Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

Mary Pix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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They don’t look cruel. Via this cool site.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HIGHLIGHTS

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

AMURAT

Oh Solyman! forgive the frailty of your Friend,

Forgive the follies that Imperious love creates,

Here the Mufti writes, that on earnest business

He craves my presence, if he hath discover’d

The Adoration that I pay his beauteous Daughter,

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

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

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

And let me die, rather than forfeit her obedience.

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

SHEKER

Gone! O Devil!

Keep down, thou swelling Heart!

Or higher rise, that I may tear

Thee with my teeth! Mirva!

Break all the flattering Mirrors!

Let me ne’er behold this rejected Face again!

Have I seen Scepter’d Slaves kneeling

At my feet, forgetting they were Kings,

Forgetful of their Gods, calling alone on me;

Passing whole days and hours as if measur’d

With a Moments Sand, and now refus’d

By a Curst Beardless Boy! my Arms too

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

The Joys of Love are double, when our

Sex desires) heedless and cold he flew

From my Embrace; swift as I will do

To form his ruine—Achmet! I come!

‘Tis he must raise this raging Tempest higher,

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

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

IBRAHIM

Traytors are ever loud—

And to colour their own detested sin

Rebellion; with impudence, and calumnies

Bespatter the Throne, they dare attack.

SOLYMAN

Was there a Slave throughout thy wide

Dominions, whom blind fate had cursed

With Wealth: His forfeit—Head

Pay’d for his crime: Whilst his extorted

Treasure fill’d thy coffers, and supply’d

New Luxury. Did vertue Reign in

Any Man, a life Austere; or active Valour

Like our great Progenitors: Strait you,

And your Minious thought, this lookt

With a Reflecting Eye on your Debauches:

Dispatch’d the pious Wretch, and sent him

To his Friends above; then Women

You monopoliz’d—let her be Wife

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

Witness your Armenian Mistress; all serv’d

As fuel to that consuming fire your Lust;

Nay, even the Relique of our late glorious

Emperour, was not free from your Attempt,

But that her Lion Resolution made your

Coward Heart shrink back.

IBRAHIM

What!—ho!—

Is there none to secure this Traitor?

SOLYMAN

I tell thee, Lost degenerate King,

There’s not a Soul will move a Tongue

Or Finger, in thy Defence; thou standst

Forsook by Heaven, and Human Aid—

Think now upon the fair Morena!

And if thy heart of Adamant unmov’d

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

So punish’d her spotless Innocence: What

Horrours must remain for thee; who bend’st

Beneath the weight of thousand thousand Ills?

IBRAHIM

Come on, thou Rebel!—

No Souldier sure thou art!

Thy Tongue’s thy sharpest Weapon—yet

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

Foremost of my Royal Race; thy Ignoble

Tomb must blush to hold thee, the name of Rebel

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

Detest’d, to the honest World; as thou

Hast Represented mine!

SOLYMAN

My injur’d Friend, and that unhappy Beauty

Whom thy Lust hast ruin’d, gives Iustice to

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

Fight.

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

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

LOWLIGHTS

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

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

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

OTHERLIGHTS

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

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

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

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

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From a USC production in 2001. Via here.

HIGHLIGHTS

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

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

SIR FRANCIS

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

SEARCHWELL

Sir, he’s here.

ENTER BEAUMONT.

SIR FRANCIS

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

BEAUMONT

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

SIR FRANCIS

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

BEAUMONT

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

SIR FRANCIS

Not much in troth.

BEAUMONT

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

SIR FRANCIS

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

BEAUMONT

These are Monsters sure.

SIR FRANCIS

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

BEAUMONT

This I shou’d hate for Ingratitude.

SIR FRANCIS

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

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That Bristol Old Vic production via here.

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

MRS. FLYWIFE

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

MR, FLYWIFE

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

MRS. FLYWIFE

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

FLYWIFE

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

MRS. FLYWIFE

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

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

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

LADY BEAUCLAIR.

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

Leaps, and catches hold of her.

SIR CHARLES

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

LADY BEAUCLAIR

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

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

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

LOWLIGHTS

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

OTHERLIGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Plays

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

The Spanish Wives (1696) full online text

A Printer’s Dilemma

The Innocent Mistress (1697) full online text

Cast from a 1983 production

Review of a 1997 production

Blog post from 2006

Another blog post from 2006

Review of a 2014 production at the Old Vic school

Another review of ditto

Some drama school production with Pachelbel

The Deceiver Deceived (1697) full online text

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

Interesting essay about said play.

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

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

Production from 1995

Review from 1996

Staged reading from 2016

Production from 2018

Review of said production

Female relationships in said play

Several trailers for a 2008 production

Trailer for a renamed version in Shakespeare’s hometown

The Double Distress (1701) for sale here

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Playwright

Entry in the DNB

Blog from 2006

Hype from the RSC

A little Q & A

 

Current Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Andy Rassler

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

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Andy Rassler, our playwriting hero.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a choice moment:

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

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Ker-plunk! From YouthPlays.

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

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

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

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It’s “the other!!!” Via YouthPlays.

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

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“Jacked-up” is right.

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

Here’s another:

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

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

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

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Rehearsal time for Clothes-minded.

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

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

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

And then (gasp!) tragedy happens.

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

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They turn on their own, via YouthPlays.

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

How did you start playwriting?  

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

What are your influences?

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

What is your most memorable production and why?

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

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

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

What’s your funniest theatre story?

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

What are your writing habits like?

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

What advice do you have for new playwrights?

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

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

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

What are common themes in your work?

Handicapped people, outcasts, people on the fringe.

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

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

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

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

Please describe the process that created Clothes-minded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question: What is your ultimate goal as a writer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Andy’s personal website is here.  

Another profile of Andy from this year.

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

Thanks Andy!

 

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.
Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: American Klepto by Allison Moore

Hello, hello, hello!!!

Why didn’t anyone tell me there was a play called American Klepto???

This play is basically a monologue and was written by the prolific Allison Moore.

The synopsis itself is hilarious:

“A woman goes to great lengths to defend her theft of a federally-protected piece of petrified wood.”

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It’s worth over 100 bucks.

The play has been performed in the US states of Kentucky and Arkansas.

Several of the actors have chosen different sections of the script…

Let’s check out our American kleptos!!!

A

 

B

 

C

 

D

 

Who was the most self-justifiably stealingest????

Join us on Thursday when we profile a really awesome modern-day playwright and next Monday when we’ll have a Valentine’s Day monologue…

For a complete list of monologues, please click here.

Current Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Makrenna Sterdan

ANGELA: I made a mistake.
GABE: A big mistake or a small—
ANGELA: Big one.
GABE: Doubt it.
ANGELA: A huge mistake! Ginormous even!
GABE: Now you have to tell me.
ANGELA: (takes a deep breath) I made a deal with the devil and now she’s slowly feeding my soul to a horde of monsters.
GABE: That…sucks.

Unlike her relatable, yet flawed, characters, Makrenna Sterdan’s plays don’t make many mistakes.

In addition to directing, acting and plawriting, Makrenna is a full-time teacher and is also involved in filmmaking. This post will focus on her plays…

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Winnipeg’s playwriting hero, Makrenna Sterdan!!!!

What Would Tina Fey Do? takes its title from a supposed Christian saying that became popular in the 90s and transposing it onto American actress, comedian, writer, producer, and playwright Tina Fey.

Nora is dealing with a difficult actor and turns to her Lord and personal savior, Tina Fey. The play is short enough we can read the whole dang thing:

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Aside from the fact Nora has pretty much pegged this dude’s MO: Use a woman’s interest in a project to seduce her. Oh and the “nice guy” thing? It’s not very nice.

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Etsy has all your What Would Tina Fey Do? prop needs.
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Etsy even has muffins.

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In case you didn’t notice, Nora is referencing Fey’s appearence on Saturday Night Live in 2017.

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Good for Nora and an interesting treatise on the benefits and dangers of celebrity worship and projecting our lives and problems onto someone who has no vested interest in our lives.

Makrenna’s next short play, Geese, shows us what happens when the bridegroom and the bride’s brother/best man get trapped by a bunch of…geese…at a golf rental store.

The duo strategize…

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“Just a little bit.” But Tristan doesn’t want to hurt the poor Canada geese.

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Aww, it’s a family.

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See, he has to put his hand in his pant pocket because the tuxedo pocket is faker than Lindsay Graham’s smile.

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When it’s your special day and both your fiancé and brother agree functional pockets are better than you.

 

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Polish poster of The Birds.

And thus we are left with an ambiguous ending. Do Tristan and Ben win? Or do the Canada Geese? Or perhaps the bride?

Makrenna’s next take on society is Doing it for the Fame (the same reason I write this blog).

The play is about a game show featuring domestic violence accusers. It’s funnier than it sounds.

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They’re for real. And I learned I can put GIFs on here.
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Another option.

 

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This is a randomizing wheel. And a GIF.
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Names out of a hat. Not a GIF.

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Does he still count as a TV actor?

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It’s a laser pistol, but will it fit in your fallopian tubes?

I like the flexibility Sterdan gives the theatremakers.

In truth the reason could easily be a blend of several.

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Christmas. Definitely Christmas.

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At the end, the answers are htting the nail on the head. These are commonreasons given by victims of domestic abuse. Don’t believe me? Check out Surviving R. Kelly .

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When you google “hamster woman.”

I like that the play/game ends on a positive note.

Our final Sterdan masterpiece is The Iceberg. It’s the play the opening lines of this blog came from. It is also the longest play we’ll go over, clocking in at nearly 50 glorious pages of a coffee shop, some soul-selling and Lilith. And in a kinda postmodern way – there’s more to the story than is apparent.

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Ya gotta admit, it is a pretty cool poster. Winnioeg Fringe, 2014.

Gabe goes to a coffee shop that’s full of…monsters. He’s none too happy about this. Oh, and Angela is responsible for said monsters.

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Gee, Gabe. Don’t pry.

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Promotional still set from The Iceberg. I wonder which one is Lilith. Photos by Adriana Kollar.

Meanwhile, the gang run into Lilith who is in charge of the monsters and everything but isn’t really Satan. Angela and Gabe try…

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I don’t see that triple-layered dialogue all too often. Interesting conflict here, since Gabe and Angela want opposite sides of what is basically the same deal.

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More than meets the eye here. screen shot 2019-01-18 at 1.44.44 pm

Hey! It’s the first lines of this blog and also a very common, if successful, trope.

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Supposedly this dude sold his soul to the devil, but his greatest crime was doing it in Latin.

And…as Lilith continually points out, she is not the devil. Though she has been mentioned on this blog previously.

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Pictured: not the devil.

 

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His poetry lacks subtext.

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Angela does a lot of flashing back – and this is where the deal kinda gets made.

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Who doesn’t want to light things on fire? And Lilith was being coy with whole “I don’t want nothing” line…

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Makes friends easily.

Angela explains the monsters’ origin – after she had sold her soul to Lilith.

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Thanatos: ancient Greek personification of death. Makes friends easily.

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Yes, often people create their own problems.

And it all wraps up with Lilith finding peace and Angela finding possible love. Did I not mention this is a romantic comedy? Albeit one with soul-selling, a Babylonian mythological creature and a dude who just wanted some coffee.

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She should be a barista. Makrenna was nice enough to answer some questions about herself and her work:

  1. How did you start playwriting?  
Although I’ve always had an interest in writing, I transitioned into playwriting naturally during junior high. I took my first drama class in Grade 7, which is when we started writing scenes. I continued writing throughout high school before deciding to pursue playwriting seriously by studying it in University, and producing my first show in 2012.
 
2. What are your influences?
Hmmmmmm . . . the two main artists who’ve influenced my work are Tom Stoppard and Tina Fey. I love how Tom Stoppard has the amazing ability to integrate philosophy into his plays, along with witty dialogue. I admire Tina Fey for her ability to make comedic stories that deal with serious issues.
3. What is your most memorable production and why?  
My most memorable production would have to be one I had the honour of directing. The play was “A Case of Anxiety” by Mark Harvey Levine which I directed for Seoul Players’ 2017 Ten Minute Play Festival. I loved directing this show because the script was amazing, and the cast was as well. For a cast of seven who had a fight scene (along with extensive physicality) to choreograph, I felt like we bonded very well and worked very cohesively as a group. During one of the performances, the final fight scene was off. Of course, I was the only one who noticed, because they improvised the scene brilliantly. Whenever I direct a cast, or commit to doing a theatre production with others, I always strive for this level of cohesion. “A Case of Anxiety” really raised to bar for me and showed how great working on a theatre project can be.
4. What is your least memorable production and why?
My least memorable production would have to be my first show. I produced a one woman show for the Winnipeg Fringe Festival in 2012 called The Death Test. It was my first go at a theatre show, and from a technical standpoint it went well. From an artistic standpoint, I felt a bit empty because I immediately knew the show could have been better. I had written and performed the show by myself, but I knew to make real art I needed a broader community, with more collaboration. After that, I put a greater effort into working with other theatre artists.
5. What’s your funniest theatre story?   
Well . . . it was actually during a rehearsal for “A Case of Anxiety”. I was terrified during our fight scene because we had wooden swords and there was a lot of running around. I was worried someone was going to get hurt, so I kept telling everyone to be careful, and I think they might have been a bit annoyed by it. But, of course, when I was filling in for one of the actors who was missing, I was the one to (accidentally) hit my then-boyfriend with one of the wooden swords.
He wasn’t even in the show—he just came to rehearsal to help out.
6. What are your writing habits like?   
I am a huge Netflix addict, so often when I write I have a television show on in the background for at least the first hour. Of course, I also need to make time to write, which at times can be difficult. But oftentimes after finishing work, or a volunteer shift, I have a lot of mental stimulation which I then reroute into writing.
7. What advice do you have for new playwrights?  
When you have writer’s block, just keep writing. I often find for myself that writer’s block is just the absence of good ideas, not necessarily ideas. Just get the writing done, and worry if it’s good with the next draft.
8. Who are some other writers you feel should get more attention? 
There are a couple Canadian playwrights who I would recommend. Norm Foster is an excellent comedy writer, and I immensely enjoyed the opportunity to direct his My Darling Judith. Joanna Glass is also a very interesting writer, who I feel really captures themes prevalent in Canadian literature.
9. What are common themes in your work?  
I find feminist themes are something I keep going back to, and usually with humour or satire. I just find some things I read in the news completely nonsensical, and I write work to reflect how nonsensical it is. I also enjoy throwing in a good dash of mythology and magic realism, just to keep things interesting.
10. What is one thing you wished you knew now, that you didn’t know starting out? 
I wished that I had collaborated more with other writers and theatre professionals when I was just starting out. I didn’t know how to reach out to others, though, so I mostly just wrote alone in my room. Theatre got so much better when I started directing and participating in theatre productions in other capacities because it helped me meet other artists.
11. How does your experience as a theatre director inform your writing?
Theatre, film, and art in general is a collaborative process. When I work as a director, I use my playwriting experience to interpret the script. When I write a script, I use my directing experience to inform the writing. Since I know what a director is looking for, and how certain things might be interpreted, I try as much as possible to put those sorts of things into the scripts I write. Another thing directing has taught me is how to let the script go. Putting your script into the hands of a director can be one of the most difficult parts of playwriting—but it’s necessary. Theatre is collaborative. Having directed, I know what aspects of a script are my responsibility to write, and what aspects I need to let the director handle. Directing has opened my eyes to the collaborative nature of theatre, and how the story isn’t the sole responsibility of the playwright—directors, actors, stage managers, lighting designers, costume designers, everybody contributes to the art in a performance. Working with others is what makes art beautiful. Stressful at times. But beautiful and worth doing in the long run.
12. You’re the second playwright on this blog who has mentioned Lilith in a play. What does Lilith bring to the table?
Lilith appears in “The Iceberg”, where throughout you’re not sure if she’s actually the devil or not. Lilith was the perfect name because, depending on the legend, she’s either a demon of the night, or in others she’s just someone who refused to be subservient to a man. She plays different roles depending on whether you look at religion, mythology, literature, etc. For the practicality of the play, I chose the name Lilith to be misleading. She’s definitely one of the most interesting mythological characters.
13.  Iceberg started as a short and is now a longer one act. What advice would you give playwrights who want to expand short pieces?
The main thing is to think about why you’re expanding it. Some stories are only meant to be five minutes, others are meant to be two acts. Similarly, some stories are meant to be plays, some are meant to be novels or movies, and flipping between mediums and lengths requires understanding what the new form will bring to the table. For example, a shorter form is great to deliver a message, while a longer form gives a chance to look at characters in depth. If you want to expand a piece, then there should be something more to explore.
14.  Where did you get the idea for a game show about domestic violence?
I wrote “Doing It for the Fame”, the game show piece in question, for a specific opportunity. It was for the 2016 Cabaret of Monologues by Sarasvati Productions. The prompt was “Stolen Sisters”, and they were looking for pieces on violence against women. At the time, in Canada, the big news was the Jian Ghomeshi trial that was going to happen in 2016. He was charged with sexually assaulting several women. There was a large group of people who strongly stated that they believed the women. Then, there was also a large group pushing back and saying the women were just “doing it for the fame.” So, I knew I wanted to address the issue women face with believability when they go to trial. I didn’t know which angle to take, though. Some time passed, and I was just listening to music when Lady Gaga’s “Doing It for the Fame” came on. I was inspired. The chorus sounded like an opening theme to a game show! And the perfect title for the monologue. So that was the long process that culminated in a satirical game show that addresses domestic violence, and several of the issues I noticed especially with the lead up to Jian Ghomeshi’s trial.
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Jian Ghomeshi, guilty of…being a creep?
15.  What’s a question you’d like to be asked? Go ahead and answer that question. 
What’s the next project you’re working on?
Red Lips Productions will have a show in the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. For this show, I’ll be writing a comedic zombie one-act. If you’re in Winnipeg, stay tuned for more details!
Thanks for chatting, Makrenna!
Here are all our other playwrights.
Here are some links related to Ms. Sterdan and her work: