Friday, June 30, 2006

TGIF -- doggone it!

Friday-- the last full day of Dog Walking. Wake, take boarding dogs out, feed them, feed cat and rabbit, self and husband, check am email, slather on sunscreen and climb into the Doggiemobile to pick up the pack. Exertize with the play group, then return each furry client to its own home and head out to visit the canine invalid who limps from his cage for a short solo walk. Home to tidy up and finish the remaining email. Change into tennis togs, take the boarders out to the park for a quick pee or poo. Drive to courts, warm up for the Round Robin and play 2 sets of regular doubles then 3 sets of 5-game sudden death Advanced doubles. A nice breeze , shady court, feeling good, playing well although not at the very top of my game. I'm tired when I lose the last game and head for home-- but nothing really hurts and I feel very good about that. Gather up the visiting dogs for a last wall and supper. When I get back DAvid's gaming friends have gathered for their usual Friday GURPS session, which hasn't been meeting at our apartment recently but is here tonight. They decide to order Chinese takeout, and I happily join the order. No cooking tonight! I go to the computer to continue with the on-line board meeting for the International Women Playwrights, hoping that the rest of the reports have been posted to be discussed or voted on-- but a few are still missing. That means the meeting will carry over at least till tomorrow, when I won't be able to participate. David and I will be driving to Western Mass. Try to go to bed early to get enough sleep before the trip, but an seduced by the 2nd half of a PBS Miss Marple and some of Bill Moyers NOW on faith and Atheism with Mary Gorden and a philosopher.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Men Choose, Women Lose, part 64

Fellow women playwrights complaining about another short play contest that chose all male-written plays for their festival schedule-- for the 2nd year in a row. One writer suggested that they had all male readers doing the selecting. I replied:
Women don't, statistically, favor women-- but men do favor men. Somebody recently did a study analyzing book reviewers "top ten of the year" lists. Typically, female reviewers picked lists that contained half novels written by women and half written by men. The male reviewers skewed heavily male-- and many of them didn't name a single woman-written book among the "best 10"! Many male reviewers also admitted that they NEVER-- since college assignments-- read a book written by a woman unless it was assigned to them for review!
Many women-headed theatres pick all-male seasons.
One year my writers' group decided to ask a pair of local (male) critics to choose scripts for the festival from the finalists chosen by the groups reading committee-- the notion was that experts could be more objective than colleagues. They were given 20 scripts-- from which they unerringly picked the 10 written by men as clearly superior!
That outcome was unacceptable, so the next year we went back to a mixed-sex in house reading committee. Most years-- this year, for instance-- we produce a lineup that's close to evenly balanced.
And here's a British survey reported in the Guardian
April 30, 2006
When Lisa Jardine and Annie Watkins asked hundreds of British female academics, teachers, writers, publishers and literature students what book had changed their lives, many respondents wondered whether there would be a male version of the survey as well. Jardine and Watkins complied: The results were fascinating in their own right, and more intriguing when juxtaposed with the findings for women. Not only did men and women find different books to be meaningful, but they approached reading in divergent ways.
Men's Fiction
Top Five
1. "The Outsider," Albert Camus
2. "Catcher in the Rye," J.D. Salinger
3. "Slaughterhouse Five," Kurt Vonnegut
4. (tie) "One Hundred Years of Solitude," Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"The Hobbit" J.R.R. Tolkien
5. "Catch-22," Joseph Heller

Women's Fiction
Top Five
1. "Jane Eyre," Charlotte Bronte
2. "Wuthering Heights," Emily Bronte
3. "The Handmaid's Tale," Margaret Atwood
4. "Middlemarch," George Eliot
5. (tie) "Pride and Prejudice," Jane Austen
"Beloved," Toni Morrison

Other findings:
• No male authors made the women's top five, and no female authors made the men's top five.
• Only four books made both top 20 lists.
• Six male authors broke the women's top 20, but only one book by a female author made the men's top 20: "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee.
• Older men were more likely to cite female authors as influential.
• Men were most likely to have read their formative books as adolescents.
• Women were more likely to read books to cope with difficult times.
• Men were more likely to cite particular authors as "mentors," particularly, among these British residents, George Orwell.
• Women liked shared, hand-me-down books; men liked new books and hardbacks.
• Women had a more diverse list of favorites — 400 women named 200 books.
• Men answered the question of what book marked a watershed moment more reluctantly than women.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I was on a Technology for the Arts panel at U Mass Saturday before last talking about web sites, and another panelist was from I had heard of it-- a web site (and a person, I think) designed to match presenters such as storytellers, dance, music, and theatre to schools and clubs etc who might be looking to book them. I was afraid that it was a scam, or a waste of time-- but I'm now convinced that it is legit, and might even work. A foundation funded it, working with the New England Arts Councils; and the designers spent 3 years (!?!) working out the system/software. They've "seeded" the site with the 800 touring outfits that have been vetted by the education systems or Arts Councils of the New England states, and then opened it up to other, independent, artists. It has only been up and running for a few months, but is beginning to work, the panelist said. I've going to put myself and Joan Faber in Rosanna Alfaro's "Martha Mitchell Musical" on the Matchbook site as available for touring, linking to the Martha web site; and if I can figure out some way of offering my own stuff, I'll do that, too. I think other New England writer/performers (Carolyn Gage?) should consider using it. It is free! (there's a charge for adding streaming video....)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Catch Up or Give Up

It's been a long time since I posted. I have "blogged" on my laptop, or made notes for blogging, but been blocked somehow, in writing projects generally. I'm going to see how difficult it is to catch up, posting backward from June to May, and then either post a few times per week or abandon the whole idea.
I see that my formidable friend and fellow playwright Linda Eisenstein has begun to blog-- maybe she'll be an inspiration. Although she seems to me to have twice my energy generally. There's a problem with the shape of my days. I get up, feed Alice the cat, join my daughter for some yoga-based stretching and a quick perusal of the Boston Globe, return to my study and read and answer email, check the Huffington Post and my favorite political blogs-- and whoosh! The potentially most productive hours of my day are over! Today I have a dog walk to do and an evening brush-up rehearsal for Martha Mitchell. And it is almost time to turn my attention to that. Not the way to use precious time. When I think of the hours I 've frittered away obsessing about Karl Rove and Plamegate!
Alexander Cockburn takes people like me to the woodshed in the current (July 3) Nation:
".... Rove and Cheney.... have driven George Bush into the lowest ratings of any American President. Yet the left remains obsessed with their evil powers. Is there any better testimony to the vacuity and impotence of the endlessly touted "blogosphere,"...?
In political terms the blogosphere is like white noise, insistent and meaningless. ....
Beyond raising money swiftly handed over to the gratified veterans of the election industry, both MoveOn and Daily Kos have had zero political effect, except as a demobilizing force. The effect on writers is horrifying. Talented people feel they have to produce 400 words of commentary every day, and you can see the lethal consequences on their minds and style, which turn rapidly to slush. They glance at the New York Times and rush to their laptops to rewrite what they just read. Hawsers to reality soon fray and they float off, drifting zeppelins of inanity."
Though I seldom comment on the political blogs--- why me, amonst so many?--I do often reply to Theatre mailing list posts.
Today I chimed in on a discussion about the formatting of play scripts. A literary manager said to us playwrights on the list:
"Frankly, I find "cute", "alternative" or "funky" formatting layout techniques in stage plays amateurish, arrogant, and patronizing---not to mention showing that the playwright doesn't take the craft of playwriting seriously....."
To which I replied:
If you can afford the postage, send your funky format plays to theatres in the UK which do not share the US prejudice in favor of "professional" format. Some of the more notorious of them may even be said to have a bias towards plays that lay out the words as if they were poetry-- and an even greater bias towards scripts where the words Are poetry. When you hand over a pound or two for a photocopy of a play script in the lobby of an originating theatre in London, it is more likely to look like the MS of The Waste Land than like a product of Final Draft. I have a friend who brings back scripts by the dozen every year. Some of them don't even indicate who is speaking! I read the ones she recommends, and sometimes I get hopelessly lost and have to call her and say: "What's so great about that play you gave me? It's all in some patois, no stage directions, I can't figure out what's going on!" And she'll say-- "The scene in the middle where the epileptic son slaps his mother and then collapses... the audience was stunned, and in tears...". So I'll try to find that scene, and imagine it, and work backwards to figure out the relationships and actions and forward to the resolution. It's hard work! But then, so is figuring out what the hell is going on in The Waste Land. (without all the tacked-on tongue-in-cheek footnotes)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Tuesday June 20th -- Audition!

This am I went to the annual StageSource cattle call. SS members sign up for a 2 min slot to do "2 contrasting pieces" for gathered local producers/directors. I've been doing this since the first year it happened, I think-- whenever that was. Even if nobody is likely to cast me, I think it is a Good Idea. If I am going to write for actors and opine about plays and acting, I ought to get out there on stage and expose myself. There's no credential that's a substitute for showing your chops. Fortunately this year I have had some roles, the productions were recent, and performance-level material in my memory cuts down on the preparation time. But among other things I'm proving that I still have a memory! I did the quadripelegic Wife (Lady Margaret Tebbit) from "Talking to Terrorists", which has Zero movement; and I Never Stop Talking from Martha Mitchell, that has a snippet of a song and a little bit of dance in it. How's that for contrast?
When we were lining up to go onto the audition stage I was behind a Soprano and ahead of a child actor who looked to be about 11 or 12. When the kid went to sit down he accidentally sat down in the space between 2 chairs, landing on the floor and bumping the back of his head against the wall. He didn't cry, and refused help, but his eyes got red and a tear or two trickled out as he bravely insisted he was fine and would go on as scheduled. Already a trouper! If his talent is as big as his heart.....
Tonight was first brush-up for the Falmouth "Martha" on Sunday... just me with Joan on piano. It was fun doing it again. I love Joan.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Playwrights Platform Festival, B-day, gardening

Playwrights Platform Festival is on, my play is going well, I'm also a stagehand.
Thinking of Eliza as her birthday approaches. I miss her so much since she moved to England six or seven years ago. I fear will see less of each other as fuel and fares go up and the dollar drops.
Finally out digging and weeding, first sun in a month yesterday.
Last of Eliza's gold-hearted pink peonies-- saved from the bulldozer when her house in Brookline was sold to a developer-- is in bloom. Most were battered to oblivion by the incessant rain this year. I think I'll bring the last in to enjoy, just in case. Outside the flower is low down on the bush and back behind a tall lilly, and can't really be seen by a passer-by.

The director of Christmas At Grandma's has moved on to another project, and I couldn't resist giving notes last night-- although the cast in under no obligation to take them, of course. It's their show now.
If the audience is not laughing, don't worry. Play the real emotions and trust that that will be fine. They'll be smiling.
Really, only 3 things "happen" in the play. 1, For the 1st time, JJ resists going with her Mom. 2, Mom gives in to JJ's 1st objective-- to Not go. This is nicely underscored by JJ taking off her hat and jacket and doing a little joy-jump. It works. A nano-second to realize that things have changed and let it settle in with the audience is ok here, though. 3, JJ realizes that her "making an effort" with her difficult Gram means a lot to her mother, and decides that she Will go. This action kind of gets lost in the chaos. There are really 3 separate beats in JJ's one speech....
JJ (putting on hat and coat, getting backpack)
It’s all right, Mom. I can deal with it. At least for one more year. But I don’t see why it has to be Christmas! Next year can’t we just call her, and go vist some other time?

1, I will go Now. 2, I want a change next year. 3, new idea! can't we go another time? Take time for the actions, and everybody to react to the actions. I originally wrote in a physical underline of JJ putting hat and jacket back on and I think a JJ-initiated hug would also be great before moving on to the next beat. Maybe by now the two of you are so in tune that you think of singing "We Shall Overcome.." at the same time and do it together??? You are a team. Going forth to deal with Grandma, make the best of your heritage.
(As blocked, it looks to the audience as if you are settled into the sofa to all stay home together.)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Opening, Opinion, Immortality

On Jun 15 A wrote: - if you don't have the rights, you don't perform/produce the play. This is not about a technicality - this is the reality of copyright law.
My reply:
I just want to say--briefly, this is Opening Night for a short one act of mine, "Christmas at Grandma's" in the Playwrights Platform Festival at Boston (University) Playwrights Theatre and I haven't time for a long rant-- that this is Wrong. Copyright law should serve the Art and authors, and when it fails to do so breaching it is the ethical thing to do.
Under the "strict interpretation", a dictator can assume control of the state's publishing facilities and copyrights and forbid any production or publication of works found objectionable. This is not fantasy-- it has happened-- remember the Soviet Union? and it is happening now! In censoring regimes all over the world! In capitalist countries, a publisher can decide that an author's work is just not lucrative enough to bother with, and cease licensing productions. This, too, is a form of censorship. In this instance the work should revert to the author, or to the Public Domain-- but publishers are opposed to the Public Domain, b/c work freely available there is in competition with the work they control that earns them income. This does not serve the Art, or the Author, and civil disobedience is a Good Thing.
The characters and situations that come to life through a writer and collaborators are not commodities-- they are creations, things of the spirit. If true and beautiful they should flower across cultures and through the ages, and bestow on their author the reward all poets desire above wealth or power or even love-- Literary Immortality. Copyright law is at best a crutch to prop the writer up while s/he is doing the invaluable work-- it should never become a cage!

Opening for "Christmas" at the Platform was lovely. Friends in attendance, a couple who are great laughers. Their laughter lifted the actors and the stage was awash in delight. Things should always go so well.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

teching the Platform Fest, ready for week 2

I'm schlepping, spiking, and striking, for the 2nd set of short plays
Here's the PR release:
Our festival continues to delight. . .

Please join us Thursday, Friday and Saturday night for Series B of our 34th Annual Playwrights' Platform Annual Festival at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre!

Get your tickets at, or at the door - come early!

8:00 p.m., 949 Comm Ave., Boston, for directions go to

Please stay for the Awards Ceremony Sat. night at the close of show, share some refreshments and congratulate the winners of Audience Choice Award Series A & B - Playwrights' Choice Series A and B, and Best Actor Awards, Male and Female, Series A & B - the competition is stiff - the results will be exciting!

Series B, JUNE 15,16,17TH

THE CARPENTER by Sandy Burns
There are moments when an individual’s conscience is all that can keep a world from falling. Will the playwright’s conscience let him write a play for the government?

THE LITTLE DEATH by Peter M. Floyd
Young lovers Paul and Janie are eagerly anticipating their first night together, until an unexpected visitor arrives bearing news that threatens to bring their tryst to a screeching halt.

THE OFFER by Phyllis Rittner
When a young copywriter meets his potential boss at a trendy L.A. cafe, there's more on the menu than just his resume.

NEW DIGS by Kelly DuMar
His Mom cancelled his cell service and deleted his screen name, but his best friends never had a chance to say goodbye. Will visiting his grave help them to let go?


When Woody can't sit where he wants – as boxes of yet another failed business finally fill Woody & Joleyne's small home – can they look up to someone to get them out of their dire situation?

DARK RETREAT by Christopher King
When a reporter comes to interview a poet and political refugee who has become famous for meditating in a totally dark chamber he gets more than he has bargained for.

Grandma's a pill! But maybe her family has to take her as she is if they hope to understand each other.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

presenting at TECH conference at U Mass

I am assembling materials to talk about Net Visibility for Artists and arts Orgs: show off my web site. Probably won't mention this Blog-- as far as I know, it is close to INvisible.......
a note from the Organizers

From: Organizers' Collaborative
Subject: Info for Grassroots Use of TECH Attendees
Dear Conference Attendee:
You are currently
signed up as a presenter at the June 17
We are very excited that everything is coming together.
Our organizers, Stu, Muadi, Anne and Emily have made sure that
all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed, so the Grassroots Use of
Technology conference is shaping up to be the best one ever!
Thanks again to our sponsors, especially our Gold sponsors
TechFoundation, Democracy In Action, and O'Reilly & Associates.

* If you have a laptop, Bring IT! Several workshops will ask participants
to try something online during the session. If you have a laptop you can
use it to add notes from the workshops you attend to a shared web site.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Volunteering services during Sabbatical?

My church has a committee set up to decide on worship services while the minister is on his upcoming Sabbatical. I wrote and offered whatever it is I do or have done.......

I should have sent this last week, but This is Playwrights Platform's summer Festival time, and I'm over my ears in Production....

When I was at Arlington St. Church I was very active in Worship Committee and the Poetry & Plays group, especially for summer services and during the 3 years the congregation was without a minister. I "produced" dozens of services, most of them with some dramatic elements. I recruited 2-20 people to participate, usually enlisting choir or folk musicians--- though sometimes the whole thing was committee-created by 3-5 people. We also had a kind of Saturday Night Live troupe that did political satire, but I was merely an actor in those pieces. I love doing Church/Theatre work, and would be happy to revive old pieces or create new ones if the congregation has an interest in this sort of thing.

(My MA from Goddard is in Feminist Spirituality)

I did chancel drama at ASC, some as Reader's theatre, some memorized
Murder In the Cathedral, The Waste Land, Four Quartets - Elliot
Spoon River Anthology -- Masters
JB - Macleash's Job
GB Shaw -- Adventures of the Black Girl In Search of God (Adapted)
Major Barbara (scenes)
St. Joan (scenes)
Man and Superman (scenes)
Trial scene from Madwoman

Plays from The Mystery Cycles
Creation and The Fall
Cain and Able
Noah and the Flood (with the Sunday School)
Joseph's Trouble Over Mary
Herod & the Massacre of the Innocents
1st & 2nd Shepard's Plays
Judgement Day

I wrote bio-semi-dramas:
Wm Ellery Channing
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
The Alcotts
Victoria Woodhull
Margaret Fuller
Snapshots of Unitarianism at a particular time; with sermon snips, hymns, sketches of notables

Presented Poets-- those whose poems have been set and used in UU services...
et al -- Plath, Emerson, Rich......

Did seasonal celebrations:
Solstice (s)
The White Goddess
Mothers' Day
Halloween/All Saints/ Day of the Dead
Masks and Comedia archetypes

The other thing I thought I'd mention is that I am Generation 3 of a 5 generation Unitarian family, and can describe what it is like growing up and through Dedcation-Sunday School- Youth Group- Jr & Senior Choir (in Toledo Ohio, various Fellowships, Kansas City Mo Church) ----and then watching kids and Grandkids do it in the home territory of The Boston Religion.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Women Relegated to Silence

A woman playwright complains:
All white men season at The Roundabout.
Same thing is supposedly happening in Cleveland with a woman artistic director at Dobama. Two other women directors at another theater have done Neil LaBute regularly but no women.
I think it is time to start screaming in print and boycotting seasons. We sometimes feel odd saying these things as women playwrights, but we know subscribers at these theatre and they should be told.
I chime in:
Boston too is swamped in women-free seasons. I just boycotted the Playwrights Marathon, b/c I couldn't bring myself to buy a ticket to a 10 minute play festival in which women were less than 1 in 4 of the 51 writers chosen. I'm withdrawing my "Consent of the governed". I want my money back from the O'Neill! One American woman out of 8??!!! We should all make a stink. But we won't, because it is an Admirable Cause, a Fair process, with Blind Readers, and therefore there must be something wrong with Us-- women just haven't got what it takes to be worth attention and support and nurture. We must reconcile ourselves to our natural position, which is to be the givers of attention and support and nurture. God forbid that we should be Shrill or Whine. We should be Ashamed of ourselves.
I think it is probably an unconscious process-- as violence replaces negotiation in our public discourse, we women lose our (always tenuous) claims to expertise and authority. The longer we are "at war", the more women will be silent-- or silenced. What is happening to us is the mirror of what is happening to women in Iraq and Afghanistan (and now in Mogadishu?). When might makes right, our only claim to attention is as victims--- preferably silent dead ones, whose blood cries out for vengeance.
I don't think we can change this, but we can at least point out that it is happening-- if we are loud enough and if we are shameless.

Friday, June 09, 2006

From My InBox

On Jun 9, 2006, ss wrote:

hello MR.HORTON... im from bangalore
india, and i read ur play under siege... i thought it
was an amazing play... one of the best iv read till
now indeed.. im heading an amateur theatre out here
and we were on the look out for a good thriller... can
i please get the act 2 of under siege.. im and
independent artist and have no funds... it would be
really kind of u too send me the act 2... hoping u
would do the same... thanks alot sir..

My reply:
here is the script for Under Siege attached.
I'm a woman-- a grandmother, actually.
Please let me know details if you decide you want to perform my play. It is very exciting for me when my work is on stage in a distant land! I would want to boast about it to my colleagues, and advertise it on my web site.
So far, this play has been done in South Africa, Russia, -- and one other distant place that I forget and would have to look up.
Best wishes,

Sunday, June 04, 2006

To the Vet Again, caring for the invalid

Alice wasn't better, so Friday it was off to Dr. Singh in Nonantum. He gives her a shot of cat pennicillin, and prescribes it in pill form along with an appetite stimulant and continuing eye dropper hydration. If this doesn't work the next step is blood work and Xrays and all the heroic measures I'm not comfortable about providing for cats in a world where children lack food and basic care. But she's family, dammit! Our darling, who trusts us to care for her. The good news is that other than whatever it is that has made her so ill, Alice is in great shape for an 8 year old cat. Better news is that by Saturday she is perking up, Sunday she begins to eat and drink on her own! We're doing a little joy dance.....