Thursday, August 31, 2006

MSNBC's Olbermann on speaking truth to power

MSNBC's Olbermann on speaking truth to power

"It demands the deep analysis—and the sober contemplation—of every American.

For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence - indeed, the loyalty—of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land;

Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants - our employees—with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom;

And not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as “his” troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.

It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile… it is right—and the power to which it speaks, is wrong."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Q & A re: selection committees

Aug 29 andswer to query:

I need to find out if anyone has been on a committee for reading scripts for production as in 10 minute play festivals.

How many people usually read the submissions?

Are they submitted without the writers names on them?
either, depending on rules

Do the jurors have a list of qualifications to go by?
sometimes, sometimes not. Producing bodies are more likely to have rules than simple contests. Jurors may be instructed to reject plays that are too long, large cast, racist, sexist, profane, whatever.

How can the readers be totally objective?
they can't. warning: women are more likely to appreciate male-oriented plays than vice-versa
Now that I see that you are choosing from a specific group....
Why not let the group itself-- plus any actors or directors who have read the plays during the workshop-- pick which ones are to be "shown off" and represent the class's accomplishment?
By the end of the session, they should be the experts on their own stuff.
Not that this is "objective" either. My own writers' group voted "best play" this year a one-joke absurdist comedy that I ranked dead last!

Monday, August 28, 2006

beginning rehearsals

or "Awake and Sing" in South Boston. Got lost on the way, of course. Every time I head in that direction the Big Dig has a new detour with signs beyond my ken.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Our latest Podcast

We've just added another episode of our PodCast discussing the ICWP Retreat in Ohio.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Taken by Teachout

I really like Terry Teachout!
Here are excerpts of an essay of his that was distributed on line sometime this week.:

Terry Teachout: In a strange land

• Art doesn’t have to be true to life to be good, but when a work of art is true to your life, it strikes a special chord. ...... For my part, though, I haven’t seen many movies that seemed true in any significant way to my personal experience. ....
In Hollywood, ordinary middle-class life is a state to be escaped, not examined. Unlike their novel-writing counterparts, American filmmakers are almost never willing to set a serious drama in a believable-looking small town, or even a medium-sized city located anywhere other than on the East or West Coasts. To them, the vast expanse of terra incognita known in New York and Los Angeles as “flyover country” is little more than a breeding ground for cross-burners, serial murderers, and Republicans......
• I thought of The Apostle and You Can Count on Me as I watched the Berkshire Theatre Festival’s revival of Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles, a play that is greatly admired for the similar precision with which it portrays the lives of a group of bright young men and women of upper-middle-class privilege. What struck me most forcibly about its characters was the near-complete extent to which they were insulated from anyone unlike themselves. Needless to say, I live in their world, but I was born and raised in a different one, and I never need reminding that most Americans neither talk nor think like the members of the urban verbal class with whom The Heidi Chronicles is populated.
• Of course it’s perfectly possible to make serious and memorable art out of the lives of such folk. (Whether or not Wasserstein succeeded in doing so is another matter, one that I’ll be taking up on Friday in my Wall Street Journal drama column.) Besides, it’s a truism that authors write best when they write about what they know, and given the transformation of America’s elite universities into instruments of meritocratic change, it’s increasingly less likely that our college-educated artists will know much about anybody else. Back in the days of John P. Marquand and Louis Auchincloss, these institutions served as finishing schools for the northeastern upper class. Now they act as search engines that locate and recruit young men and women of promise from all across America, then indoctrinate them with the cultural assumptions of the New Class. Instead of going back where they came from, there to leaven the cultural loaf and in turn to be influenced by local opinions and customs, the successful products of the meritocratic machine are more likely to migrate to New Class-dominated cities and suburbs, where seldom is heard a contradictory word.
• This being the case, I expect it’s a fairly safe bet that the plays and films of the coming decade will look less like You Can Count on Me or The Apostles than The Heidi Chronicles. Nor is that the worst thing in the world: I like witty repartee as much as the next critic. Yet I can’t shake the lingering feeling that such plays are written in a foreign language that I speak fluently but in which I do not dream.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Monday-- Talking Old Time Radio with Larry Stark

I didn't do much of this, actually. David had recorded a CD full for Larry, as a sort of bribe to get him to come out and do a Podcast interview. David had published--posted-- listed-- whatever it is one does when one puts a Podcast on line -- another in the Stagepage series Sunday -- mostly while I slept-- and wanted Larry to interview me about the ICWP Retreat for his next Sunday's broadcast. Larry seemed to enjoy talking into the mic, and at least for a little while imagining that he would like to be able to speak his TheaterMirror reviews rather than type them.

I unpacked. I looked forward to seeing the kids, who would be home from their trip to Conneaut tonight with coolers full of fresh caught perch-- but only be staying for a couple of days before leaving for Miane and Dance Camp until Labor day.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Big Event of Saturday; Sunday home and napping

Was the evening presentation of "Till the Fat Lady Sings".
For that, it's best to go to Alan's ICWP Retreat page-- photos and details there.

Wrote, packed, stayed up late too late at the post-show PJ party. How could I go to bed when I may not see some of these talented and loveable women again for years!

A few hours after going to bed I was up and on my way to the airport, Alan driving and Carolyn graciously heading out early in Alan's car because the later car ewhich should in theory hold four women was too full of luggage to fit Carolyn and her stuff in too.

My flight left and met the next flight in Philly, which landed at Logan on time. I took the train to the Green Line without incident, and David picked me up at the Newton Highlands T stop. By that time I was too exhausted to roll my suitcase up the ramp and lift it into the car: glad he was there to help. We'd talked about going out to eat when I returned-- of course by now there's no food in the house-- but by now I feel it is nap or die. I sleep, wake, greet relatibves and pets, and sleep some more.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Friday: last day to hear new pages read!

I pushed on to the end of Act One. There will be time for writing tomorrow, to sketch in some broad strokes for Act Two. But this night is the last chance to hear what's been written read. the actors have tomorrow off.
The first night here I told the Ohio actors about my husband David's Podcast project, and how I was hoping that some of them would read one or more of my monologues into the Garage Band recorder I have on my laptop, so that David can edit it into a podcast. Several agreed, and I've been lugging my laptop and microphone around all week. But Carol Shelton is the only one who printed out a monologue and set aside some time to record it. I hope it comes out all right! David is the hardware guy. David usually handles the recording.
"That other actor" in the picture above, Robert Monaghan, intends to do a monologue too-- a long one, from "The Prophet Freeman". But he wants to use his own computer Tools to do the recroding and then send it to us--- as does the young man who has done some work at the university's radio station. Alan said he'd do one, but hasn't had a spare moment. Looks like I'm supposed to do some long distance nagging when I get home.

The presentation this afternoon was on musicals. I enjoyed hearing what was said and the examples the composer played, but like the production examples on Tues, I couldn't see any way to apply the experience of these artists to my own work.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The ICWP days are beginning to blur...

Writing, reading, talking, eating....
Can this go on?
I think today's the day our little ad hoc quartet got together and sang Jill and Carolyn's Golf song.

Hearing my scenes read I'm torn between wishing that I could have the same actors each session so that they would have some idea of who they were playing and what the play is about, and delight that new actors are able to pick up a handful of pages and find a character and get the laughs even if they are clueless as to what's gone on before.

Thanks to Alan Woods and his camera I have an objective view of this process. But I thought where was a picture of one of the casts reading from the Susanna Centlivre scenes.....?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Wednesday was a big day

for doing nothing but write! I skipped lunch and the 4 pm panel by Howling At the Moon-- I know they are good, but I've seen them 2 years running and wanted to lock in my work pace. What a motivator it is to have actors ready to bring whatever you've written during the day to life that very evening! If I continue as I hope, I should finish the 1st act and get enough accomplished on the second to make it easy to keep writing once I'm home and subject to the distractions of daily life.
Here's one of the pictures Alan took of a reading of a scene from the Centlivre play-in-progress. I'm the one standing on the right....

There's a web site for the ICWP Retreat, with the names of the people in this picture and lots of other pictures, too.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hard at Work in Columbus, Ohio

Alan sent out an email re: Monday night's readings: "of work done today by Vicki Cheatwood, Mrinalini Kamath, and some previous work prepartory to work Margaret McSeveney would have written today if she hadn't had to spend much of the day trekking about getting documents in place! Volunteer performers on hand were terrific. Carolyn Gage joined us a bit late, since she sat in on a rehearsal of 'Til the Fat Lady Sings, to be read on Saturday night. Geralyn Horton, Farzana Moon and Diane Rao also here, already writing or getting ready to! We're in full swing....."

Tuesday morning I got up, dressed, went to the Computer Lab and, with no "block" at all, sat down and began turning my notes for the play about Susanna Centlivre into speeches and scenes. Got a salad from the Drake complex's student deli, continued writing till 4pm when there was a panel on Columbus Theatre.
Here are my notes from the panel:
8/15: Panel on straight and GLBT theatre in Columbus, third Columbus National Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival in Columbus, September, 2006; Jon Putnam, ; , Director, Puppet Queers; , performer; Lori Cannon,

Upcoming: G&LBT Festival, Actors' theatre AD, does Shakes in the park.

Catco: -- John Putman Associate Artistic Director, CATCO
does shorts fest of 8-10 min plays based on a setting. 120 submissions last year: winners were mostly writers known to the company, including some fairly well known writers. Re-writes done during rehearsal, writers need to be present at some point. Last new mainstage play was last fall, 2 years' work on that. The lit. dept is buried in MS. The last produced script came with money to help support development and production-- there was important local support for the subject matter, as well as key local people who believed in the writer's script. It did very well.

MadLabs: now gone.Did well when it had a liquor license and also could clear the set have have a band play afterwords. Drew a non-theatre crowd with lively local referenced stuff; exhausted the talent who had to do everything on a killer schedule to keep it happening.

Dee Shepherd , co-founder, Reality Theatre; Chris Brooks, performer. Reality Theatre: created own plays through improv. If a play happened to be perfect, they'd do it. Also, crazy shows like one that was simply an out loud reading of grant proposals.

New Venture: did some old, some new.
Got a lot of submisions, had to reject any with large cast or difficult staging.

Beth Kattelman: Puppet Queers: dirty songs & stories; mostly just fun, although political.

Lori Cannon: performer/standup/writer. Equity actress- worked in ensemble 8 plays a year until she got her Equity card. Hasn't worked since-- now does things like a 24 hour play production.

Columbus Arts papers have gone under, other papers have reduced coverage.
Corporate funding doesn't want to be associated with controversial material.
Small businesses is more supportive: will take out ads and donate in-kind stuff.

Suggestions for writers: write with a theme on a project for a community.
write industrial shows: people who need industrials are not swamped by writers.
New works do really look good on a grant proposal. If you can find an instution that gives grants, you can work through a theatre to put up work that qualifies for funding.
Local writer Brian Clark moved to Hawaii & was commissioned to write a whole series of plays based on Hawaiian history.

Bathhouse Cultural Center has been successful with a Festival of Independent Theatres: each gets a one hour slot, within which a show must get in, play, and get out. Now there's a second event, the Out of the Loop Festival.

Columbus Center hosts community theatre on a rotating schedule.

Then out to the Mall for dinner: probably a feast, certainly lots of good talk!

Tuesday night we had readings, including 20 minutes of what I've written on my new play. People were only mildly confused, and some of the jokes got laughs! I consider this very encouraging.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Flying to Columbus and the ICWP Retreat

In the air-- and on the way to Ohio--but not before troubles. Orbitz called at 10 something to say that my flight would be on time, and then called as we were heading out the door to say---? I couldn't figure out how to retrieve the voice mail until we were on the Turnpike headed for the airport, and then discovered that the call was "flight cancelled". Next we saw a turnpike sign saying that the tunnel was closed-- the weekend paper had said that it was opened to the airport, BIG DIG collapse notwithstanding. So we don't know whether to go or not, or whether we can get there if we do go! David gets off the turnpike at the South Station exit, hoping to thread his way either to the airport or home if "cancelled" means nothing for hours and we should wait at home till further notice. I try to thread my way through Orbitz or USAirways voicemail to find out what I'm supposed to do about my cancelled flight. South Station is surrounded by police and fire trucks, and all the people are being herded away from the building. A bomb? Train wreck? Boston City Lockdown? Are the train and air problems connected? Nothing on the news station or elsewhere on the radio. Struck in traffic gridlock, I have enough time to reach a human being after a long thread through "push 3" instructions, and the human tells us to continue toward the airport where passengers whose flights were cancelled will be re-routed. I end up on a NYC shuttle leaving half an hour after my scheduled flight, connecting at LaGuardia for Columbus. That connection is TIGHT. The shuttle lands early, but the airport congestion is such that it sits on the runway for half an hour waiting to be cleared for the terminal, and I arrive at my flight gate right before takeoff. The maddening extra security precautions that are supposedly causing the delays don't seem to be in force-- the clerks at the desks do not ask to see my ID. I show it anyway. On the other hand, the screener has me take it out of my wallet and holds it up for intense scrutiny while I wonder what she's looking at. Red hair, glasses?-- I'm back to the haircut I wore 10 years ago when the picture was taken. It looked younger than I really looked when it was taken, and is now even less plausible when compared to my birth date--- but the resemblance is pretty close: it could be a photo of my daughter, or younger sister. Or is she checking to see if I live in a "safe" zip code? Anyway, I'm waved aboard. Since I've rushed onto the plane, I never got to check out the passengers to see if any look like potential Women Playwrights, going where I'm going. There could be 3 on this flight-- women coming from somewhere and scheduled for arrival at about the same time I was supposed to be flying in from Philadelphia on a different plane: Alan Woods sent an email saying he'd pick up 4 of us together about 5:30. Th 50 seat plane is only about half full, and most passengers are men. The few women seem to be in the back, and I glance at them to see if any look like I think an ICPW sister-lister might look. I have a "suspect" or two. If we'd been waiting in the terminal, I might have walked right up to the woman and asked if she were headed to the Retreat--- but it's not a graceful thing to do, schrunched into a bucket seat 30,000 feet in the air.

I brought material to work on, both catch-up stuff and notes and documents for the play or plays I'm planning to work on. But there hasn't been much uninterrupted time. I expected to sit around and wait, but instead it's been brusts of activity catching up to the new travel arrangements. All I've done is read the opinion section of the Sunday Globe and half of the current issue of The Nation. We're ten minutes from ETA-- but then the wait in the plane at LaGuardia for at least 45 minutes-- was that figured in when they announced the ETA? I think i just heard the plane make that "ding" that indicates a change of altitude, though-- so maybe we are really about to land....,

At the baggage area I didn't see Alan or anybody who looked as if they might be sent by Alan. I saw a uniformed man in the baggage area and asked advice: he asked if I want to have Alan paged-- which I did. Not long afterwards Alan came strolling in-- a very welcome sight. He radiates beneficence. Alan said that he was trying to find out when and where Carolyn Gage's fight would arrive, and we set about doing some detective work. We used my computer to get to the email with Carolyn's info: well, that's one good reason for lugging it back and forth! Her flight was listed as at 6:20 pm, and, though it was barely 6pm, as "arrived". So we scrutinized the deplaning passengers at the gate and baggage area, trying to guess what Carolyn would look like based on the pictures on her web site-- we guessed right!. On to check in at the dorm, and then, a wee bit late, to the 7pm reading of the work the others, earlier arrived, had accomplished Monday. No sooner had I settled into my chair when Vicky Cheatwood gave me a wonderful comic monologue to read: Real Dallas Woman. I'm afraid I did it in Generic Southern instead of Dallas accent: there wasn't time to think or ask for an example to follow. Several familiar faces among the readers: mostly from the Senior Theatre project.

Very tired after the readings, but unable to resist the "pajama party" with The Girls. When we gather together at whatever age for a PJ party, we revert to The Girls. Lots of catching up to do. I was so delighted to see Mags MacSeveny, one of the inspirational people on the planet and definitely our Fearless Leader. I hadn't seen her since Edinburgh about 6 years ago, but her voice and presence are so central to the ICWP list that I can't help but feel close to her. Vicky was even more of a fireball than at the previous retreat. She had an event scheduled for Thursday back in Texas, and was testing and refining the material to be read at it under the pressure of that deadline. Carolyn had a deadline, too. Not only was she doing a Workshop presentation, but her play about an opera singer with body issues was the main public event of the ICWP program, with a script in hand performance Saturday night. She'd be rehearsing.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Praise from the Past

Thank you kindly for the encouraging words! Yes, I think I'd left the T by 1983. I was there for a bit more than 6 years, rather enjoying the work (I've always loved Trains & Trollies: my grandma took me riding on them as a treat when I was a kid) and making more $ than I ever have before or since as a Starving Artist or Adjunct college Instructor. But although I could write plays while working the kind of shifts available to people with low seniority, I couldn't get off the evenings and weekends one needs to Be An Actor. Hi diddle de dee, an Actors' life for me....
Aug 13, 2006, P K wrote:

Dear Ms. Horton,
I enjoyed reading your MBTA play. I am a woman still working on the Green Line approaching completion of my 23rd year (guess I missed you when I got there in 1983). I laughed at many of your accurate capturings of life on the Green Line and although some of the equipment has changed, the interactions and the customer questions are very much the same. Told Bob Breen (still there) and of course he remembers you. Planning on bringing your play into the picking room soon. Thank you,

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A beautiful Saturday squandered on work

Saturday was an apply-seat-of-pants-to-desk-chair-and-type day, where I tried to catch up with email, blog, and short writing assignments before taking off Monday morning for the ICWP Playwrights Retreat at Ohio State U. I'd hoped to go see Shakespeare on the Common, but both Eliza and I were productively in the midst of something when the time came, and chose to stick to the chores. My reward was satisfaction when I posted 6 new monologues to the Mouthoff page on my site! Now I have 20 new pieces that an actor who's been away in July and August will find upon returning to visit my site at the start of school! I needn't feel that I am behind in the monologues project while in Ohio, and can concentrate entirely on trying to push hrough to a first draft of a new full length.
Got an email from Alan Woods:
Margaret McSeveney arrived in Columbus Saturday afternoon--the first
playwright to appear, so the Third Annual ICWP Playwrights' Retreat has
begun! More playwrights today, and Ohio Sweet Cornroast this (Sunday) afternoon.
Mags joined Ann and me at a performance of Actors Theatre's Twelfth Night
in Schiller Park--our free Shakespeare--this evening. A musical version.
Great fun, although it was best when it stuck to Shakespeare. Viola and
Sebastian played by a real sister/brother duo, aged 16 and 17. --- Alan

I haven't seen Mags since visiting her in Scotland-- what is it, seven years ago? I'm so looking forward! On the other hand, I got the sad news that Linda Eisenstein, one of my favorite people, will not be at Ohio State when I arrive-- and she may not be able to come at all: her husband Bob is ill.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday: the Other Martha comes Calling!

The Globe review of the "Other" Martha Mitchell play, "Martha Mitchell Calling!" at Shakespeare & Co. came out in the Globe today. On a double bill with another play about a remarkable woman, it wa Very enthusiastically received indeed:
...voices from the '70s offer insight for our time
By Louise Kennedy, Globe Staff | August 11, 2006
..... women who see horrible things and have the courage to say so. They're angry. They're scared. And their voices are just what we need to hear right now.
In fact, playwright Jodi Rothe has her Martha imagining, back in 1976, that we'd one day be asking, ``Where is Martha now, now that we need her?" To those who remember her only as a briefly famous loudmouth, that might seem extreme. But Rothe makes a powerful case for Martha Mitchell as, in the words she quotes of longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas, ``a victim of the political war of Watergate, and one of its few heroines."
For what Martha Mitchell talked so loudly about was Richard Nixon's White House and the crimes it committed and then covered up..... fascinating and worth hearing again.... especially, Annette Miller's knockout performance as Martha.
..... Rothe has a gilt-framed "portrait" of Martha's husband, John (beautifully played by John Windsor-Cunningham), come to life for frequent conversations . Video projections of actual moments from the real Martha's life also open things up.
And, most important, Rothe and Miller create Martha as a huge, irresistible force of nature. In a pile of blond curls and a fluffy pink peignoir, Miller wields Martha's trademark pink princess phone with deadly candor and vim. She's passionate, bawdy, and often hysterically funny. In a little over an hour, she breaks your heart.

Good for Annette! But surely an hour of the Rothe/Miller Martha may complement rather than supplant the hour of the Alfaro/Horton/Faber Martha?

fringe finance or...

why we don't have working class playwrights...

Fringe Festival Still Welcomes Novice Dreamers

Published: August 11, 2006

LAST Saturday afternoon at a bar in Midtown, Sean McManus and Andrew Unterberg were reminiscing about the moment in May when they found out that their play, “The Infliction of Cruelty,” had been accepted into the New York International Fringe Festival.....
Of course, with more than 1,300 performances of 216 productions, it’s difficult to make generalizations about the Fringe. .... the Fringe has been actively looking for little-known and first-time artists in the selection process, said Elena K. Holy, the festival’s producing artistic director.... Mr. McManus, 29, editor of a luxury lifestyle magazine in Jacksonville, Fla., and Mr. Unterberg, 30, a junior associate at a Manhattan law firm. Mr. Unterberg took a playwriting class while in law school, and Mr. McManus studied some theater in college. Both had seen a Fringe show or two. But as for the theatrical arts, that was pretty much it.... The cost of the production was, so far, a $40 application fee and the price of mailing the script to the Fringe office. Next would come the $500 acceptance fee. Then the expenses would be left up to them.....
For almost two weeks in early June they sat through dozens of auditions in a rented studio (between $14 and $18 an hour, with the Fringe discount) four stories above Lafayette Street.... The audition process started as early as it did because Mr. McManus and Mr. Unterberg thought there should be nine weeks of rehearsals. Then they learned of the union rules limiting the rehearsal period, and besides, as Mr. Froomkin said, “The actors will end up hating you.”
By July, when rehearsals started, the production’s headquarters had left Lafayette Street after a noisy Brazilian martial arts class moved in next door. Now rehearsals were at a dance studio (about $25 an hour)...
The bad news: the whole process was starting to cost serious money.
The production had passed the $10,000 mark and was on track to pass $16,000 before it was over. After a rehearsal Mr. Unterberg fondly recalled the moment when $575, for an advertisement in the Fringe program, seemed outrageous.
The five members of the cast and five members of the crew are being paid $200 each for the production, a one-time e-mail blast cost $850, props were hurtling toward $1,000, and the press agent cost thousands, though that was being shared by Mr. Froomkin, who was not being paid anything....."

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Thursday business

Eliza Wyatt came over today. We compared the vitamins we take regularly-- the English say "veet"amin -- those semi-magical keys to long life and continual creativity-- or not. David got Eliza to make an mp3 of the monologue of mine that is best read with an English accent, the one that begins "You Americans are Luvvies...", and it will go into Podcast #2 this week end. I am engaged to show up for Larry Stark's birthday celebration/documentary fundraiser at the Mass College of Art this evening; Eliza is going to go to our old friend Frank Shefton's new play at Boston Playwrights' Theatre.
I was miserable at the fundraiser-- very few people I know were there, it was a younger crowd, and not surprisingly, I hate fundraisers. I hate PBS auctions, too; and charity runs, and raffles and lotteries and benefits-- anything that reminds me that money makes the world go round and that things of the spirit are not exempt. How anyone could enjoy watching people bid for goods and services is beyond me-- but apparently people think that they do: that was the entertainment. Larry appeared to be enjoying it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Requiem & Eliza Wyatt's arrival

Last night, Tuesday, I finally made it to one of the Masterworks Chorale's Summer Sings in Lexington: the one for the Faure Requiem. John Ehrlich of the Spectrum Singers was the last minute substitute conductor-- the friend I went with was overjoyed: she really admires him, and enjoys singing under his baton. We had the luxury of a detailed rehearsal because it is comparatively short-- Erhlich assured us that it was as deep and significant as the longer famous requiems-- and then a molto largo mass performance. It was pure pleasure to sing. I've sung it perhaps 3 times in 40 years, and I don't have to bury my head in the score for either text or notes. The unalloyed pleasure is because the Faure is the only major choral work in which I can still sing all the soprano notes without strain: it's mercifully low!

Today my old and dear friend, playwright Eliza Wyatt, arrived from England. We caught up on gossip and made plans for her to do a bit of recording for the Podcast project. We also made plans to see Shrew on the Common, but she called right before time to meet to say that she was far to jet lagged to go anywhere but to bed-- and I realized that I was tired, too.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


My "between jobs" techie husband has begin a project of making Podcasts of some of the 200 monologues I've written. They are to be linked to my playwright web site, -- next to the texts of the pieces that are performed, and crediting the actor. (my monologue texts are free for students and actors' use. I'm not selling anything) Then the monologues are to be paired with an interview or other audio items of general interest re: theatre and launched as a Podcast. David and I have each recorded a couple so far, and I've begun to ask actor friends if they'd like to read a monologue or two for me. David has the post-pro software to tweak a digital file into a decent mp3. If an actor wants to do one, David would make a CD and e-mail copies to give the actor to use freely in self-promotion.

The first podcast show David put together is already posted on Podomatic; it's the one where we do our own readings. You can listen to it here:
The podcast also features a segment by TheaterMirror's Larry Stark.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Be-Shrew me....

Carolyn Clay in this week's Phoenix liked the Common Shrew much better than Louise Kennedy in the Globe, and now I'm sorry that I haven't seen it. There are a few performances left...
Quoting Clay's review:

"Shakespeare’s super-dainty Kate's become cannoli in The Taming of the Shrew on Boston Common (through August 13). Director Steven Maler has removed the Bard’s pugilistic courtship comedy to Boston’s North End, where Baptista, cigar-puffing father of the reluctant bride, owns an Italian restaurant that spills onto the sidewalk....... . Daughters Katharina and Bianca would seem to help out at the eatery, though Kate, a diminutive spitfire in a tight red dress, mostly does damage with slung water and trays of cutlery.
The time is the 1950s.... you need go no farther back than 50 years for the sexism built into Shakespeare’s 400-year-old play (in which a mercenary wooer brings a rebellious woman to heel) to seem not out of place. The winking implication is that women really rule the roost in Italian America, but they do so by pretending to a lower place in the pecking order. On the other hand, Pettie’s Petruchio is so movie-star charismatic, and is so clearly giving a performance, that for Jennifer Dundas’s stunned Kate it’s a case of you-had-me-from-“Good-morrow.” Indeed, Dundas’s rendering of the act-five speech admonishing her fellow brides to bend to the good deal that is traditional marriage is less lecture than foreplay. Petruchio was always playing a sex game, and now he’s got a willing partner....."

Less lecture than foreplay-- that I'd like to see! But would it compensate for Dead End Kids reading of the poetry? I'll never know unless I go!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

On Women vs Boys & Acting Shakespeare

A defender of boy actors brings up the example of the soprano arias in Bach's St Matthew Passion. I reply:
We have records of the running battle Bach fought with church officials for permission to use female sopranos for soloists instead of boys. He won some, he lost some. Of course this proves nothing about the skill level of boy players, or Shakespeare's attitude toward them.
At this point I usually toss in Ellen Terry's tribute to the 10 year old Olivier play Kate in his school's Shrew: "That boy is already a great actor".

Another queries: "Is there any evidence that women might have played the female roles when the company was performing in the homes of the great lords and other non-public venues? Or at court?"
I opine:
I feel that the urge to recite these roles is so strong that not even severe sanctions could prevent women from performing them somewhere.... as severity did not prevent women from reading Lolita in Tehran. But alas, that is merely my feeling. However difficult it is for me (and thee?) to believe that ladies who appeared in Masques, and played instruments and sang in social gatherings, would be content to be excluded from play reading and sit silently while their male relatives, untrained in female impersonation, performed for their entertainment-- those who have researched the matter say that the facts are otherwise. How I wish that a letter might be found saying something like: "Cousin Thomas so stank of tobacco o' Tuesday that I could scare bear him near me when he woo'd my Beatrice in the personage of Benedict. My Lady Mother swears that if I do not amend ere next we meet to read a play, she will give the role to my sister Kate-- though Kate be low and brown and fit only to play serving maids...."!

Louise Kennedy reviews Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's The Taming of the Shrew in today's Globe -- That's the picture at the top of this blog.

I 'm rather ashamed of my reaction to her review. It seems to me as if the things
that Kennedy disliked about the production are things that I would not care for either
and that
and instead of feeling that I ought to go see a bunch of good actors, some of whom I think of as friends, who are employed in a production that is stylish and popular-- even if the style is not one I approve-- I feel that the negatives in her review give me an excuse to skip the trolly trip downtown to sit in 90 degree heat on the scorched grass of the common and watch Commonwealth's version of a good-but-not-great play that I know nearly by heart.

Here are excerpts from the excuse:

Company takes its broad brush to 'Shrew'
By Louise Kennedy, Globe Staff | August 3, 2006
QUOTE: If you're looking to make Shakespeare accessible and comprehensible to today's audiences, as the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's annual free production on Boston Common aims to do, The Taming of the Shrew is a tricky play to choose....
... In directing this raucous, raunchy Shrew, set in a vividly realized North End restaurant of the 1950s, Steven Maler has decided to grab the laughs by making everything as broad and extreme as possible. That approach works well in some scenes.... At other times, though, the jokes -- many of them introduced in irritating ad-libs and frat-worthy physical comedy -- get pushed so far that they fall over. .....
...Want evidence? Check the hideous, gigantic red codpiece that encumbers Petruchio in the wedding scene. Observe the humping and bumping and grinding that pervades every interaction between not just Petruchio and Katharina, but Petruchio and his male servants. OK, we get it, he's a macho guy who's fond of his endowments -- once the point is made, we don't need it ground in over and over again, and it's certainly not going to provide many yuks for anyone outside a locker room.
.....This nicely matched pair of hotheads.... is surrounded, on John Coyne's evocative set of brick townhouses and cafe tables, by a flock of talented actors. Unfortunately, though, the players are mostly asked to slather on heavy accents in one of two styles: wicked Bahstahn and spicy-a meat-a-ball. Apparently this is to underscore Maler's conceit of renaming Shakespeare's Padua Bostonia, a change that isn't nearly clever enough to justify the damage it does to meter and sense..... the direction keeps things moving, with lots of horseplay, some fun doo-wop tunes, a roller-skating (and vaguely annoying) Lucentio and Bianca, and even a roaring Vespa.
Maler clearly believes that Shakespeare, or at least his Shrew, needs a heaping spoonful of artificial flavoring to please audiences today. That's not my cup of tea. But if it gets a few people to try tea instead of soda, I won't stop them from taking a sip. END QUOTE

Well, Kennedy-- and Will Stackman, who has similar criticisms in his
On The Aisle review-- has stopped me. When I was a teen, I thought of Shakespeare as a blessed refuge from doo-wop and meat balls. Only a brilliant brilliant production can reconcile me.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Once More Into the Breach!

Another round of the debate with those who think that doing a play that has no discoverable copyright holder is a major Crime, a mortal Sin, and grounds for expulsion from the Community of right-thinking artists and scholars:

I just want to say again that as a playwright this seems insane to me! Writers write because they want to be read: playwrights because they want to be performed. There are only a handful of people who make a living from writing for the stage: most of us do it out of love, at great financial sacrifice. If there is not enough economic potential in a work to appeal to the publisher's self-interest, the play will go out of print. That doesn't mean that the writer has chosen to disappear into silence! Maybe the writer, once promising and "emergent", has sunk into a permanent depression and is living on SSI in a tailer park with six cats. Maybe he has changed his name and become a Player, living in a penthouse and making deals with people who would have nothing but contempt for the writer he used to be. Maybe he's dead. But -- I can't imagine any circumstance where he-- or she--or we-- would choose silence and death for the play. There is no greater tribute a director or producer can pay than to mount a writer's play-- especially a play so lacking in box office potential that the previous rights holder has no interest in it! What "ego" is involve in this act of love? What possible harm can it do? If George's production is successful enough to get some publicity and the author should happen to read about it, does anyone really think that the author's reaction to his words being given new life would be rage rather than gratification?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Welfare may be a plus for the Commonwealth

A playwright lister says that no one wants to hear that an educated person can be on welfare and still have experience and talent worth sharing....

I reply:Did you know that when Parliament wanted to pass a punitive US-type Workfare program, artists and musicians and writers rose up all over the UK to defend the Dole as the major support for the people who create the commercially huge music, art, theatre and ideas sector of the English economy? Famous people testified that they had lived on the dole while creating (and rehearsing) their valuable work, and that thousands of other talented people were doing so every day. They argued that forcing artists to take dead-end low paying jobs would kill England's position as a world leader in cultural creativity. And the government agreed to back down! Did you know that Martin MacDonough wrote his entire 3 trilogy body of work in a year or so burst after dropping out of high school and going on the Dole?
In the UK, the Dole for the Starving Artist serves as somewhat of a leveler to allow the poor to compete with those who have the financial support of families or institutions. This is one reason that English drama is written by and plays to more of a cross section, and is more likely to address politics and issues of class.
Salaries for college grads have now been dropping for 5 years in a row, and jobs are not being created at a rate to fully employ new graduates, who are finishing school with record amounts of debt. Many will never be able to repay. Educated people on welfare, dying young from complications arising from no health insurance... these are probably not topics audiences who pay $100 a seat are going to want to see on a celebratory night in an Equity theatre. But as more and more families contain such people, there will be a real hunger for such stories -- we just need to figure out where and how to tell them.

On the other hand, Mark Ravenhill complained in the Guardian yesterday that the English Establishment's funding of artists on the ground of Social Usefulness is not a Good Thing:

Mark Ravenhill
Monday July 31, 2006 The Guardian
Workshop. Not such a big word. I suppose someone in the 1970s thought it sounded more democratic than "teaching", more interactive than "lecture-demonstration". It's one of those vaguely liberal words that the arts world seems so fond of. But it's a word that I have increasingly come to dread......
The trouble is, the more I write, the less I feel I know about writing - certainly, the less I feel I can articulate what is going on when I'm doing it. And the more suspicious I become of anything that pretends to be a rule of playwriting. But tell a workshop participant that there are no rules, that they need to discover what a play means to them and write something that is unique to their sense of the world, and you are likely to be faced with a sullen customer who feels they aren't getting their money's worth. .......
I recently attended a meeting of international festival organisers chaired by the inspirational founder of the London International Festival of Theatre, Rose Fenton. Here, I decided, was a forum to vent my frustration at the whole workshop machine. "Look," I said, "I just think we've got into the habit of doing these workshops but I can't actually see that anybody is getting much out of them."
"We know," sighed the festival organisers. "It's not us who wants the workshops. It's the funders. They demand them, so what can you do?"
And here lies the rub. For the past 10 years, the theatre in this country - and, it seems, increasingly abroad - has had to fight for its existence by proving its social worth. Under the Tories we battled to be businesslike and market-driven to please our masters. But ever since the dull puritans of New Labour have taken office, it's been our social usefulness that has earned us our increases in funding. Never mind that the best theatre has very little direct social use, or that the vast majority of the population need playwriting skills as much as they need a rhino living in their bathroom; it's "social usefulness" that pays the bills - and so the workshops roll on........ Ravenhill 07/31/06