dialogue is repeated. Is there any special meaning behind that?

A lot of my plays have repeated dialogue.  One playwright in particular, who I respect greatly, has told me a few times at readings that she wishes I wouldn’t do it as much.  But I enjoy doing it. And I think I’ve gotten it from a lot of playwrights I’ve read: I love when I’m reading a play, and there’s a lot of this between two people: “Wait.” “Huh.”  “But you said.” “Wait.” “Huh.” “Uh-huh.” Things like that, just back and forth with repeated dialogue. It happens a lot in plays by Albee and Mamet. In the early plays of Suzan-Lori Parks, there’s a lot of circling back and forth between repeated words and sentences.  There’s a lot of significance there. And then writers like Ionesco and Beckett, back in the ‘50s, they were taking it to the extreme, probably in order to challenge the establishment of what theatre was defined as back then. Anyway, repetition, as a writer, it gives me a little space to set things up, set up a scene, without using a conventional conversation, which can keep an audience on their toes.  But it also gives certain words a sort of significance, that otherwise wouldn’t be there. In FAT UGLY PIGS ON CAMERA there are certain words that are repeated, that maybe wouldn’t usually be spoken a lot in ordinary conversation: shark, sushi, action, etc.. If repeated a few too many times, there’s probably a reason for that, something I want the audience to think about. I’ll leave it at that.

  1. What gave you the idea to write “Fat Ugly Pigs on Camera” and “Monologue for a Woman”?

MONOLOGUE FOR A WOMAN was written first, and it’s a companion piece to a monologue called INTERROGATIONS, which was written for a man.  Both monologues are heavily inspired by Pinter: I was reading a lot of him at the time. INTERROGATIONS is more sinister in nature, but I wanted both to sort of unhinge an audience: the actor is talking to an unseen person, but in the process the unseen person becomes the audience.  Both have weird turns and are at least a little paranoid in nature.

FAT UGLY PIGS ON CAMERA was something I had wanted to write for a long time, in response to internet porn in general.  Porn is a weird thing: it’s something many human beings are drawn to, because at heart we are animals, and our animal instincts are aroused by what we see on camera.  But we are also human beings, and so many things in the world of internet porn just trample on everything good about being a good human being. The titles of some videos are horribly de-humamizing and almost always degrading towards women, and that’s where the name of the play comes from.  The way I wrote it was the only way I could think of writing something about internet porn that would pack a punch, but also wouldn’t be a lecture or take one side too strongly.

  1. How do you use humor in these two pieces?

It’s funny with humor: I think I’m a pretty funny guy in person.  Or at least some of my childhood friends might say that. But really, none of my plays are ‘comedies.’ That being said, humor leaks into just about all of them.  I think dialogue is too deliciously funny not to include some humor. In MONOLOGUE FOR A WOMAN, I think the humor depends a lot on the actor reading it: I’ve seen it read ‘funny’, but I’ve also seen it read dark, with virtually no humor.  The humor that’s there rests in her questions and responses: whoever is interviewing her seems to be something of an idiot, at least in her eyes, and some of her statements subtly express that.

As for FAT UGLY PIGS ON CAMERA, when I wrote it, I was really worried that I had written my bleakest play.  I stood back and looked at it and shuddered, because really bleak plays make me do that: I respect plays that are really bleak, but they’re not always my favorite.  So anyway, that’s what I thought I had: a humorless, bleak play. But when it had a reading, in Spring of 2018, the people in the audience were really, really laughing, in particular during Act I.  That may have been because the acting was stellar: every actor who read was fantastic, and the actor who played Jake actually took off his shirt during certain scenes and moved around, despite the fact that this was just an unrehearsed reading without a director.  It was amazing to watch. But I was really surprised by the laughter: I didn’t see it coming. People told me afterward it was the funniest play of mine they had heard. I was sort of shocked. So, I guess that the humor just seeped out, especially early in the play, without me really realizing that it was humorous.

  1. Are there any allegorical elements to “Fat Ugly Pigs on Camera”?

I think there may be.  I always like to put things like that in my plays: I learned how to use symbolism, whether allegorical or not, when I read INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison in high school.  Ever since that book, I’ve always tried to look at things not for what they are, but for what their meaning is: what do they symbolize? So, to answer: yes, there probably are!  And they’re there for a reason…if they’re there.

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

Question: Do you listen to music when you write?  And if so, what kind?

Answer: Sometimes!  I love music. It inspires me.  I listen to all sorts of music: Arvo Part, The Stooges, J. Cole, Neil Young, Baby Huey, and on and on and on.  But when writing, if I’m listening to music, it has to be without lyrics. And it can’t be too complex, no DJ Shadow stuff: if it’s too intricate and wild, I’ll get distracted.  There’s a J Dilla playlist that I really like, his stuff is really dreamy but not too out there, it’s perfect. Sometimes Aphex Twin does the trick: one time I listened to Track 3, aka Rhubarb, from his Selected Ambient Works Volume II album, over and over and over again on repeat on my headphones while writing a monologue.  Lately, though, I’ve just been going silent while writing. It depends on how I’m feeling on that particular morning. Also: when I need a break, I throw on the headphones and usually listen to a hip-hop song with lyrics: stuff by Raekwon, Jedi Mind Tricks, Kanye, that type of stuff. All those lyrics are good during a break.  But I only allow myself one song per break when writing: I’m very strict with myself, and after one song, it’s back to writing, no matter what.

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Scene from A Pleasant Evening. I’m guessing the title is ironic. From here.

Greg has been very busy lately. In 2016 his one-act play Water won Best Play at the Playwrights’ Platform’s 44th Annual Festival of New Plays.  His monologue The Look was published by New World Theatre in 2018 as part of A Solitary Voice: A Collection of Epic Monologues.  He self-produced his full-length play, Thirsty, in 2016 with his company, Ya Bird? Productions, and in June 2019 he will again be self-producing a play, this time his one-act play Wilderness at the Players’ Ring Theatre in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  Greg is also an actor who was awarded Best Actor at the Playwrights’ Platform’s 44th Festival of New Plays in 2016.  He is the President of the Playwrights’ Platform, where he also serves as Director of the Actors-In-Residence (AIR) program, and is a member of StageSource and the Dramatists Guild of America.  When he has spare time, he likes to read poetry he’s written at open mics and slam competitions around Boston. On October 26th and 27th his one-act play A BEDTIME STORY will be produced by River’s Edge Arts Alliance in Hudson, MA.  

For a link to all our playwrights, please check here.

Here are links to any and all things Greg Hovanesian-related:

The Playwright

His website.

His Facebook page.

His New Play Exchange page.

The Plays

Staged reading of Wilderness.

Upcoming production of Wilderness.

Production of Thirsty.

Review of Thirsty.

Announcement for a group of shorts, including his.

The Look gets a reading. And here.

Water performed.

One minute wonder A Pleasant Evening Out.

A Bedtime Story.

The Films

48 Hour Film Project

 

 

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.  

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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