Sunday, March 11, 2007

Aristotle and Campbell don't always apply

Advice from Jeff: "The women writers have to break through to the women who are stars and have them advocate their work. Don't go through agents if you can help it. If a star goes to a non-profit and says, "I want to do this play," the play will get done"

Re: Drama as a hero's Journey: Aristotle and Campbell don't always apply

Notice that even the Greeks and Shakespeare do not stick to the Aristotle and Campbell "hero's journey" model. Trojan Women? Seven Against Thebes? Hyppolytus? -- even Antigone.... Who's the hero of Julius Caesar? of Henry IV? Of Merchant of Venice? of Much Ado? Beatrice and Benedict are the comic subplot....

The Shakespearean large cast multi-generation upstairs/downstairs model is my ideal for a full length. Except that for me most of the "default characters" -- the ones whose gender is not part of the plot, like doctors, clerks, customer service people, bosses or underlings, family friends and relations-- these people who in
Shakespeare's day would be uniformly male and which result in a 9-1 male gender split in his large casts-- are generally female. Most of my plays split 3-2 female. This means of course that even if a company that specializes in large cast "classic" plays were willing to take the risk of mounting a modern one, they would have to go
outside the company to cast one of mine. There wouldn't be enough women members in such a company. Though there are more women in the acting profession than men, they are competing for fewer roles. My goal, to which I don't seem to be getting closer, is to become just barely enough of a name-recognition writer that universities and community theatres, which are always in need of plays with extra parts for women, will consider producing mine.

T D wrote on March 11: "If Geralyn's contention is true, that we can sniff out feminine writing by the use of "the" versus "a", how easy would it be to detect -- and reject -- a different way of telling a story, even if differences are in shades rather than complete tonal shifts?"

I reply: I never said that "we" can spot feminine writing by the use of "the" versus "a" -- that's what a computer program came up with, and only a computer can do it, and that with only about 90% accuracy. The rest of us, me included, can't usually tell whether something was written by a male or female-- we just make assumptions
based on the kind of story and the central characters. Our accuracy when under a pseudonym a man writes a "chick" story or a woman writes sci-fi or a mystery is around the chance level. We think we can tell, but really we can't!
The women-written plays from my writer's group that were rejected on a blind-read by the male critic panel all had juicy roles for women in them. As an actress, I'm aware: I've sat through the winners of a 10 minute play contest and noticed that an hour of performance can go by without a single role in any of them that a good actress would want to play. Whatever criteria the judges had in mind, they
certainly didn't include: "Would Meryl Streep agree to be in this piece?" For me, "Meryl Streep's in it" has always been reason enough to go see something.

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