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

 

 

Current Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Martha Patterson

If there is one word to describe unknown playwright Martha Patterson, that word would be versatile. She works in a variety of genres and deals in everything from based-on-fact monologues to fun one-acts as well as full-lengths, covering all sorts of topics.

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Martha Patterson, probably envisioning her next play combining comedy, classical stories and revenge.

Martha kinda has theatre in her blood. Her aunt Elizabeth Patterson had a massive acting career in Chicago, on Broadway and on film and TV. Audiences might remember her from a few episodes of I Love Lucy she appeared on.

Her great-uncle was Sturgis Elleno Leavitt, who was a long-time professor and translator of Spanish, particularly Spanish plays of the Golden Age.

But we’re not here to talk about them. We’re here to talk about Martha and what she’s up to.

She received her BA in Theatre Arts from Mount Holyoke College and an MA in Performing Arts Education from Emerson College.

After several years of acting and teaching, Martha turned to playwriting and hasn’t looked back.

Covering all 140+ plays Martha has written would present it’s own year of blog posts (not that I’m opposed to it, it’s just I wanted to cover her work in a timely manner).

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Advert for a Scottish production of Martha’s play A Constant Man, one of over 140 plays she’s written.

The first play we’ll look at is a short parody of Shakespeare’s venerated Hamlet. Basically, Hamlet’s dad’s ghost shows up, but Hamlet can’t be bothered:

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The play is full of jokes like this…

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In addition to being funny, these lines upend the incest motif in Hamlet.

The play itself is 3.5 pages. Let’s take a look at some of the other bits:

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The answer to his dad’s question qould be “With Gertrude, Hamlet’s mom whom he secretly wants to bone.”

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The Ghost is starting to get it. As is the dorky Danish prince –

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Spoiler alert: Hamlet falls for whatever lines his dead dad tells him, just like in the original.

This play is pretty funny and also quite silly, thus making it highly entertaining. And it’s an appropriate shortened alternative to that behemoth Hamlet, which seems to run 3 hours, minimum.

Hamlet’s Revenge has been performed in Korea by The Seoul Players in 2010 and has an upcoming production in the Phoenix area.

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The next short play of Martha’s that we’ll take a look at is Richard Gerstl, a serious monologue illuminating the life and sad death of the Viennese artist.

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When your self-portraits [the dong-free ones, at least] are this nuts, you know Martha’s gonna write an awesome monologue about you. He’s probably laughing because he was shtupping a famous composer’s wife.
Martha uses a very traditional and classical technique when setting up her plays –

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This certainly gives us a particular moment in time.

Richard introduces himself…in a way.

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Mathilde Schönberg  wasn’t repulsed. Anyways, this is interesting because so much is made of the male gaze, that it’s quite a relief when a different perspective is offered.

For those who don’t know the term, it’s kinda like when you can tell the heterosexual male director of a film is in love with the female star – then extrapolate that to how our culture tells stories. This is still endemic in theatre. You can read more about the male gaze here.

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Sounds like Richard has a bit of the male gaze himself. And he is not the most pleasent character…

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Like this, but on Mathilde Schönberg’s breasts. From here.

Did I mention he’s coiling a noose as he’s talking?

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This is a good play about a difficult topic. I don’t know if the real Richard Gerstl sought help. The play adequately summarizes the conflicts and crises in his short life…now you’re getting a brief lecture. Anytime this blog mentions a work dealing with suicide, we need to mention this…

SUICIDE STUFF FOLLOWS….

A former classmate of mine has had 5 (FIVE) of her brothers commit suicide, including 4 (FOUR) since last year. The last one was less than a month ago. She is absolutely one of the nicest people I know. This has brought suicide to the forefront of my mind.

If you’re in the US and are thinking about suicide, the hotline is here. Or simply text CONNECT to 741741.

In the UK the info is here or you can email jo@samaritans.org.

In Canada, a database of info is here or you can text 686868.

Every day I think about what my friend is going through.

If those don’t work, you can always message me at this blog. I WILL get back to you as soon as I see it.

END OF SUICIDE STUFF

Now back to Martha and a very funny play of hers…

Do y’all know steampunk? Our friends at the Oxford Dictionary say: A genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.

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This is what steampunk looks like and we know this because it’s from a government website explaining steampunk.

This is a very bare-bones definition and for further enlightenment, one should look here.

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This is what steampunk looks like onstage, namely in Daniel Guyton‘s Art:Official Intelligence. Photo by Cathy Seith. Actors: Jeremy Clarke and Bob Smith.
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And this is what steampunk looks like in my fantasies. Just kidding, your fantasies. Photo by Bryan York. Model: GiGi.

Martha has cooked up a comedic steampunk revenge based around a fairy tale – Cinderella’s Revenge.

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Nice female-to-male ratio. Did you know Shakespeare wrote less than 16% of his roles for little boys women?
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Again, Martha provides us with that classical introduction.

Drizella and Jeremiah carry on like a couple of rich idiots for the first bit of the play.

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This dude sounds cool.

Jeremiah and Drizella argue and bicker until Cindy shows up with Prunella, who takes no guff from hyper-misogynist Jeremiah. Oh, and CIndy had previously married a prince who “ruined” her –

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Let’s analyze this exchange.

  1. Setting up Cindy’s bad treatment earlier in life. Check.
  2. Some down-home misogyny from Jer. Check.
  3. Steampunk sex joke. Check.
  4. Useless male. Check.

This being Steampunk times and all, Jeremiah doesn’t quite approve of Cindy’s choice of life partner. He hectors Cindy and Prunella until something cool happens.

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Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well for Jerry Douchepunk.

Now we’ll turn to another monologue by Patterson: Amarilis. 

A little background info. Haïti and the Dominican Republic share the same island, Hispaniola. They often do not get along. Vox was kind enough to make an entire video about it:

In 1937, soldiers of the Dominican Republic, under orders from dictator Rafael Trujillo, commited the Parsley Massacre. This was a massacre of thousands of Haitians in the Dominican Republic.

Trujillo used the excuse that Haitians were criminals, which is a tactic certain other leaders are using even now.

It is called the Parsley Massacre in English because the pronunciation of perejil – “parsley” in Spanish – was used to distinguish Dominicans from Haitians.

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Wait, a quality role for a senior???? Good thing I was sitting down when I read this.

 

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When an elderly person asks “Are you sure you want to hear this?” you must think about it carefully. There’s a reason they ask it.

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That’s your reason, right there.

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Yeah. This.

The play ends with Amarilis focusing again on the present.

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The final play of Martha’s we’ll take a look at is the wondrous and wonderfully horrific short play A Doll’s Life. Let’s see what that’s about:

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This sounds fun.

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Not while her doll is bugging her.

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Because grilled cheese sandwiches totally own evil dolls.

 

 

This video could be retitled “How to kill Satanic dolls” – she uses enough butter to kill 13 Satans precisely. Geez.

So dad doesn’t really get it. But Amelia bugs him enough that he decides to inspect the closet, while complaining 100%.

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Whoops.

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Womp womp. We’re lucky enough to have a real live production of A Doll’s Life.

 

 

Martha was kind enough to take some time out of her busy writing schedule and answer a few questions:

1. How did you start playwriting? 

I’d always been a writer – of stories and poetry, as a kid – but I started writing plays in my late 30s, while in grad school studying Performing Arts Education.  I had thought I’d teach drama to high school students, after being an actress in California and New York, but discovered I didn’t really like teaching.  However, if I hadn’t gone to grad school I probably wouldn’t have become a playwright.  My acting training definitely informs my writing, in terms of characterization and knowing what kinds of parts are fun to play.

2. What are your influences?
In college as a Theatre student, I had to read lots of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Shaw, Chekhov, so I’m influenced by them.  Interestingly, when I started writing plays I wrote lots of long monologues into my scripts, partly because those writers did, but as time’s gone on, I keep my dialogue more clipped.  I’m told that audiences have short attention spans and prefer not to listen to long speeches. 
 
3. What is your most memorable production and why? 
Of my own work?  Probably a production of my political monologue AMARILIS, about the conflict between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the early 1900s.  It was produced by the Border of Lights Festival in NYC, and they had an space in a church, served wine and cheese, and had a musician playing before and after the show.  I went to New York to see it and was really glad to meet the producer, who’s still a penpal, and the woman who played the elderly lady I wrote about.  The whole affair was elegant, and I always love being in NYC again. 
Of other people’s work, I really liked Caryl Churchill’s CLOUD NINE, which I saw Off-Broadway.  Clever mixing up of sexes and ages in the cast, and I don’t remember the plot well now – this was years ago – but I certainly enjoyed the play.
4. What is your least memorable production and why? [you can leave out specifics or names]
There was a production of mine in Hawaii and they sent me a DVD of the performance because I couldn’t go, and one of the actors fluffed his lines, and the lighting was too dim, and the show wasn’t very well staged.  I guess that’s my least favorite.
 
5. What’s your funniest theatre story?  
I started writing my first play in grad school, and the guy I asked to read the man’s part out loud to the class was so good, I kept writing the play and finished it with him in mind.  He wasn’t even really an actor.  I’ve never seen anyone play the role as well as he read it.  He had a quiet, deadpan delivery and it’s funny because it was an accident that I “cast” him.
 
6. What are your writing habits like?  
I usually have a vodka-and-tonic next to me, even if all the ice melts and it gets watered down before I drink it, and I often write late at night into the wee hours of the morning.  
 
7. What advice do you have for new playwrights? 
Don’t be afraid to try it, and do have your work read out loud, preferably by people who’ve done some acting.  You’ll find out where the dialogue lags. Share your work with other playwrights – they’ll often give good feedback, which you can take or leave, as you choose, but don’t be defensive – often after thinking about someone’s critique you’ll find they had valid comments.
 
8. Who are some other writers you feel should get more attention? 
Shakespeare.  (Kidding.)  Actually, among the writers I’m friends with, they’re all doing as well or better than I am, production-wise.  Dan Guyton is a pen-friend from Georgia who’s a really strong writer, has lots of funny plays but also wrote a full-length drama in verse, set in Hell – I don’t know how he managed to complete such a piece of work, all in verse.  Evan Guilford-Blake is another playwright from Georgia – lately he’s focused on fiction, though – but he’s excellent, and I recently read a beautiful, elegiac short story he wrote that he’s trying to get published.  

9. What are common themes in your work? 
Relationships are something I focus on – marriages or families with conflict.  But I also have political plays, and recently wrote one about the workplace, and I have a few plays for youth, and I can’t really say I have themes.  I will tell you I’ve written for themes requested by theatres, and even if they didn’t choose my play, I’ve usually gotten it done elsewhere.  So writing for themes has been very productive for me – it gets my creativity going, when otherwise I’d be at a loss as to what to write about.  AMARILIS was written for a themed event.  I think HAMLET’S REVENGE was, too.

10. What is one thing you wished you knew now, that you didn’t know starting out? 
Keep lots of your lines short, a rapid-fire back-and-forth.  Seems to work for me these days; as I’ve already said, long monologues can be dull.
11. How has the playwriting market changed since your first production in ’97? 
It’s more competitive.  I got three long one-acts produced right off the bat as a writer, Off-Off-Broadway, but this past year has a been deadly – only three productions and a few publications, which is less than my average.  I belong to the Playwrights’ Binge, an international listserv, and I share lots of opportunities with those people, but it’s been suggested to me to be less generous, just because I’m up against so many other authors!  There are 1000s of playwrights out there.
12. Please tell us about the process behind writing Amarilis.
First I had to do research, which I did online by reading brief histories of Haiti and the Dominican.  Then, I had to write the speech.  I came up with the character of a little old lady, I don’t know why, except that she had to be old because she’s recounting the conflict between those nations and it happened decades ago.  I imagined her talking to her neighbor, who is unseen, and the whole thing unfolded from there.
13. You have Hamlet’s Revenge and Cinderella’s Revenge – both comedies. How does one make revenge as hilarious as possible?
By using the unexpected.  I’ve read that there are two reasons why people laugh: 1) because the same thing’s happened to them (like slipping on the proverbial banana peel), or 2) because what happens is unexpected – the audience isn’t anticipating that action or line.  In HAMLET’S REVENGE I have Hamlet idly eating a sandwich while his father chews him out, and Hamlet is very unconcerned about avenging his Dad’s murder.  That’s an innately funny situation and you’re not expecting him to be so blase.
14. Multipart question: Have you faced ageism and/or sexism in your career? If yes, what advice or tips would you give fellow writers coming up against those obstacles?  
No, I don’t think I’ve faced ageism or sexism.  Most of the playwrights I know are over 45 or 50 anyway, and I don’t think it’s a hindrance, except when you find an opportunity to submit that’s only for under-30s, but that’s the theatre’s choice.
Much has been made of the need for gender parity in the theatre, especially among writers, but I’ve gotten my fair share of productions and publications, so I’m not complaining.
15. What is a question you’d like to be asked? Please go ahead and answer that question.
I suppose one question I’d like to be asked – do I attend the theatre often? – has a surprising answer: No, I don’t.  I saw so much theatre in my youth, and appeared as a leading lady in lots of productions, that I don’t feel the need to go very often these days, and it really is an expense.  I probably should get out and see what’s going on in theatre right now.  But often I’d rather read a play than actually see it, which I can do in half the time it takes to watch a performance.  And sometimes when I go to the theatre I get bored and restless.  I’d rather be at home writing!
Thanks so much Martha for sharing your talent and knowledge with us!
For a list of ALL our playwrights, please click here.
Everyone, please check the following links:
Martha’s website with a list of her productions.
The script for A Constant Man.
Listing for Brotherly Love in Texas.
Production of Amirilis.
Video of Girl Before the Mirror, a play about Picasso’s girlfriend.
Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

Beulah Marie Dix

Beulah Marie Dix had a great, grand, glorious career as a writer, whether it was children’s books, novels, plays or screenplays. She excelled in all four and is considered a female pioneer in Hollyweird. We’ll talk more about her career soon.

Let’s take a look at two of her plays.

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Massachusetts playwright Beulah Marie Dix.

Allison’s Lad

Dix’ first play we’re looking at is a one-act entitled Allison’s Lad and is set during the bloodletting known as The English Civil War.

The background really isn’t super-important here, since the story (or a version of it) could take place in any war. But you’ll get some background anyways.

Without going into the causes much, the English Civil War happened when Charles I outlawed Parliament. Parliament didn’t take too well to that. Royalists (nicknamed Cavaliers) and Parliamentarians (called Roundheads, seriously) duked it out all across the so-called British Isles.

One interesting thing is that some people got sick of it all and set up anarchist communes.

Eventually Charles I lost (and lost his head). Great Britain became a “Protectorate” under Oliver Cromwell.

Of theatre history note, the Cromwell regime banned theatre because they were Puritan horrible people.

Eventually people got tired of Oliver and his son Richard (who got the nickname Queen Dick) and brought back Charles II (the Restoration) and that is when Restoration comedy was born. And women were finally allowed to act on the English stage.

Here’s a neat “every day” map of the war:

But back to our play. Dix had a thing for history and wars. In fact, the one-act appears in a volume of one-acts set entirely during wartime. Other wars included in the volume are the 30 Years’ War and the 100 Years’ War.

The play is rather deceptive because it starts…trudgingly and goes out with a literal bang.

The Plot:

Several Royalist prisoners are playing cards. Apparently almost all have broken parole. Back in the olden days, if you were taken prisoner in war, sometimes you would be exchanged if you gave your word that you wouldn’t fight again for a certain amount of time.

Nearly all of these guys had broken their parole. Much is  made of one character (Winwood)’s parentage. He’s the titular lad. Sir William Strickland knew Winwood’s parents. Much is alluded to that his father was a coward…but that he is truly Allison’s lad and takes after her.

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Oh, and in addition to Tom Winwood’s father being a coward, he is also a card-carrying loser.

Take note of how concerned Strickland is about all this.

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Mama’s boy.

The Roundhead commander informs the parolees they might pay for breaking their word.

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Yeah, Winwood kinda freaks out. The commander then says one will be executed and they must draw lots, in the form of dice.

The play kindly provides an illustration.

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So son-of-a-coward must be executed, because that’s how the English Civil War works on stage.

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Winwood is led outside and duly shot. Strickland freaks out because…because…OMG…HE was Strickland’s real father…

And the shock of his son’s execution kills him.

Oh. My. God.

This play isn’t bad, but a bit…dramatic. It was published in 1910. I picked this because despite Nix’ history/war fixation, when World War I showed up Nix took to writing antiwar plays. I chose one entitled Across the Border.

Across the Border

This play is another shiny, magnificent beast. It was performed in November 1914 (the war started in August) and published in 1916 before the US entered World War I but after bunches of people had died.

This play is set in an anonymous country. My money is on Ruritania. Or Sylvania.

There is World War I some fictional war happening. Several soldiers are outnumbered. One, a junior lieutenant, is sent to break through/get help/be a big damn hero.

He comes to a house with an ominously titled Master of the House. The occupants of the house (who include a woman he’s only seen in his dreams) disarm him. They talk a lot of peace talk to him and make him feel guilty for, ya know, killing people.

He argues back that he did what he had to and he’s righteous, just, God approves, etc.

It takes him a while to figure out what the reader already knows: he’s dead.

He’s not very happy about this. He is forced to visit a cold and barren land and he learns that he is revisiting the aftermath of when his troops burnt down a town and killed civilians. In this regard it’s a bit like a Twilight Zone episode.

He begs for a chance to return to Earth to tell everyone not to have wars. The Master and Girl assent.

His anti-war visit goes over as well as you’d think. Nobody listens and he dies again.

The reviews seem good:

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Via here.

The Brushwood Boy was a Kipling character who also joined the military and who also dreamt of a girl.

This play is quite good and unlike the lieutenant, is worthy of revival. Especially given America’s current addiction to perennial bloodlettings.

This play is the rare example of theme overwhelming plot, characterization and dialogue. And the play still works. The theme being “war sucks.”

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OK got it.

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Uh-huh.

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The first scene from whence the second lietenant escapes. The crime against humanity? Turning their backs on the audience.

These are examples of how everything in the play feed into the theme of “war is terrible” –

The Master interrogates the lieutenant:

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The lieutenant carries around some pills to avoid capture.

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Welcome to righteous war.

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Does this sound familiar?

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The lieutenant is very descriptive:

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Pleasant.

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Welcome to the afterlife the Twilight Zone.

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Hehe. Not there yet.

He finds the girl of his dreams…after he’s dead. And she doesn’t want nothing to do with his murdering ass.

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“It clings!”

The lieutenant doesn’t want to die.

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Welp.

The lieutenant must look at the place his soldiers burnt down. The dead dog gets a higher place than him.

Warning: K-word ahead.

Waarskuwing: K woord vervolgens.

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That’s a pretty thorough indictment of war. At the time, the K word was considered pretty standard in English. It even described wars. It is now most definitely a racial slur.

I don’t condone the word at all. The reference can be changed in a modern production easily.

For a history of the word and why it’s so horrid, please read here.

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Perhaps.

After he comes back, in a field hospital, he tries to share the warnings.

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Having given humanity a chance and humanity rolling that chance up, lighting it on fire and flushing it into the Thames, the Girl comes to take him away…

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She explains.

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Peaceful Pixie Dream Girl.

If someone revived the play, would anyone listen?

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That’ll be a million dollar fine….

Beulah Marie Dix grew up in Kingston and Chelsea, Massachusetts. She studied History and English at Radcliffe College . 

She became a successsful author of children’s books, novels and stage plays. She and Evelyn Greenleaf Sutherland collaborated on plays using a male nom de plume. 

Her agent was Beatrice de Mille, mother of film directors, William de Mille and Cecil B. de Mille, which is how Dix found her way to Hollywood. She took a trip to Hollywood in 1916 and decided to stay. She wrote scripts for William de Mille and her career took off like a California wildfire.

She married George Flebbe and had a daughter, Evelyn Scott, who worked for many years as a story editor at MGM.

Dix even wrote vehicles for Sessue Hayakawa. She continued publishing novels and passed away in 1970.

Link Heaven

Allison’s Lad

Across the Border

Her various works on archive.org

Her wikipedia page

Another profile

Her daughter’s marriage

This photo group contains two pictures from the play.

Her Internet Broadway Database page

imdb

 

Dude Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

William Edgar Easton

William Edgar Easton came from five generations of human rights activists. His paternal ancestors had served in the American Revolution and his maternal ancestors served in the Haitian Revolution. He had African, European and Native American (Wampanoag) ancestry. His skin color was light enough to pass as white, yet he always identified as African-American.

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Our playwright hero, circa 1918.

Much like Angelina Weld Grimké, Easton had some illustrious ancestors and was brought up partially in Massachusetts.

As previously stated, he was the fifth generation in a line of activists – let’s just check in and see who some of those were:

James Easton (1754-1830)

William Edgar’s great-granduncle [great-grandfather’s brother]. Of Wampanoag and African descent.

He fought in American Revolution, worked as a blacksmith, ran his own foundry for over 20 years, opened an academic and vocational school for African-Americans and seemed to have a hobby of using sit-ins to integrate churches. Seriously, throughout his adult life he and his family tried to integrate the segregated congregations to which they belonged.

It seems nearly all of James’ children took up his activist ways, most prominently…

Hosea Easton (1799-1837) was a minister, abolitionist, author and human rights activist.

Next in line is James’ grandson…

Benjamin F. Roberts (1815-1881) who was a printer, publisher, writer and activist. Is greatest claim to fame is pursuing Roberts v. Boston – he sued the city of Boston because of its “seperate but equal” schooling system. Despite the involvement of lawyer (and soon-to-be senator) Charles Sumner and lawyer Robert Morris, Roberts sadly lost the case. The case would be cited in US Supreme Court’s ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 in which “seperate but equal” was enshrined in law.

Octave Oliviers was an ancestor of Easton’s mother Marie Leggett. I couldn’t find out much about him except he was a general in Haïti’s revolution.

Easton’s mother was born in New Orleans, of Haïtian parents.

There are other family members who contributed much, but it’s time to skip to our playwright, William Edgar Easton, great-grandson of Moses Easton (Revolutionary War vet and brother to James Easton).

His life:

He was born in Boston. He did a BUNCH of stuff in his life. Let’s play a game – What DIDN’T William Edgar Easton Do in Life?  Among the following facts, Mr. Easton didn’t do one of them. What was it?

  1. Attended St. Joseph’s Seminary in Trois-Rivières, Quebec.
  2. Taught school in Austin, Texas.
  3. Edited The Texas Blad newspaper (cool name).
  4. President of the Colored State Press Association
  5. Chairman of the Travis County (TX) Republican Party
  6. Assistant Secretary of the Republican (Texas) State Central Committee
  7. Secretary of the Republican (Texas) State Central Committee
  8. Storekeeper at the US Customs House in Galveston
  9. Desk clerk at the San Antonio Police Department
  10. Accountant
  11. Tax collector
  12. Correspondant for the New Age
  13. Speechwriter for at least two governors of California
  14. Speaker for the War Department during WW1
  15. Supervising custodian for all state offices in LA
  16. Clerk for the California Bureau of Purchases
  17. Governor of Idaho

If you picked 17, you would be correct. Yep, never governed the Gem State.

The plays:

Haïti sent a delegation to to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition  in Chicago (the one that gave us a famous serial killer).

They asked Frederick Douglass to represent Haïti, which is awesome. Douglass had previously been US Minister to Haïti. And an all-around badass.

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The Haitian Pavilion at the World’s Columbian Expsosition of 1893.

In 1893, the post-Civil War rights gains for African Americans were being curtailed. Despite being a Haïtian exhibit, the pavilion attracted many African Americans who probably weren’t into the human zoo-like aspects of, say, The Dahomey Village exhibit.

Easton wrote the play Dessalines, a dramatic tale : a single chapter from Haiti’s history for the 1893 Exposition. The play was performed in Chicago, but not exactly at the Haïtian exhibit.

Now we must delve a bit into Haïtian history…

Haïti was a slave colony run raped by the French. The export was sugar cane. Eventually the slaves found a way to rebel and did just that in 1791. Dessalines was one of thousands of soldiers fighting the French. He became a leader, working closely with the famous Haïtian badass Toussaint Louverture. Meanwhile, having its own revolutionary problems, France declared slavery abolished. Then it gets kinda weird. Louverture and Dessalines then joined the French to fight the Spanish and British. Louverture invaded the Spanish side of Hispaniola and freed the slaves there.

But France is tricky and in 1801 Napoleon thought it’d be a grand idea to restore slavery. Louverture was taken prisoner and died in France. Dessalines and his followers defeated the French soldiers and secured Haïtian independence. Oh, and he ordered a massacre of almost all the white people in Haïti (except for the Poles). And he became president and self-proclaimed emperor of Haïti. As such, he reimplemented the plantation ssytem, ostensibly to maintain Haiti’s economy, but the people felt like they had been enslaved again and it wasn’t long before Dessalines was killed, but we’re not quite sure how.

Thus, Dessalines’ legacy is quite mixed. He was a brave patriot and competant leader who led Haïti to victory over the hated French. He also ordered massacres and in a way re-enslaved his people. And proclaimed himself emperor.

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Dessalines on some sweet, sweet 1916 Haitian currency.

This isn’t quite the same guy in the play – let’s take a look!!

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“Oh, France, go count thy victories! I – I, Dessalines will count thy dead.” Illustration from the published play.  Thomas C. Scottron played this role.

 

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Oh…

Cultural note: in the Haïtian Revolution, the dark-skinned Haitians and the mixed-race Haïtians (mulatres) didn’t get along much.

I’ve noticed this seems to happen when the colonizers create a class that isn’t at the top nor is it at the bottom: they tend to be despised by both sides, warranted or not. A similar thing happened to the mixed-race Indos of Indonesia during their revolution.

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So mulatre Flavien is kind of a dick. And Placide is pretty direct about his feelings.

The synopsis:

Flavien being a dick to Placide. Dessalines shows up and takes all the slaves. Mulatre General Rigaud thinks about joining, but remains loyal to France. Dessalines becomes captor to Rigaud’s sister, Clarisse. Dessalines wants to punish the soldiers who tricked Clarisse and were going to abuse her. Clarisse begs him to spare them. Rigaud and Lefebre meet – again about France. Dessalines shows up. They don’t fight. Later Rigaud confronts him about honor. Fight. Clarisse saves everyone. Clarisse prays. Dessalines becomes Catholic. 

Not a shabby plot, but the play is WAY better than the above. The strongest part is truly the dialogue. Easton had a way with words…Flavien is all butthurt over Placide’s insult – he complains to the slaves…

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Flavien isn’t woke.

You may have noticed that Easton chooses to use faux-Elizabethan English. Actually, he is quite good with it. A modern production could try dropping it and see what happens.

Here’s where Dessalines shows up:

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Dessalines does not mess around and Flavien is still a dick.  Dessalines expounds upon his theory that white people are pretty cursed. Imagine this playing in a theatre in Chicago in 1893.

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He has a point or two or more…

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Rigaud: self-aware dickhead. And he was totally a real person. He was a general in the Haïtian Revolution, but it’s hard to be sympathetic when Wikipedia tells you stuff like this:

“André Rigaud was known to have worn a brown-haired wig with straight hair to resemble a white man as closely as possible.”

Rigaud: not woke.

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Do we keep the neo-archaicisms????

Oh, Dessalines’ soldiers don’t believe he could ever like the light-skinned Clarisse:

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And like every other American representation of Haiti, one must include an obligatory voodoo scene.

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But it is the voodoo scene that gives us our most interesting line:

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How is this connected to our plot? Clarisse may become a sacrfice…and even the priestess is spooked by her.

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Well, Petou brings word of Clarisse’s imprisonment to her brother Rigaud, who then tries to choke him.

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And Rigaud tries to act tough.

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The plot, as previously stated, wraps up with a fight between Rigaud and Dessalines…

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And when Clarisse extols the virtues of Catholicism to Dessalines, who recognizes its truth and then ends in chaste love with Clarisse. None of that actually happened.

In fact, the Catholic conversion scene could easily be deleted – it really does feel shoehorned in.

Besides this, I feel Dessalines is ripe for revival, with modifications.

Production history of the play:

The play was first performed at Freiburg’s Opera House in Chicago, September 1893.

Dessalines was portrayed by Professor Thomas C. Scottron, who had a very interesting family. His family/descendants includes actress Edna Louise Scottron (niece), inventor Samuel Scottron (brother) and singer, actress, activist Lena Horne (grandniece) and screenwriter Jenny Lumet (great-grandniece) and Broadway actor Bobby Canavale (great-great grandnephew – probably the only time I’ll ever use that word).

Clarisse was portrayed by famed actress and activist Henrietta Vinton Davis. Davis also directed the production. Another great link here.

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Dig that headstone, via here.
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Henrietta Vinton Davis, probably the most famous African American actress of the day.

Following this performance, the play was published.

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That’s sweet.

The play was revived at Trinity Congregational Church, Pittsburgh  in 1909. This time she directed and played the flower girl and Dominique (one of the Shakespeare-esque buffoon roles).

The other performance of record is at the Fine Arts Theatre in Boston on May 15, 1930.

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From here.

This version featured Granville Stewart as Dessalines and Avon Long as the voodoo priest [it seems the priestess became a priest for this production].

The play had a reading in Brooklyn in 2014.

The published volume has several illustrations – the one featuring Dessalines is earlier. These are the others:

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Then, after a period of nearly 20 years, Easton published Christophe; a tragedy in prose of imperial Haiti.

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The author actually made his own synopsis of the play:

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Now it’s not a bad play, but even the synopsis is where things start to falter. There are some things in the synopsis that aren’t even in the play. Not a good sign.

And we must jump back into Haïtian history a bit…

Much like Dessalines, Henri-Christophe had been a general in the Haitian Revolution. Of interest to Americans, he may have served in the American Revolution as a drummer boy with the French at the failed Siege of Savannah in 1778.

He was a harsh general in a harsh time…from Wikipedia:

On 6 April 1805, having gathered all his troops, General Christophe took all male prisoners to the local cemetery and proceeded to slit their throats, among them Presbyter Vásquez and 20 more priests.

He was involved in the conspiracy to kill Dessalines and when he proclaimed himself emperor, he went all in:

“Henry, by the grace of God and constitutional law of the state, King of Haiti, Sovereign of Tortuga, Gonâve, and other adjacent islands, Destroyer of tyranny, Regenerator and Benefactor of the Haitian nation, Creator of her moral, political, and martial institutions, First crowned monarch of the New World, Defender of the faith, Founder of the Royal Military Order of Saint Henry.” 

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Ego much? A German painter at the imperial court did this…

This isn’t quite the Henri-Christophe that appears in the play.

In real-life, Christophe shot himself in the head with a silver bullet [insert werewolf joke here]. In the play he stabs himself with his sword before stabbing someone else.

The play, in my opinion, is quite pedestrian, especially if we compare it to Dessalines. It seems to lack the vigor inherent in plot – it moves forward simply because it has to.

There’s a lot more French used in this play than in Dessalines.

The pseudo-Shakespearean language has been toned down immensely. There’s a part where some Haitians accuse Dessalines of planning to allow white people to live in Haiti:

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BURN!!!!!

I found the best bits of dialogue deal with the honorable Dessalines and the traitorous Christophe.

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“Puppet of my whims!” <<<< Dessalines pwned Christophe right there.

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Snap.

Sadly, Dessalines dies pretty early in the play. And as previously stated, the play plods… a lot. But the book has illustrations. Let’s check out the Classics Illustrated version:

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The most interesting thing about the play is the part played by Henrietta Vinton Davis – that of Valerie, who dresses up like a murdering vengeful priest!!!!

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If the entire play had been about a woman dressed as a priest killing people, yeah it would be a classic.

It’s still worth a look and maybe other folks will disagree with my assessment.

The play was produced by Miss Davis at the Lenox Casino in New York City with an opening night of March 21, 1912. Fun fact: in 1912 this “casino” was busted for showing stag films.

It is now the location of Masjid Malcolm Shabazz.

Miss Davis played opposite R. Henri Strange as Christophe.

Easton apparently wrote two one-act plays, both with intriguing titles:

Is She a Lady in the Underworld? and Misery in Bohemia.

I can’t find any record of them being performed or published.

There’s also no record of his daughter Athenais becoming a writer as he’d wished for in the introduction to Dessalines.

Thanks for joining us in exploring this playwright’s work and interesting life…

For our other playwrights, please click here.

Join us next week for another thrilling unknown playwright!

Links

The Easton family

William Edgar Easton’s life.

Useful info

Dessalines text

Christophe text

 

 

 

Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

Angelina Weld Grimké

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Angelina Weld Grimké was a very unique and interesting writer whose literary output consisted mostly of poetry and a few short stories. She also wrote two full-length plays, one of which was performed and published.

Angelina Weld Grimké wrote from a very personal place, and that personal place was incredibly unique. As another blog described it:

“Her family, within the three preceding generations, included slaveholders and slaves, free black people and white abolitionists.”  

Awkward family reunion jokes aside, that’s one interesting way to start life (we don’t really have any choice as to which family we’re born into – thanks Mom and Dad) and Angelina Weld Grimké continued to live her life in a singular way.

Her uncle was a celebrated pastor and civil rights leader. He co-founded the NAACP. Her father was a lawyer, journalist, diplomat and civil rights leader. On the other hand, her half-uncle was a vicious slave owner who owned and beat her father.

Her mother was a leading lecturer and author on the occult.

Her great-aunts were celebrated abolitionists and feminists.

Her life is more worthy of a book than a blog post.

I thought perhaps a timeline version of her life might suit our purposes. Still, one can see cause and effect…

1752-1819: Judge John Faucheraud Grimké  lives in Charleston, South Carolina and owns hundreds of slaves. He’s of mixed Alsatian and Huguenot descent (the surname was Grimk until an ancestor changed it). He is our playwright hero’s great-grandfather.

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Stern much? Our playwright’s great-grandfather.
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Mary Grimké, our playwright’s great-grandmother.

1792 and 1805: His daughters, the “Grimké Sisters” are born (Sarah and Angelina). They are two of 14 children. They are our playwright’s great-aunts.  

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Stern, but cool. Our badass playwright’s badass great-aunts.

1820s: The Grimke sisters hate slavery. Both move north and become famous abolitionists and feminists. Angelina marries into the Boston Brahmin Weld family, also abolitionists.

They are still so famous that American high school students are forced to make videos pretending to be them:

I guess they lost their Charleston accents…

1840-1850s: Following the death of his wife, their brother Henry Grimké has three children with one of his slaves, Nancy Weston. Henry and Nancy are our playwright’s grandparents.

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Nancy Weston, our playwright hero’s grandmother. From here. Angelina idolized her grandmother.

1852: Henry dies and wills his children to his son Montague, with the provision that they be treated as part of the family. For a few years Nancy lives on her own with the boys.

1857: Montague doesn’t respect his father’s wishes and takes the boys into his house as slaves. He and his wife beat them severely and often. In fact he even takes Archibald to the local police to have them whip him. Montague viewed Archie as a “surly, callow, ungracious, and insulting servant.” Never mind that they were half-brothers. Archie is our playwright’s father.

1861: US Civil War begins.

1862: At age 12, Archie runs away and hides out in Charleston, “emerging at night dressed as a girl.”

1865: US Civil War ends. The three boys go north and enroll in Lincoln University.

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From left, the playwright’s uncle Francis, father Archibald and uncle John as young men.

1868: Angelina Grimké reads an article about Archibald Grimké being such a great student. She visits him and learns about their family connection. She welcomes the boys into her home. The sisters help them as much as possible. Archibald will graduate from Harvard Law School and his brother Francis will graduate from Princeton Theological Seminary

1879: Archibald Grimke marries Sarah Stanley, a white woman from a prominent abolitionist family. Her family opposes the marriage. Information about her isn’t as scarce as Wikipedia pretends.

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Sarah Stanley Grimké, our playwright’s mother.

1880: Their only child, our playwright hero Angelina Weld Grimké is born, named after her great-aunt.

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Sarah Grimké and daughter Angelina, 1880.

Spring 1882: Sarah takes Angelina to Michigan for a visit to her family. This “visit” turns into her keeping Angelina from the child’s father. Archibald writes a bunch of letters begging her to return.

Fall 1882: She returns briefly after Archibald secures an apartment for her in Boston, but quickly leaves again. She probably suffered from mental illness

1882-1887: Angelina is raised by Sarah and her white grandparents in Michigan. Archibald continues to beg her to return to Boston. Even as late as 1886, he is asking her to take their wedding vows seriously. 

Sarah embarks on a career writing and lecturing about astrology, the occult and metaphysical solutions of illness. Often, while travelling, she brings Angelina with her, including to California.

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Sarah Grimké’s book Esoteric Lessons certainly lives up to the title.

Archibald was also a writer. He worked as a columnist for the Boston Herald and eventually founded his own newspaper, The Guardian.

1887: Sarah Grimké puts her seven year-old daughter Angelina on a train from California to Boston. All by herself. 

She’ll sporadically write letters to her daughter, but will never see her again.  The letters have a case of the weirds. 

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Typical letter from a mother to a seven year old. Yep.

Fall 1887: Now living with her father, Angelina begins attending the mostly white Fairmount School in Hyde Park. She may have attended school in California at some point.

February 1891: Angelina writes her first known poem. It is about death. 

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Note her pose and posture. And the fact she’s holding hands with the girl next to her.

May 1893: Angelina publishes a poem in the local newspaper, The Grave in the Corner, about a Union veteran’s grave.  

Her published poetry tended to be about nature, elegies, love in general and later about racial themes and civil rights.

Her unpublished poetry seemed to dwell on death and lesbian love.

1894: Following her father’s move to Washington, DC she attends the all-black M Street School for a school year.

Early 1894: Archbald is appointed American Consul to the Dominican Republic. He leaves Angelina with his brother Francis and sister-in-law in DC. Angelina is rebellious and they fight often.

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Her uncle, Francis Grimké, whom she stayed with and often fought. Her father banished her to Minnesota for her troubles.

At this time, 14 year-old Angelina took several photos in costumes her father had sent her. She then mailed them to her father.

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She looks extremely unhappy. What do you think is going on here?

1895: Due to the impossible situation with her uncle and aunt, Angelina is sent very far away to Carleton Academy in Northfield, Minnesota.

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Via here.

While at Carleton, she receives letters from former classmate  and future playwright Mary Burrill from Washington, DC hinting at a relationship. 

Also, she writes a love letter to a “Mamie” – probably a white classmate but also possibly Burrill back in DC. It includes these lines:

I know you are too young now to become my wife, but I hope, darling, that in a few years you will come to me and be my love, my wife! How my brain whirls how my pulse leaps with joy and madness when I think of these two words, ‘my wife’

Later, Mary Burrill and Angelina would be coworkers at the same school, ironically educating future playwrights!

1897: Attends Cushing Academy in Massachsuetts. Writes a love poem “Rosabel” about one of her teachers.

“Rosabel”

I

Leaves, that whisper, whisper ever,

Listen, listen, pray;

Birds, that twitter, twitter softly,

Do not say me nay;

Winds, that breathe about, upon her,

(Since I do not dare)

Whisper, twitter, breathe unto her

That I find her fair.

II

Rose whose soul unfolds white petaled

Touch her soul rose-white;

Rose whose thoughts unfold gold petaled

Blossom in her sight;

Rose whose heart unfolds red petaled

Quick her slow heart’s stir;

Tell her white, gold, red my love is;

And for her, — for her

Early 1898: Her father returns from the Dominican Republic. 

Fall 1898: She graduates from Girls’ Latin School in Boston.

September 1898: After suffering from rheumatic heart disease most of her life, Angelina’s mother Sarah commits suicide in San Diego.

1902: Graduates from Boston Normal School of Gymnastics [now part of Wellesley College]. 

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Around the time she graduated college.

1902: Begins teaching Physical Education at all-black Armstrong Vocational Training School in Washington, DC. She does not get along with the principal and receives poor evaluations. Her father intervenes several times. She switches to teaching English.

Writes Give Me Your Eyes. It isn’t published in her lifetime.

Give me your eyes.

I do not ask to touch

The hands of you, the mouth of you,

Soft and sweet and fragrant though they be.

No, lift your eyes to mine;

Give me but one last look

Before I step forth forever;

Even though within that moment’s crashing space,

I shall know all of life and death heaven and hell

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Her and her father at about this time.

She also writes Naughty Nan, which may be about herself [Her nickname was Nana]

I

Naughty Nan

If you can

Tell me how your frowns and smiles,

Sudden tears, and naive wiles,

Linked into a glittering band

Follow swiftly hand in hand?

Tell me wayward April-born,

Child of smiles and tears forlorn,

Have you ever felt the smart

Of a lacerated heart?

Are you but a sprite of moods?

Heartless, that fore’er deludes

Tell me naughty Nan?

II

Naughty Nan

If you can

Tell me why you have such eyes

Gleaming when not drooped in sighs

Or when veiled by falling rain?

Haughty oft but never vain

Sometime wistful orbs of brown,

Sometimes blazing in fierce scorn

But eyes that are never free

From some glance of witchery.

Tell me why you have such lips

Tempting me to stolen sips

Tender, drooping, luring, sad,

Laughing, mocking, madly glad,

Tell me naughty Nan?

III

Naughty Nan

If you can

Tell me why you play with me,

Take my heart so prettily

In your dainty, slender, hands,

Bruise its tender, loving, bands?

Tell me why your eyes are brown

Mock and glitter when I frown?

Flitting, luring, little, sprite

In a garb of moods bedight,

Dancing here, and dancing there,

Changeling strange, but ever fair

You have caught me in your snare, —

Naughty Nan.

1903: Angelina starts writing a diary in response to being rejected by [probably] a white man. In it, she talks of suicide. He was a professional American singer based in London. In her diary she mentions that when he sang “My Rosary” for her she made him stop because it caused too much pain. 

*I know several scholars think this was a lesbian affair, but she uses masculine pronouns in the diaries, calls him a man and in a diary entry many years later mentions his name. And she discussed it with her father, who flipped his lid.

This also provides an impetus to her writing and her devotion to her father as the following diary entries indicate:

I am very tired of living. There is nothing to look forward to, only a year of school with a vacation at the end […] There is writing, but the great emptiness of many years before [me] with nothing to look forward to at the end. When people talk about what they are going to do in the future all I think to to myself is ‘What does it all amount to?’ At the end there is only the grave. There is no cure for this everlasting heartache. It never lets up […] I have given up my girlhood. I can never be a girl again. That is gone, and I am an old woman at heart.

Three days later she had this to say:

I have entirely two reasons for living, my dear father and my writing. they must fill my life absolutely. I can never expect to love again. This shall be the beginning, the real beginning of my effort to crush it out forever. […] It almost hurts me to see that my love for you [the man who disappointed her] is nearly as great as that for my father. It hurts me also to see that he has a rival for I do, I do love him so much.

This marked a focus on making her dad happy and writing.

1907: She transfers to the all-black M Street School and teaches English there. She does well there.

1909: Publishes El Beso in the Boston Transcript.

Twilight—and you
Quiet—the stars;
Snare of the shine of your teeth,
Your provocative laughter,
The gloom of your hair;
Lure of you, eye and lip;
Yearning, yearning,
Languor, surrender;
Your mouth,
And madness, madness,
Tremulous, breathless, flaming,
The space of a sigh;
Then awakening—remembrance,
Pain, regret—your sobbing;
And again, quiet—the stars,
Twilight—and you.

1911: She suffers a broken back in a train wreck in Connecticut. 14 people died, including a lady in Grimké’s car. She must recuperate for months at a home with her father, uncle and his wife. She will suffer chronic health problems after this.

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Grimké survived this. The St. Louis Cardinals baseball team were heroes. 100 years later another train crashed at the same place.

1914: Her famous aunt, Charlotte Forten Grimké passes away. She writes this poem for her, published in The Crisis:

Still are there wonders of the dark and day;
The muted shrilling of shy things at night,
So small beneath the stars and moon;
The peace, dream-frail, but perfect while the light
Lies softly on the leaves at noon.
These are, and these will be
Until eternity;
But she who loved them well has gone away.

Each dawn, while yet the east is veil’d grey,
The birds about her window wake and sing;
And far away, each day, some lark
I know is singing where the grasses swing;
Some robin calls and calls at dark.
These are, and these will be
Until eternity;
But she who loved them well has gone away.

The wild flowers that she loved down green ways stray;
Her roses lift their wistful buds at dawn,
But not for eyes that loved them best;
Only her little pansies are all gone,
Some lying softly on her breast.
And flowers will bud and be
Until eternity;
But she who loved them well has gone away.

Where has she gone? And who is there to say?
But this we know: her gentle spirit moves
And is where beauty never wanes,
Perchance by other streams, ‘mid other groves:
And to us here, ah! she remains A lovely memory
Until eternity;
She came, she loved, and then she went away.

1916: Grimké begins teaching at Dunbar High School, where future playwright May Miller is her student and former [probably] girlfriend Mary Burrill.

Also 1916: She writes an anti-lynching play, Rachel, that is produced and published. We’ll talk about this soon.

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Photo from a 1923 publication.

1926: She retires from teaching to take care of her sick father.

1927: Publishes much poetry, including:

An Epitaph on a Living Woman

There were tiny flames in her eyes,

Her mouth was a flame,

And her flesh. . . . . . .

Now she is ashes.

1930: Her father dies. Angelina quickly leaves the DC house for New York City and never publishes any new writing again. Scholars have pointed out that the death of her father seemed to rob her of the will to write as well as to live.

1955: She was interviewed by Katherine DuPre Lumpkin about her famous family for a book.

1958: Angelina Weld Grimké passes away, having spent nearly 30 years as a recluse.

Like I said, a blog post won’t do her justice.

Now, on to Rachel. 

The plot concerns the humble Loving family. They live up North and consist of Ma Loving, her teenaged daughter Rachel and teenaged son Tom. Through incidents in the plot we discover what happened to their father and brother ten years before.

In the course of the story the family adopts a neighbor boy. A young man courts harasses comes on strong to Rachel. 

There is much discussion about race and racism and American society. Rachel gets snubbed by a supposed friend who is white. The young boy they take in gets called the n-word and harassed and Rachel comes to a dread realization at the end. 

The play was specifically written in response to the NAACP’s call for scripts in response to the overwhelming success of proto-Nazifest film Birth of a Nation (which was, itself, a successful play). The fact her father was national vice-president of the NAACP and local Washington, DC president may have played a part. 

The absolute most impressive, yet painfully sad, aspect of the play is that despite being written in 1916, it may as well be set in 2019 America. 

As the son Tom observes:

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For those unaware of voter supression in the US, start here.

Or as Tom’s older buddy Strong remarks:

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And as Rachel points out…

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She’s talking about the prospect of lynching here, which still exists in America, albeit in an even more nefarious form.

One common criticism of Rachel is that the language is stilted or speechy,

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“Her conversation with her mother […] feels stilted, the anecdotes they share rarely of much note.”

But these reviews seem to forget we’re dealing with the author of some badass and powerfully vivid poetry….true, the play may be “speechy” – but the good type of speechy.

Rachel begins the play loaded with optimism. She totally wants to be a mother and loves children.

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Interesting thread from the Biblical story of Mary to 1916 Rachel (who, incidentally has a a Biblical name).

She particularly loves “black and brown babies”:

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Compare this to how Rachel evolves:

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Remember, Grimké herself made a similar vow albeit in different circumstances.

Going from Rachel’s point A to Point B constitutes much of the plot. We’ll explore this in a minute…but first, another reason to commend this play:

Rachel is such a willful, strong and yet conflicted character. It would be a great role for any actress. 

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Rachel Guy Moore in the original production of Rachel in 1916. Note those flowers.
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2016 Kansas City production.

She works well with children, plus the kids are awfully sweet:

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She provides counseling to a mother whose child has become withdrawn due to racism at her school.

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Rachel and Ma. London production.
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From a 2016 Kansas City production.
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A Maine production.

The mother enquires about the school Rachel attended and explains her daughter’s situation:

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From a 2016 Kansas City production.

Rachel does indeed brag up the school – Grimké herself usually attended mostly white schools.

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Those plot points I mentioned? Pretty much all of them have to do with Rachel seeing the effects of racism on her family in particular and African-Americans in general.

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Mrs. Lane and Rachel, London production.

Rachel learns what happened to her father and brother:

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Father and brother dying on the same day does sound a little..

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Damn. And by Christians, too. But then the mom gives the reason:

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Rachel and John Strong. London production.

The father had been a newspaper editor (just like Grimké’s own father) and had been threatened, simply because he printed the truth (about the first murder) and then he and his son were killed. Remember how I mentioned this may as well be 2019? There’s a reason Time magazine picked journalists as “People of the Year” (Hint: being good journalists can be lethal)

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Rachel and Jimmy. London production.

Remember that child Rachel adopted after his parents passed away? She got to have this conversation with them:

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That conversation.

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2016 Kansas City production.

Rachel has also attracted the male gaze:

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She handles it.

Other characterization is just as rich. Rachel’s brother Tom, the football hero of the show.

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Quarterbacking comes with dangers beyond CTE, though.

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Oh.

Tom can dish it out. When he learns what really happened to his father and brother, well…

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Great emotion.

Much like his sister, Tom learns how 2019 1916 America really works.

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“The scum of the earth shall succeed.”

Several critics have looked for autobiographical elements in the play – and they seem to be there. Rachel is “brown” (i.e. lighter complected), she and her family are highly educated. The father was a journalist who fought bigotry. She had a failed romance. The mother suffers from rheumatism, as did Grimké’s. And she foreswore any chance of having children.

Here’s a talented actress using some lines from Rachel as a monologue on Youtube.

Another aspect that appears obvious is mental illness. In fact Grimké herself refers to Rachel as a “highly-strung girl” in a piece defending the play.

Mental health in America remains a stigma for both white and black Americans. Not only do African Americans face more stressors, but also have fewer options for treatement.

Given Grimké’s unique family history – the unusually close relationship with her father, the remarks from others that she seemed unhappy often, her mother’s suicide and claims from others that she was paranoid – it makes sense that the hero of the tale is, well, highly strung.

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Killing as a kindness.

Earlier, her mother had found her unconscious after having apparently violently attacked the flowers John Strong had given her.

Rachel goes on…

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In all fairness, being called “little girl” when you’re 22 might  be a trigger.

So Rachel breaks down cursing God, hearing her children in her sleep and laughing uncontrollably. Yeah.

NOW, on the other hand…she recently learned her father and brother were victims of nice white Christians – and now nice white Christians are harassing her adopted child. And others. WHO could hold it together???

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Cast of a Brooklyn production.

Rachel shares an interesting story with young Jimmy. This would make for a great monologue.

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2016 Kansas City production.

Grimké takes her poet’s pen to even the description. Who here is sick of seeing submission requirements that look like this?

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Nobody told Grimké about all this minimalism, or if they did, she ignored it to death –  so we get some beautiful descriptions such as:

image

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Pictured above: Grimké’s middle finger to 21st century theatrical minimalism.

If you haven’t noticed, their house has some famous paintings. Let’s take a look:

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Assuming she meant The Gleaners, since The Reapers doesn’t exist, although Millet did paint The Reaper.
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This is The Reaper by Millet. Fear him.
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Burne-Jones‘ Golden Stairs. Welcome to the pre-Raphaelite world. I’d say this is the opposite of “simply framed” (as in the play). And did you know there’s a blog all about frames???
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Raphael‘s Sistine Madonna.

I like that the play uses real paintings. The second act presents us with different paintings.

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[Insert Man with a Hoe joke here]
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Let’s talk about Watts’ Hope, or rather what Wikipedia has to say about it:

“As cheap reproductions of Hope, and from 1908 high-quality prints, began to circulate in large quantities, it became a widely popular image. President Theodore Roosevelt displayed a copy at his Sagamore Hill home in New York; reproductions circulated worldwide; and a 1922 film depicted Watts’s creation of the painting and an imagined story behind it.”

…Hope remained influential. Martin Luther King Jr. based a 1959 sermon, now known as Shattered Dreams, on the theme of the painting, as did Jeremiah Wright in Chicago in 1990. Among the congregation for the latter was the young Barack Obama, who was deeply moved. Obama took “The Audacity of Hope” as the theme of his 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address, and as the title of his 2006 book; he based his successful 2008 presidential campaign around the theme of “Hope”.”

Interesting.

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Poster for a Maine production.

The play also features music of the era.

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Here’s Mighty Lak a Rose in 1915.

For fun, here’s the Paul Robeson version:

 

And here is Slumber Boat. 

 

And finally here is At Twilight (music only):

 

 

You probably noticed Ethelbert Nevin‘s name pop up a couple of times. It seems Grimké was a bit of a fangirl, as you may recall:

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In this book.

I’m guessing she meant The Rosary by Nevin. This singer was the guy Grimké had fallen in love with. And wow…he could do some damage with just a song. In fact, this song:

“taken a knife and run it all around and, in and out an old unhealed wound.”

Although it seems minor in biographies and such, it’s obvious that Grimké dug Nevin’s music or was at least fond enough of it to have some guy sing it to her and two put two songs in the play.

Another interesting aspect of the play is that it depicts the world of children well:

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Finally, we should see how the play ends…

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The play had a couple of performances in 1916…

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Via here.

The play was published in 1920 and that’s when it gained wider exposure.

Reviews were generally favorable, the main criticisms being that the character of Rachel is a bit extreme and also that the play appears to be promoting “race suicide” since Rachel seems to have given up on black and brown babies.

In fact, Grimké responded to her critics:

“Since it has been understood that ‘Rachel’ preaches race suicide, I would emphasize that that was not my intention. To the contrary, the appeal is not primarily to the colored people, but to the whites.”

She claimed her main purpose was to appeal to white women‘s sense of motherhood and that as mothers, these women would be sympathetic to the play.

Her subsidiary motive was to show white people the “best type of colored people.”

As for the story and characterization in the play, her argument is that Rachel learns or realizes the harsh truth facing African-Americans and has a breakdown “in mind and soul.”

On a rather random note, she even got fan mail from H.G. Wells. (yes, the War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, The Invisible Man and The Island of Doctor Moreau guy)

He wrote the play was “a most moving one that has stirred me profoundly.”

Grimké wrote a second play, Mara, which only exists in manuscript form. It has been reviewed extensively by writers who’ve gone through the Grimké papers at Howard University. I haven’t, so I can’t rightly analyze it. It is set in the South, maintains the theme of lynching but also has a very close daughter-father relationship. Some readers have said it is better than Rachel.

Since Hull’s rediscovery of Grimké’s works about 40 years ago, there has been much scholarship as well as several productions of Rachel. 

Grimké’s reputation and renown rest mostly on her incredible poetry, which I encourage you to seek out. It really is good. Here’s one of her more famous ones:

Tenebris

There is a tree, by day,

That, at night,

Has a shadow,

A hand huge and black,

With fingers long and black.

All through the dark,

Against the white man’s house,

In the little wind,

The black hand plucks and plucks

At the bricks.

The bricks are the color of blood and very small.

Is it a black hand,

Or is it a shadow?

We’ll see what we can cover in the link dump after this student video based on one of her poems:

Her life

(I used many of these in the research)

Hull’s groundbreaking book.

Honey’s excellent follow-up.

Beemyn’s smasterful study.

Her poems

57 poems right here.

Her short stories

The Closing Door

Collected writings

Her plays

Rachel, full text

History of the play.

Production at the University of Kansas.

Another review.

London production, 2014.

Review.

Brooklyn production

Review.

Review.

Review.

Another review.

Video about a Maine production.

Mara, and the difficulties of studying an unpublished work

Scholarly work

A good list of academic studies of Grimké’s work

Her family (use these as jumping off points for more study)

Her great-aunts Sarah and Sarah’s writing and Angelina and Angelina’s writing.

Her uncle and his writing.

Her mother and her writing.

Her father and his writing.

Her aunt (by marriage) and her writing.

Even her slave-owning great-grandfather’s writing .

A distant relative’s WordPress site.

BONUS POEM! Congratulations, you made it to the end of the longest post on this blog!!! You get a happy poem from Angelina Weld Grimké!!!

May

May, thou lovely month of spring!

As a fairy thou com’st dancing,

Sweetness rests upon thy brow,

Smiles upon thy face are glancing,

Angel hands have thee caressed,

Chirrup birds to thee in bowers,

Heaven thy gentle head hath blest;

Underneath thy quiet breast

Softly sleep thy tender flowers.

Every day thou smilest brightly,

Till thou seest has come thy day,

Then, with longing eyes turned backward,

Sighing low, thou steal’st away.

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