Saturday, May 31, 2008

Thank you for sharing, Mr. 19-year-old-horndawg

Hi you don't know me, but I just had to stop and say something. You are very beautiful! Gorgeously gorgeous... thats double the amount. You are so fireeeee hot you almost made my computer explode. Ha I know a little corny, but I just had to do it.

Although I admit, I'm kinda tempted... he swears he's not spam and he has a mighty cute photo on his MySpace profile.

Friday, May 30, 2008

New upcoming productions

Now that I'm finally getting over the huge financial hit I took thanks to JANE EYRE 2008, not to mention the emotional toll of dealing creeps in the mix it's time to start thinking about future productions

HUCK FINN in Central Park

August 2008 - at the edge of the Sheep Meadow with half the cast from the world premiere (Twainathon 2007) reprising the roles they helped develop.
More about HUCK FINN here


Early Autumn 2008 - An evening of seven (maybe 8) short plays (by me) running the gamut from comedy to tragedy to the surreal to the all-too-real, all set in The City. Venue TBA.


Late Autumn 2008 - My full-length play about some college kids, an arranged marriage and jihad. Not to mention the enigmantic yet terrifying numbers stations. Venue TBA.


February 2009 - The return of everybody's favorite governess with a mostly new cast and a sadder but much wiser author/director/producer.


Spring 2009 - George W. Bush may be gone by this time, but the damage his recklessness and hostility to the truth have done to this country will not be, and this play, set in the Old West, addresses those issues.

I'm also at work on a new play, working title: "The Happily Married Sociopath" - it's a murder mystery.

Stayed tuned for more developments.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

More Sonnetary goodness!

I submitted my Sonnet 8 to the erotic poetry web site and they seem to like it as much as #1, 3, 5 & 7. The best part of this praise is that it comes from fellow poets.
You put magic in the Sonnet and in love; who could resist?

If only the poets on this site were theatre critics!

The rest of my Sonnets in G are not really erotic, but the web site does have a non-erotic category. But at this point I'm reluctant to post any more figuring they can't possibly love all of them like these five, and I'll feel kind of let down of they don't praise them as effusively. I know I shouldn't be that way, but I can't help it.

Alpha Girls & Sociopaths

I've been pondering the overlap between sociopaths and alpha girls. Based on the article here, alpha girls seem to have quite a bit in common with sociopaths. Trying to hurt other people as if it's some kind of game, without remorse or conscience is very much a sociopathic trait.

Al Gore and the Alpha Girls - The Enduring Power of Cliques in a Post-High-School World


Alpha Girls, Talbot wrote, armed with intelligence and cunning, devote considerable time and energy to waging complicated, intricate, and highly personalized battles with other girls of similar age, the intent of which is to damage the other girls’ friendships, relationships, and reputations, all in an effort to enhance and sustain their popularity and status.

The Alphas accomplish their goals through a wide variety of means, including spreading rumors -- some true or at least based on truth, others wildly false -- using the power of information and the means of its distribution to assault their prey. With an uncanny ability to identify and exploit their victims’ weaknesses, their opponents’ most vulnerable Achilles’ heels, the Alphas mercilessly exclude from membership -- or “merely” reduce the social standing of -- those who don’t make the cut...

...Alliances, many of them temporary and fleeting, are a critical element of the Alphas’ strategy. When it suits them, Alphas will befriend a girl with whom they would not ordinarily be associated with the sole intent -- not always apparent to the newly befriended girl -- of inflicting revenge and retribution on their latest victim. Although Alphas can be mean and cruel, they aren’t physical; catfights aren’t their thing. Rather than engaging in physical altercations, they rely on words, insults, rumor, gossip, innuendo, and manipulation. And the Alphas use others who are not members of the clique, including girls aspiring to this lofty status, and boys, naturally the most popular boys whenever possible, in their campaigns to ruin the reputations of others they find threatening or morally, intellectually, socially, or physically superior.


What I'm very curious to know is what percentage of these alpha girls are sociopaths. Apparently sociopaths are not uncommon at all - so much so that pretty much everybody knows one, but without knowing it - they usually blend in.

I've read that it may be possible to identify sociopaths in the future through brain wave analysis. That should be useful.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ruben Bolling is a genius

His actual name is Ken Fisher but he has a Wikipedia entry under his nom de comix, Ruben Bolling.

His weekly comic, Tom the Dancing Bug is truly great. Especially my three favorite recurring bits, God-Man, Lucky Ducky, and Super-Fun-Pak Comix.

Super-Fun-Pak Comix

Each one incredible, although his 9-11 edition is his real masterpiece.



Lucky Ducky
The inspiration for the name

The Adventures of God-Man
It's hard to believe that any deist can read a single episode of God-Man and not become an atheist on the spot.

More Tom the Dancing Bug excellence at Salon

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Greetings from Asbury Park NJ

Since Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, I was feeling early Springsteen. Before he became The Voice of Working-class America Springsteen was a hipster street poet. Then Dave Sancious left the E Street Band after The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle and everything went downhill.

Although his greatest song is Kitty's Back, check out the lyrics from Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?
Hey bus driver, keep the change
Bless your children, give them names
Don't trust men who walk with canes
Drink this and you'll grow wings on your feet
Broadway Mary, Joan Fontaine
Advertiser on a downtown train
Christmas crier bustin' cane
He's in love again

Where dock worker's dreams mix with panther's schemes
To someday own the rodeo
Tainted women in VistaVision
Perform for out-of-state kids at the late show

Wizard imps and sweat sock pimps
Interstellar mongrel nymphs
Rex said that lady left him limp
Love's like that (sure it is)
Queen of diamonds, ace of spades
Newly discovered lovers of the Everglades
They take out a full-page ad in the trades
To announce their arrival
And Mary Lou, she found out how to cope
She rides to heaven on a gyroscope
The Daily News asks her for the dope
She said, "Man, the dope's that there's still hope"

Senorita, Spanish rose
Wipes her eyes and blows her nose
Uptown in Harlem she throws a rose
To some lucky young matador

Monday, May 26, 2008

more adventures in cyber-dating in a world full of assholes

Email I receive from a dorky looking guy I wouldn't have considered even when I was his age (28):

I'm going to be very forward and bold right now.....have you or would you consider a no strings attached encounter with a younger guy? If so maybe we could have a very exciting summer. It has always been a fantasy of mine. Let me know

no strings

My response:

I would... if I was attracted to him....

PS - if you want no-strings you're better off on Craig's list dude.

What Krugman said

You Obama Kool-aid drinking morons:

It is, in a way, almost appropriate that the final days of the struggle for the Democratic nomination have been marked by yet another fake Clinton scandal — the latest in a long line that goes all the way back to Whitewater.

This one, in case you missed it, involved an interview Hillary Clinton gave the editorial board of South Dakota’s Argus Leader, in which she tried to make a case for her continuing campaign by pointing out that nomination fights have often gone on into the summer. As one of her illustrations, she mentioned that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June.

It wasn’t the best example to use, but it’s absurd to suggest, as some Obama supporters immediately did, that Mrs. Clinton was making some kind of dark hint about Barack Obama’s future.

But then, it was equally absurd to portray Mrs. Clinton’s assertion that it took L.B.J.’s political skills to turn Martin Luther King’s vision into legislation as an example of politicizing race. Yet the claim that Mrs. Clinton was playing the race card, which was promoted by some Obama supporters as well as in a memo by a member of Mr. Obama’s staff, achieved wide currency.

Why does all this matter? Not for the nomination: Mr. Obama will be the Democratic nominee. But he has a problem: many grass-roots Clinton supporters feel that she has received unfair, even grotesque treatment. And the lingering bitterness from the primary campaign could cost Mr. Obama the White House.

HRC should be offered the VP slot.

And let nobody underestimate the degree to which sexism played a part in the anti-Hillary sentiment INCLUDING from so-called liberals.

More righteous Krugman commentary

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The continuing popularity of Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin died, at age 27, in 1970. That's thirty-eight years ago. But check this out - since I blogged about her a few times, I keep getting all these hits to my blog from people googling some variation on "janis joplin" and "nude"

What is it about Janis? She was hardly a great beauty, was in fact voted "Ugliest Man on Campus" by the assholes at the University of Texas. Why such a great desire to see nude photos of her - of which there seems to be only a few, and none explicit, as far as I can tell.


You learn sooo much about the interests of people by reading web statistics reports. Like the fact that so many hits on my site come from Saudi Arabia and Iran looking for "gay man" and "ladyboys."

Saturday, May 24, 2008

oh so lame

I regret to report that the latest Indiana Jones movie is soooo lame!

Apparently no matter how much money you have, the one thing that is almost impossible to buy is a GOOD SCRIPT.

And the worst was the way they ruined the Marion character.

It's too awful to talk about. Argh!

I'll let the Village Voice do it:
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is as joyless as its predecessors were blissful: Its sole intention seems to be the launching of a new franchise with LaBeouf's Mutt as heir to his father's fedora. And no, it spoils nothing to give away that LaBeouf is the son of Indiana Jones and Karen Allen's Marion Ravenwood, who appears late in the film and serves little function other than to grin like a schoolgirl at the professor who got away.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The return of Marion Ravenwood

I had no intention of seeing the newest Indiana Jones movie. The second one was awful and the third one was just OK.

Actually, I had to be dragged to "Raiders of the Lost Ark" by an ex-boyfriend because I had no interest in seeing some movie that harkened back to the days of pulp fiction and action movie serials. But Harrison Ford was hot, so I was persuaded. And I found I liked the movie OK. Then suddenly - who was that amazing woman???

Indiana: Hello, Marion.

Marion: Indiana Jones. I always knew some day you'd come walking back through my door. I never doubted that. Something made it inevitable. So, what are you doing here in Nepal?

Indiana: I need one of the pieces your father collected.

[Marion surprises him with a right cross to the jaw]

Marion: I've learned to hate you in the last ten years.

Indiana: I never meant to hurt you.

Marion: I was a child. I was in love. It was wrong and you knew it.

Indiana: You knew what you were doing.

Marion: Now I do. This is my place. Get out.

Now THIS was an action hero I could love and identify with. She drank that big dude under the table - and made a bunch of money on the wager to boot. Then she helps Indiana Jones fight Nazis - making sure to get a swig of liquor during the fight. And then when Indy thinks she's dead, he looks so sexy sitting at the bar in mourning and then confronting the nasty French archeologist, in my favorite moment of the movie, when Indy is so upset he's on the verge of virtual suicide
Indiana: You want to talk to God? Let's go see him together, I've got nothing better to do.

One big disappointment though was the scene where Marion has a chance to use her superpowers of massive alcohol consumption to drink Belloq under the table and get away - and the movie doesn't let her. If she was a guy, she would have. I blame Spielberg for that.

But now she's back and I'm gonna go see the new Indiana Jones movie tomorrow night!

I'm not the only one who loves Marion Ravenwood...

Marion Ravenwood is a goddess

Return Of The Thinking Man's Leading Lady: Karen Allen

Karen Allen revisits feisty role in 4th ‘Indiana Jones’ film

Karen Allen is Back as Marion Ravenswood - fellow feminists also love Marion.

Like most once-successful women in Hollywood, Karen Allen found she was getting crappy roles once she hit 40. She started a textile business as well as teaching acting at Simon's Rock college (my ex-boyfriend's school) and doing occasional theatre and more occasional film.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

More righteous playwright wrath

More on the most annoying review of my adaptation of Jane Eyre.

I've made it clear that the reviewer's understanding of my play is based entirely on other adaptations, not on the book. Which is why the last paragraph of her review is especially galling:

It is best for fans of Bronte's novel to stick to the book, as even the best of actors cannot replace the beauty that is to be found in there. McClernan makes a valiant effort in transplanting the sprawling work to the confines of the stage, but in the end, as our high school teachers always said, it's best just to read the book.

Hey Freeman - WHY DON'T YOU READ THE BOOK??????

Oh yes, and fuck your high school teachers - MY high school teachers never said any such thing.

But this isn't just a case of someone who demonstrably has NOT read the book giving such advice. This is an alleged THEATRE CRITIC saying in effect don't go to see theatre.

Because he's in a cult and he's not allowed to talk to me

The Pointless, Yet Poignant, Crisis of a Co-Ed is another early great funny song by Dar Williams.

The last lines are especially good:

And my ex-boyfriend can't tell me I've sold out,

because he's in a cult.

And he's not allowed to talk to me.

I will never understand people who simply stop communicating with others as if it's some kind of religious taboo. Especially when YOU are the one who has the right to be angry, AND they read your blog at least once a week.

But some people are just weird and fucked up in the head.

The Hemp Liberation League aspect of this song reminds me of my ex-husband. Although he's a Leo.

All the Dar lyrics:
I'm not a leader, I'm not a left-wing rhetoric mobilizing force of one,
But there was a time way back, many years ago in college, don't laugh,
But I thought I was a radical, I ran the Hemp Liberation League with my boyfriend,
It was true love, with a common cause, and besides that, he was a Sagittarius.

We used to say that our love was like hemp rope, three times as strong as the rope that you buy domestically,
And we would bond in the face of oppression from big business and the deans,
But I knew there was a problem, every time the group would meet everyone would light up,
That made it difficult to discuss glaucoma and human rights, not to mention chemotherapy.

Well sometimes, life gives us lessons sent in ridiculous packaging,
And so I found him in the arms of a Student Against the Treacherous use of Fur,
And he gave no apology, he just turned to me, stoned out to the edge of oblivion,
He didn't pull up the sheets and I think he even smiled as he said to me,
"Well, I guess our dreams went up in smoke."

And I said, No, our dreams went up in dreams, you stupid pothead,

And another thing, what kind of a name is Students Against the Treacherous Use of Fur?
Fur is already dead, and besides, a name like that doesn't make a good acronym.

I am older now, I know the rise and gradual fall of a daily victory.
And I still write to my senators, saying they should legalize cannabis,
And I should know, cause I am a horticulturist, I have a husband and two children out in Lexington, Mass.

And my ex-boyfriend can't tell me I've sold out,

because he's in a cult.

And he's not allowed to talk to me.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Thanks for the shout-out Ann Bartow

She linked to my Carmina Burana lyrics post (below.)

Wow, talk about karma or it's a small world after all.

When I first started my adaptation of Huckleberry Finn I came across the work of one Shelly Fisher Fishkin, with whom I disagreed emphatically. In fact, I even emailed her my objections, but never heard back from her:

Dear Shelley Fisher Fishkin,

On the “Mark Twain’s America” page of the PBS Online NewsHour

you say:

In the book's famous ending--variously maligned as a failure, a mistake, a retreat, or worse--what do we find? Incarcerated in a tiny shack with a ludicrous assortments of snakes, rats and spiders put there by an authority figure who claims to have his best interests at heart, Jim is denied information that he needs and is forced to perform a series of pointless and exhausting tasks. After risking his life to get the freedom that unbeknownst to him is already his, after proving himself to be a paragon of moral virtue who towers over everyone around him, this legally-free black man is still denied respect--and is still in chains. All of this happens not at the hands of charlatans, the duke and the king, but at the initiative of a respectable Tom Sawyer and churchgoing citizens like the Phelpses and their neighbors.

Is what America did to the ex-slaves any less insane than what Tom Sawyer put Jim through in the novel? Where do we go for a window on the "contrast between our ideals and activities," that was "inescapable" after "the war to 'free the slaves,'" as Ralph Ellison put it in our 1991 interview? "People didn't want to talk directly about it," Ellison observed. But Twain did take it on: "One of the functions of comedy," Ellison said, "is to allow us to deal with the unspeakable. And this Twain did consistently." What is the history of post-Emancipation race relations in the United States if not a series of maneuvers as cruelly gratuitous as the indignities inflicted on Jim in the final section of Huckleberry Finn? Why was the Civil Rights movement necessary? Why were black Americans forced to go through so much pain and trouble just to secure rights that were supposedly theirs already? Huckleberry Finn may end in farce--but it is not Twain's farce: it is ours. Twain's book is not escapist. It is an escape from the denial of the farce we've made of what was--and still is--a noble social and political experiment.

I’ve recently finished a play based on the novel; finished recording the entire novel of Huckleberry Finn for an audio book, read up on Clemens’s career as a performer; and read “Tom Sawyer, Detective” and “Tom Sawyer Abroad” and I think your assessment is wrong.

We all love Mark Twain and want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but it’s clear to me that he truly loved the evasion section of Huckleberry Finn because he loves Tom Sawyer.

And that’s why the Tom Sawyer character always dominates – Huck and Jim both immediately become supporting players whenever Tom appears, in spite of the fact that it’s Huck narrating. Before Tom Sawyer appears for the evasion, Jim is goal-oriented – he not only wants to get out of slavery himself, he wants to get his wife and children out of slavery. Once Tom Sawyer shows up, that goal is never mentioned again. So much so that by the end of the novel, all three of them, Huck, Tom and Jim, are considering lighting out for the Territory. By the end of the novel, Jim’s journey is far from over. His sudden freedom doesn’t solve the problem of buying or if necessary, stealing his own family. But that is totally subverted for the Tom Sawyer story.

Tom Sawyer Abroad takes up right after Huckleberry Finn left off, and in it Jim is content to travel around Africa and the Middle East with two white boys, and not a peep about his family.

Furthermore, Clemens liked to read from the evasion section of the book in his live performances.

And it is funny and entertaining, but it’s completely different, in tone and substance, from the pre-evasion section of the novel.

Twain was no fool when it came to marketing his work. When Huckleberry Finn was published, there were still people all over the South who either had once owned slaves themselves, or had parents and other relatives who owned slaves. He knew he could only go so far in portraying the actual brutalities of slave owners and still have a popular book. Uncle Silas and Aunt Sally are presented as loveable and even silly and certainly non-threatening. The worst that Uncle Silas does to his slaves is force religion on them – a solid virtue in 1880s American opinion, even more so than today. And that’s why Twain used the evasion scene to promote the book. He wanted to make sure everybody knew the book was all in good fun, in spite of some serious bits.

It’s clear that no matter how disgusting we today might consider Tom Sawyer’s behavior in regards to Jim, Twain considered Tom a lovable scamp and wanted everybody else to feel that way. And he can only maintain that attitude if he sacrifices Jim’s feelings of urgency about rescuing his family. Portraying Jim as a “paragon of moral virtue” certainly does not make up for that sacrifice. If anything, that portrayal turns Jim into some cardboard cutout of the impossibly noble good darkie.

This does not lessen the very important achievement of the first two-thirds of the book. But really, Twain should have ended the book shortly after Huck vows to go to hell, and created another short novel, “Tom Sawyer on the Farm” out of the evasion, to go along with Abroad and Detective.

Your take on the last one-third of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn may be what fans of Twain want to hear, but I don’t think it’s justified by the text or Twain’s actions.

Nancy McClernan
Hoboken, NJ

Well first weird coincidence - I was working at the time with playwright David Ives. The Dramatists Guild had asked me to do an article about my court case vs. Edward Einhorn. Ives was my contact at the Guild. Turns out he was working on adapting a new play written by Mark Twain, recently unearthed by... Shelly Fisher Fishkin.

So just now, when checking out the link from Sivacracy to my site, I see that Siva, Ann Bartow's co-blogger, urges everybody to see the new Twain play IS HE DEAD because it was unearthed by his mentor... Shelly Fisher Fishkin!

Just weird.

Jane Eyre fan fiction

Read Jane Eyre FanFiction... some intriguing what-if scenarios - what if Jane's Uncle Reed hadn't died and Jane was raised as a lady? What if Aunt Reed never told Jane about her uncle in Madeira? What if Jane did not make a fuss when she thinks Rochester wants to send her away?

Nobody's tackled this subject yet, but I bet this would wow them at the erotic literature web site - Eddie Rochester's European Bachelor Vacation. Hmmm.... maybe I'll have to write that one...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Some people like my sonnets!

I posted four of my Sonnets in G - #1, 3, 5 & 7 - on an erotic poetry forum. Yes, there is such a thing. And wow, the reception has been quite flattering and enthusiastic. Maybe I can be a poet after all. And really, I did make love to that employment, so to speak. Besides, what other possible occupation could I find that has even LESS earning potential than playwright? I always excel in anything which has no earning potential attached. I'm also a good portraitist in an age when electronic images are cheap and easy.

But onto the embarrassingly effusive praise!

For Sonnet 1: Who could stand against such heart wrenching image: "But still the white-foam-spraying dreams remain,/
Sweating a sad tormented yearning girl" and not at least extend a word of encouragement to the expelled beauty on the shores of this poetry section? A true Sonnet of a heart broken love (if only all of them were sung so beautifully...)

For Sonnet 3: I hear echoes from dialogues on love from Exupéry's "the little Prince", there is humor not to mention some erotic lines. Throw in some chilling Inca imagary and Psycho dynamic jargon - all in one Sonnet which holds it all gracefully; I mean, come on!

(I am really impressed that that person got the Inca imagery from the lines: "When your scarlet still-beating heart is twain / And yanked out bloody from your twitching shell.")

For Sonnet 5: "Does slay me, violates my volition": Yea Yea, Been there burned there...Great two ending lines to another smart very good poem.

For Sonnet 7: What a gusto of talent! What can I say? I am very gratefull that you put this perfect poem for us to read.

Well, what can I say but...

IN YO FACE Dickinson!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Jane Eyre vs. sexism

Although I disagree with those who wish to put a feminist spin on adaptations of "Jane Eyre" by turning Bertha Mason into a victim of imperialism and sexual oppression, I am certainly not pro-imperialism nor pro-sexual oppression.

My point to adaptors and reviewers of "Jane Eyre" is that there is enough feminist sentiment in the novel, as written, that it does not need any modern sub-text. The primary feminist position in the novel is quite radical, even up to the present day: women are creatures with sexual desires, rather than than objects of desire only.

The driving force of "Jane Eyre" is Jane's erotic desire for Rochester, which is why it was so controversial when it was published. To even hint that a female might have her own sexual desires, rather than be a passive, sentimental object waiting to be married off so she can start procreating, went against everything that 18th & 19th century English society believed was proper for a woman.

Jane expresses Bronte's disgust with the socio-economic system of the day in the famous "poor, obscure" speech:
Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! - I have as much soul as you,—and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh;—it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal,—as we are!
To Jane - and Bronte - the fact that Rochester and Jane are intellectual equals should overcome their socio-economic inequality.

Although Jane says that Rochester is not handsome, it is clear that he has no trouble attracting women, from Blanche to his many European mistresses. If he was truly repulsive and women did not feel attraction for him, he wouldn't be much of an object of desire for Jane either. And of course Rochester's many flings does not make him any less of a respectable gentleman - a clear marker of the traditional sexual double standard. We joked about Rochester's horndawg ways during the first production.

But while Rochester is not handsome, he is very masculine. Jane often alludes to his power and virility:
I traced the general points of middle height and considerable breadth of chest. He had a dark face, with stern features and a heavy brow.

His shape, now divested of cloak, I perceived harmonised in squareness with his physiognomy: I suppose it was a good figure in the athletic sense of the term—broad chested and thin flanked, though neither tall nor graceful.

With this announcement he rose from his chair, and stood, leaning his arm on the marble mantelpiece: in that attitude his shape was seen plainly as well as his face; his unusual breadth of chest, disproportionate almost to his length of limb. I am sure most people would have thought him an ugly man; yet there was so much unconscious pride in his port; so much ease in his demeanour; such a look of complete indifference to his own external appearance; so haughty a reliance on the power of other qualities, intrinsic or adventitious, to atone for the lack of mere personal attractiveness, that, in looking at him, one inevitably shared the indifference, and, even in a blind, imperfect sense, put faith in the confidence.

He had a rounded, muscular, and vigorous hand, as well as a long, strong arm.
The first actor to play Rochester in my adaptation is not physically very similar to Rochester, but a theatre acquaintance who saw the show remarked how masculine he was in the role, which I consider confirmation that I made the right casting choice.

But the quality that makes Rochester most attractive to Jane is that he is actually interested in her intellectual and artistic accomplishments. While conversing with Jane, Rochester compliments her intelligence:
“Humbug! Most things free-born will submit to anything for a salary; therefore, keep to yourself, and don’t venture on generalities of which you are intensely ignorant. However, I mentally shake hands with you for your answer, despite its inaccuracy; and as much for the manner in which it was said, as for the substance of the speech; the manner was frank and sincere; one does not often see such a manner: no, on the contrary, affectation, or coldness, or stupid, coarse-minded misapprehension of one’s meaning are the usual rewards of candour. Not three in three thousand raw school-girl-governesses would have answered me as you have just done. But I don’t mean to flatter you: if you are cast in a different mould to the majority, it is no merit of yours: Nature did it. And then, after all, I go too fast in my conclusions: for what I yet know, you may be no better than the rest; you may have intolerable defects to counterbalance your few good points.”

And he admires her paintings:
Not quite: you have secured the shadow of your thought; but no more, probably. You had not enough of the artist’s skill and science to give it full being: yet the drawings are, for a school-girl, peculiar. As to the thoughts, they are elfish. These eyes in the Evening Star you must have seen in a dream. How could you make them look so clear, and yet not at all brilliant? for the planet above quells their rays. And what meaning is that in their solemn depth? And who taught you to paint wind? There is a high gale in that sky, and on this hill-top. Where did you see Latmos? For that is Latmos. There! put the drawings away!"
I emphasized this aspect of Rochester in my adaptation:

When did you paint these?

My last vacation, at Lowood.

Watercolor is a notoriously difficult medium. Were you happy when you painted them?

Yes sir, I was. To paint them was the keenest pleasure I have known.

That’s not saying much - I gather you have had few pleasures thus far in your life. These painting are peculiar. The thoughts are otherworldly.

(He looks at them, absorbed. Then he remembers himself and becomes business-like again.)

Well, Miss Eyre, I find you have satisfactory attributes to educate my ward. Now go do your job.

Yes, sir.

(She curtsies and attempts to take the portfolio. )

Lend me your portfolio a bit longer, will you? I find these pieces strangely compelling.

Certainly, sir.

(Jane exits and Rochester continues to examine the portfolio. End of scene.)

How rare a trait this must have been in a man of the 19th century - Rochester is almost a fantasy figure - a man who is able to look beyond physical appearance in a woman. I'm sure that was a big reason why Charlotte Bronte was so in love with her teacher Constantin Heger - he seems to have taken a genuine interest in her intellectual development.

And I completely empathize with Bronte. Such men are rare even in the 21st century, so much so that if any sufficiently attractive man expresses an interest in my intellectual/artistic accomplishments I will pretty much become his slave for life.

So "Jane Eyre" is still relevant without any extra modern meaning added. Although of course adaptors will emphasize certain elements over others - as I did by emphasizing Rochester's admiration for Jane's paintings - it is simply wrong to change the meaning of the work entirely for ones own agenda.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

more on the JE review

Back to that Freeman review... she thinks that I somehow de-sympathized the character of Antoinette/Bertha...
Is she really insane or is her insanity a result of being used as a pawn and her resulting loveless marriage? The production does not portray Antoinette sympathetically. She draws blood after biting her brother's neck, sets fire to Rochester's bed curtains, and tears Jane's wedding veil. The portrayal of Antoinette, a character who should be pitied, seems at odds with the portrayal of Jane, another strong woman, who has been allowed her independence, and therefore will avoid the fate of Antoinette.

(I changed the name from Bertha to Antoinette - as is also done in "Wide Sargasso Sea" because the name Bertha seems so clunky for such an exotic character.)

In the book it is explained that Antoinette/Bertha is insane because it runs in her family. Her mother is insane too. And so I present her as insane due to a congenital medical condition - not because her loveless marriage made her insane.

This is another of those "English-department notions" as Michael Feingold calls it - that medical insanity never just happens, people are driven insane due to tragedy or loveless marriages or other common life events. In fact, it seems like ever since Ophelia, women regularly go insane in response to tragedy. If it happened as frequently in real life as it did in literature, half the women in the world would be barking mad.

But of course Antoinette/Bertha should be pitied - anybody who is insane should be, and in the book and my play Jane later tells Rochester he shouldn't hate her for being insane. Antoinette is so insane she doesn't understand why she has to stay with Rochester, and can't go back to Jamaica where she was running around with lots of men, as she did during the early days of her marriage to Rochester before she went completely crazy. She must be confined for her own good and the good of everybody around her, but she doesn't understand this. So she's frustrated, and everybody around her is frustrated.

Here is the first appearance of Antoinette/Bertha in my play:

ANTOINETTE MASON-ROCHESTER enters. She is dressed in a lovely but disheveled gown and carries a fan.)

Antoinette. It is I, Richard, come to see you.

I curse you both! You took me away from my beautiful lovers!

(Antoinette hits Mason with her fan and tries to bites his hand. Rochester tries to free Mason and she hits Rochester, then exits.)

We ended up staging it with Antoinette biting Mason's neck, and with Rochester wrestling her back behind a curtain, but at least she gets to talk. She later appears in a scene which I invented in order to give Antoinette one more chance to tell her side of the story:

(There is a scream and then Antoinette's laugh. Mrs. Fairfax exits, heading upstairs. The laughter is heard again. Rochester covers his ears against the sound.)

I should have sent her to Bedlam and let her rot there! You foul demon, you
will be the death of me! Jane! Don't think you have escaped me Jane!

(Mrs. Fairfax enters.)

She murdered Grace Poole! The whole room is on fire!

(Antoinette enters, her hands bloody and carrying a lit torch in one hand and Jane's discarded wedding veil in the other. She screams at Mrs. Fairfax.)

You are trying to steal my husband!

I am doing nothing of the sort!

Give me the torch, Antoinette.

You made my life a hell. And so let us have an inferno!
(She attempts to torch the room.)

(to Mrs. Fairfax)
Make yourself useful, go fetch some help!

(Mrs. Fairfax exits. Rochester addresses Antoinette again.)
Give me the torch!

Send me back to my home! My lovers are waiting for me! All my beautiful
lovers, not like you, you ugly English troll!

(She laughs. Rochester tries to grab the torch and she exits, he follows. Blackout.)

The production I saw of Polly Teale's adaptation presented Antoinette/Bertha supremely sympathetically. In the scene where Rochester presents her to everyone, she gently rests her head on his shoulder. Which may satisfy Teale's requirement that Antoinette/Bertha be Jane's alter-ego, but it has NOTHING to do with the book, and it makes Rochester look like a bad bad man - first driving this poor woman insane with his English imperialism and sexual repression, and then locking her into a room (which Teale equates with the Red Room of Jane's childhood trauma) when all she wants is to be loved and to express her sexuality. This throws the entire meaning of "Jane Eyre" out of whack. But theatre critics don't care.

Here is how Bertha is described in the novel:
In the deep shade, at the farther end of the room, a figure ran backwards and forwards. What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell: it grovelled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal: but it was covered with clothing, and a quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid its head and face.

"Good-morrow, Mrs. Poole!" said Mr. Rochester. "How are you? and how is your charge to-day?"

"We're tolerable, sir, I thank you," replied Grace, lifting the boiling mess carefully on to the hob: "rather snappish, but not 'rageous."

A fierce cry seemed to give the lie to her favourable report: the clothed hyena rose up, and stood tall on its hind-feet.

"Ah! sir, she sees you!" exclaimed Grace: "you'd better not stay."

"Only a few moments, Grace: you must allow me a few moments."

"Take care then, sir! - for God's sake, take care!"

The maniac bellowed: she parted her shaggy locks from her visage, and gazed wildly at her visitors. I recognised well that purple face, - those bloated features. Mrs. Poole advanced.

"Keep out of the way," said Mr. Rochester, thrusting her aside: "she has no knife now, I suppose, and I'm on my guard."

"One never knows what she has, sir: she is so cunning: it is not in mortal discretion to fathom her craft."

"We had better leave her," whispered Mason.

"Go to the devil!" was his brother-in-law's recommendation.

"'Ware!" cried Grace. The three gentlemen retreated simultaneously. Mr. Rochester flung me behind him: the lunatic sprang and grappled his throat viciously, and laid her teeth to his cheek: they struggled. She was a big woman, in stature almost equalling her husband, and corpulent besides: she showed virile force in the contest - more than once she almost throttled him, athletic as he was. He could have settled her with a well-planted blow; but he would not strike: he would only wrestle. At last he mastered her arms; Grace Poole gave him a cord, and he pinioned them behind her: with more rope, which was at hand, he bound her to a chair. The operation was performed amidst the fiercest yells and the most convulsive plunges.

Earlier in the book when Mason secretly visits Bertha, she attacks him:
"She bit me," he murmured. "She worried me like a tigress, when Rochester got the knife from her."

"You should not have yielded: you should have grappled with her at once," said Mr. Rochester.

"But under such circumstances, what could one do?" returned Mason. "Oh, it was frightful!" he added, shuddering. "And I did not expect it: she looked so quiet at first."

"I warned you," was his friend's answer; "I said - be on your guard when you go near her. Besides, you might have waited till to-morrow, and had me with you: it was mere folly to attempt the interview to-night, and alone."

"I thought I could have done some good."

"You thought! you thought! Yes, it makes me impatient to hear you: but, however, you have suffered, and are likely to suffer enough for not taking my advice; so I'll say no more. Carter - hurry! - hurry! The sun will soon rise, and I must have him off."

"Directly, sir; the shoulder is just bandaged. I must look to this other wound in the arm: she has had her teeth here too, I think."

"She sucked the blood: she said she'd drain my heart," said Mason.

It's clear to ANYBODY WHO HAS READ THE BOOK that my portrayal of Bertha is far more sympathetic than the original. The book describes her as an animal or even a vampire. My version at least gives her a chance to express her confusion and frustration with some human dignity.

Which brings me to the last and greatest reason why this review is a travesty....

which I will address soon...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Something well worth pondering...

From Dating Amy

Myth: Really handsome men are bad news for women.
"You don't want to date someone prettier than you are," is just the kind of snippy comment you don't generally hear from superhandsome men. It's not the chiseled pecs, perfect nose or soulful eyes, it's that pretty boys tend to be nicer to women than other boys. And why not? They've been nothing but accepted by women since they were old enough to wonder if they really got the lead in the school play because of their acting ability. Beautiful men are less critical of women's looks than unattractive men because they don't need a gorgeous woman to validate them to, well, anyone. Can you picture Johnny Depp playing Howard Stern's "Hot or Not?" Me neither. Matinee-idol types can and do date average-looking women like yours truly and they base relationships on having things in common rather than what their friends think. Good-looking men are also naturally more empathetic to female fears like age and weight gain, especially if their career is tied up with their looks. Remember, underwear models with floppy hair named Brandon deserve love too.


California Affirms Right to Gay Marriage

Only 48 more states to go.

Just when Loving vs. Virginia was in the news recently.

More on the Jane Eyre reviews

I won't mention the other two reviewers of JANE EYRE by name, although I have a beef with each, because I don't want them Googling themselves and finding my criticisms.

But I WILL mention Amy Freeman because she should not be a reviewer, and I hope she won't review anything by me in the future.

Here is why:
Greg Oliver Bodine falters a bit initially by seeming to inject a bit of postmodern insincerity and sarcasm into his early flirtations with Jane. Bodine strengthens in the end, when his character has lost everything and is in the depths of despair.

Jane Eyre questions the role of women in society. Jane refuses to be a kept woman, and does not return to Rochester until she has secured financial independence. The woman in the attic, named Antoinette in the stage version, represents the domination of men in the nineteenth century. Is she really insane or is her insanity a result of being used as a pawn and her resulting loveless marriage? The production does not portray Antoinette sympathetically. She draws blood after biting her brother's neck, sets fire to Rochester's bed curtains, and tears Jane's wedding veil. The portrayal of Antoinette, a character who should be pitied, seems at odds with the portrayal of Jane, another strong woman, who has been allowed her independence, and therefore will avoid the fate of Antoinette.

It is best for fans of Bronte's novel to stick to the book, as even the best of actors cannot replace the beauty that is to be found in there. McClernan makes a valiant effort in transplanting the sprawling work to the confines of the stage, but in the end, as our high school teachers always said, it's best just to read the book.

Firstly - there was nothing "post-modern" about Bodine's performance. But unlike many other adaptations of the novel, his Rochester wasn't constantly scowling, bellowing and brooding. In other words, he was closer to the Rochester of the book.

Second - "The woman in the attic... represents the domination of men in the nineteenth century."

This is the clearest demonstration that Freeman's understanding of "Jane Eyre" is based exclusively on adaptations. Charlotte Bronte never intended for the mad wife in the attic to represent male dominance and neither did I. But recent adaptations of the novel, notably the Polly Teale version, do. As Michael Feingold said in his review of a 2000 production of Teale's adaptation:
Meaning to view the myth through a modern feminist prism, Teale exploits a predictable strategy: The mad wife locked up in Mr. Rochester's attic is the heroine's Doppelgänger (or more precisely Doppelgängerin), beginning as the naughty second self for whose misbehavior her aunt punishes her in childhood. Extending this English-department notion over three hours of theater produces exactly the diminishing returns you'd expect— especially since, in accordance with the official feminist rules for approaching nonfeminist women's literature, the principal male figure has to be utterly deromanticized.
Although I disgreed with much of Feingold's review (he doesn't like the original novel much) he's onto something here. The implication of this male dominance theory is that Rochester is a bad guy.

The idea that the wife in the attic represents male domination is so prevalent that Freeman doesn't even think twice before proclaiming it as a settled matter of fact. But Rochester, in the novel, is not a force of represssion, but is rather the supreme object of desire. Any adaptation that denies or downplays this fact diminishes the power of the story.

More thoughts on this travesty of a review soon...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Reviewing the reviewers...

So I'm going to write a long response to the reviews for my recent adaptation of JANE EYRE, and I've been going over the three we received.

I have noticed in the past that off-off Broadway reviewers are careless about getting the facts straight. I fired off an email to one reviewer of my TAM LIN because he literally got ten points of fact wrong. And the JANE reviewers were almost as bad. Here is example one:

We meet Edward Rochester (Greg Oliver Bodine), a well to do bachelor calling out the name "Jane" without receiving a response.
WRONG. He DOES receive a response. The reviewer starts off by bitching about our technical issues - she came to the very first performance - but that was not a technical problem. When Rochester calls Jane's name, she responds by calling "Where are you." Everybody in the theatre heard it BUT this reviewer.

The same reviewer claimed that nobody during that period wore bangs, as our Jane did. Wrong again.

But reviewers, at least off-off Broadway reviewers, don't give a damn about facts. Clearly they are frustrated fiction authors.

One of the crew had her eye on this reviewer and said she came in to the show looking half awake right from the beginning. Clearly she didn't take her job too seriously.

I will say that the number one problem of reviewers of this particular play is that none of them, whatever else they may claim, has read, or remembered the original novel "Jane Eyre." They don't compare adaptations of "Jane Eyre" to the original work, they compare them to other adaptations. This is especially irritating because in my opinion, so many adaptors just get it wrong.

I saw Polly Teale's stage adaptation, and it was so wrong in so many ways, but primarily because Teale basically changes the meaning of the story by turning Bertha Mason, the crazy wife, into Jane's alter ego. But it's all psycho-drama pseudo-Freudian and the pretentious critics think that's so kewl and cutting edge. Never mind that it has nothing to do with Bronte's vision.

Here's critic and Bronte biographer Lucasta Miller:
When the madwoman is discovered and the wedding between Jane and Rochester broken off, the implication of the Shared Experience production (of Teale's adaptation) is that Jane runs away because she cannot face her own passions. We are left feeling that she should have followed her instinct and united herself with Rochester anyway - that it was only fear and repression that stopped her from becoming his lover. However, this suggests a rather anachronistic view of sex outside marriage. In the original text, Jane's escape from Thornfield is presented not just as tragic self-denial but as an act of empowering self-assertion.
And I won't even get into Teale's staging concepts, like having the actor playing Rochester ride piggyback on the actor playing his horse, while an actor playing Pilot the dog runs around on all fours barking. (shudder) I bet a million bucks Bronte would have been appalled by that.

A major problem of depending on adaptations rather than the original text is the view of Rochester. From Orson Wells on down, Rochester has rarely been portrayed as Bronte wrote him - not even close. The model seems to be more Heathcliff from Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" and so one critic complained that our Rochester wasn't "dark" enough. Well, more on that in my proper essay, hopefully soon...

You can see how over the top Wells portrays Rochester in this clip Joan Fontaine is also so wrong. She's such a huge un-Janian sap.

It's interesting to compare the proposal scene from Wells' version with the recent BBC's version. While Wells does it 1-2-3, boom, lightning, the Beeb's version draws it the hell out. I also think Ruth Wilson is too whiny AND it annoys the hell out of me that she asks "do you think I am a machine" rather than the original "an automaton."

Watch the BBC's version of the proposal scene here.

The reviewers of my production probably wonder where I got the word "automaton,"

Truth be told, I wasn't entirely satisfied with our proposal scene, but that will be taken care for the next production.

Monday, May 12, 2008

misheard lyrics: Oh, four tuna

Surprisingly funny! Thanks to Bruce Barton for the link.

The actual lyrics:

O Fortuna,
velut Luna
statu variabilis,
semper crescis
aut decrescis;
vita detestabilis
nunc obdurat
et tunc curat
ludo mentis aciem;
dissolvit ut glaciem.

Sors immanis
et inanis,
rota tu volubilis,
status malus,
vana salus
semper dissolubilis;
et velata
mihi quoque niteris;
nunc per ludum
dorsum nudum
fero tui sceleris.

Sors salutis
et virtutis
mihi nunc contraria;
est affectus
et defectus
semper in angaria.
hac in hora
sine mora
cordae pulsum tangite!
quod per sortem
sternit fortem,
mecum omnes plangite!


O Fortune, like the moon of ever changing state, you are always waxing or waning; hateful life now is brutal, now pampers our feelings with its game; poverty, power, it melts them like ice.

Fate, savage and empty, you are a turning wheel, your position is uncertain, your favour is idle and always likely to disappear; covered in shadows and veiled you bear upon me too; now my back is naked through the sport of your wickedness.

The chance of prosperity and of virtue is not now mine; whether willing or not, a man is always liable for Fortune's service. At this hour without delay touch the strings! Because through luck she lays low the brave, all join with me in lamentation!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

That's just what you are

Aimee Mann's "That's Just What You Are" - one of the best fuck-off songs ever.

Listen for free


In our endeavor we are never seeing eye to eye
No guts to serve us so forever may we wave goodbye
And you're always telling me that it's my turn to move
When I wonder what could make the needle jump the groove

I won't fall for the oldest trick in the book
So don't sit there and think you're off of the hook
By saying there is no use changing 'cause

That's just what you are
That's just what you are

Acting steady always ready to defend your fears
What's the matter with the truth, did I offend your ears
By suggesting that a change might be a thing to try
Like it would kill you just to try and be a nicer guy

It's not like you would lose some critical piece
If somehow you moved point A to point B
Maintaining there is no point changing 'cause

That's just what you are
That's just what you are

Now I could talk to you till I'm blue in the face
But we still would arrive at the very same place
With you running around and me out of the race

So maybe you're right, nobody can take
Something older than time and hope you could make
It better, that would be a mistake

So take it just so far

'Cause that's just what you are
That's just what you are
That's just what you are

Acting steady always ready to defend your fears
What's the matter with the truth, did I offend your ears
You're like a sleepwalking man, it's a danger to wake you
Even when it is apparent where your actions will take you

That's just what you are
And that's just what you are
That's just what you are
That's just what you are

Friday, May 09, 2008

NYCPlaywrights Spring Reading

My group NYCPlaywrights does a fundraiser (usually) twice a year. Tomorrow is the Spring Reading fundraiser.

My 10-minute plays MR. BLACK and FOX FORCE FIVE will be part of the lineup.

More information here.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Lovely Rae

Speaking of talented people I know... by day Reagan Wilson is a business woman, by nights a Renaissance woman of the legitimate thee-aye-tah, but OTHER nights she metaphorphoses into The Lovely Rae, goddess of nouveau burlesque!



She also kept me sane during the JANE EYRE run in the face of onrushing arrogance, galloping obnoxiousness and an infestation of snakes, and for that alone she deserves a Nobel Prize.

She's running a show every Thursday in May at Rififi

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Good Seeing You Again

Listen to a clip of "Good Seeing You Again" here

One of the actors in my recent JANE EYRE production, Nat Cassidy, (he played St. John Rivers, the hot but Christo-fascist minister who almost takes Jane away to India) is not only a great actor*, he's a great songwriter too. And my very most favorite song of his is "Good Seeing You Again." It is by far the best song ever written by a person I actually know. And if my ex-boyfriend (when we were 16, four years before Nat was born that young bastard) singer-songwriter Dan Montgomery reads this - sorry Dan.

Nat's a huge fan of the Beatles - I mean he knows everything about them and I used to think I was the queen of Beatles trivia but now Nat is the queen.

I'm sure he doesn't mind being called "queen" since Nat is a man who loves women, so being referred to with a female term can only be a compliment. Right Nat?

You can tell the Beatles' influence on Good Seeing because of:
1. the rhythm piano that pops up after the first verse.
2. the fun backing vocals that pop up after the second verse.
3. the lyrics, which start out wonderfully ambivalent, but which, by the end of the song morph into a confession ("I've been wandering round the same old places hoping you'd pass me by") and a heartfelt, totally vulnerable plea for reconcilliation ("And I'm hoping baby you will take me back and that we can start again.")

Actually the lyrics are better than virtually any lyrics written by Paul McCartney - and I love Paul McCartney and always defend him against the John-Lennon-is-God brigade.

Good Seeing kicks into a climax right at the lyrics: "I've been wondering where you've been wandering..." It's just the greatest thing.

But enough dancing about architecture - there is a link at the top of this post, just click it and listen to an excerpt of the song. Then buy the song - at 69 cents you can't afford not to.

Here are the lyrics, posted by permission, thanks Nat:

I'm sorry if it seemed imperfect
I hope you know to me it's worth it
I'm sorry if you can't get over what I mighta done.

I'm sorry for the angry letters.
At least they made me feel much better.
And maybe we can chalk it all up to being said in fun.

Cause it was good seeing you again.
And I hope this time we can be friends.
And I'm sorry for all the times I done yah wrong
And I hope we can start again.

I think the torch has finally gone out
And now your picture don't hold much clout
Cause there's no sense in sitting home
wondering what you coulda changed

I mean you really fucked me up good
And made me feel what no man ever should
But baby I'd still take you back
yes that means I'm just deranged.

And it was good seeing you again
And I hope this time we can be friends.
And I'm sorry bout the time I almost killed your dog
And I hope we can start again.

(musical interlude)

Cause I've been wondering where you've been wandering
And I've been wondering what you've been wondering
Cause I've been walking round the same old places
Hoping you'd pass me by
Cause life's been nothing since the day you took off
And the grief just ain't something that can be shook off
And I've been hoping that maybe you would just give it a try.

And it was good seeing you again
And I hope this time we can be friends.
And I'm hoping baby you will take me back
And that we can start again.

*if you are an important producer, by all means cast him immediately. Cassidy's Hamlet feeds off his own anger; he's a calculating, would-be angel of death, gathering evidence and biding his time.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I want to be Julie Gunn

Her husband is the most incredibly hot baritone of all time

Holy guacamole.

Vanity Fair hates women

Read the Mein Kampf of male privilege right here

Echidne fights back

My response, as usual, is much less polite than Echidne's. My letter to Vanity Fair:

I have rarely read a screed seething which such misogny as the hate piece by Michael Wolff.

I long suspected that Vanity Fair was a nest of ugly old white men hanging onto male privilege for dear life. Now I know it.

Dear Michael Wolf - I like MUCH younger men. It's not a guy thing, essentialist moron. Now eat shit and die.

If you are a woman over 30 years old and have a subscription to Vanity Fair and you don't cancel that subscription you are A FUCKING IDIOT.

Digby comments

Lance Mannion chimes in

The Daily Howler hasn't discussed it yet, but I did discover that Wolff was the object of Bob's scorn back in 2005.

Damn, I hate to agree with David Mamet

Since reading Mamet's OLEANNA, I've pretty much felt that David Mamet was a reactionary, especially when it comes to evolving gender roles. And recently he came out, in an article in the Village Voice, as a bona fide conservative.

So I really hate to agree with him about anything.
But the article he wrote for The Guardian is right on as far as acting goes. Here is an excerpt:

How do great screen actors portray the truth? By withholding emotion

There is a wonderful old weeper called Penny Serenade. Here we have Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. Their little girl has died in the Great Tokyo Earthquake of nineteen-twenty-something, and they are, of course, bereft.

They are awarded provisional custody of a young orphan, and raise her for four years. Grant then loses his job - it is the Depression - and the orphanage informs him that he is therefore likely to lose custody of his daughter.

He goes to the judge and pleads. Now pleading is, in my experience, the hardest thing for any actor to do. It involves, onstage or off, complete self-abasement and (again whether in life or on stage) is very painful. Most actors, asked to plead, will counterfeit the act. This is called "indicating", and means creation of a recognisable rendition of the action required by the script. Grant, in a magnificent piece of acting, actually pleads. He bares his soul before the judge, who holds the fate of his daughter in his hands.

The performance, however, that I count as ethereal is that occurring behind him.

Beulah Bondi, playing the head of the orphanage, has, through the film, championed the cause of Grant and Dunne. She has told them that the chances of the judge awarding the little girl to a family with no income are nil. She accompanies Grant to the chambers, and sits far off in the background to watch the proceedings.

We know she is disposed toward the supplicant, we see that she has no wish to influence the judge. We understand that she feels that any emotion, utterance, any comment whatever would be detrimental to the case of the pleader; and, further, that she believes in the system as constituted - she has intervened to what she considers the limit of the acceptable, and, though it is painful, she will now withhold herself from the necessary operation of the court.

She accomplishes all this through sitting and watching.

More at The Guardian

He specifies screen actors, but I think it's true, if perhaps to a lesser extent, for stage actors as well.

One of the things that used to drive me crazy when I was producing my play TAM LIN was that it was always so tough to get the actor playing the lead role of Janet to follow the stage directions as written in order for her characterization to have the right impact.

In the play, Janet's father Lord Dunbar, a Scottish warlord, has decided it would be in his own best political interest to marry his youngest daughter Janet to his ally Lord Aberdeen. Janet doesn't know about his plan, and has previously indicated to her lady-in-waiting that she considers him an old man (although Margaret, the lady-in-waiting is in love with Aberdeen from afar, but that's another plot development.

So when Janet does get the news it goes like this:

(Janet is in shock, and just stands there, until Margaret leads her
to Aberdeen.)

The Lord and Lady of Carterhaugh.

(All except Aberdeen and Janet applaud.)

What does my Lady Aberdeen say? Do you like the sound of that? Lady Aberdeen?

(At the question, Janet, still in shock, silently exits.)

I had several different young women play the role and every single damn time I had to tell them, directly or through the director, that they had to JUST STAND THERE IN SHOCK. None of them would do it the first time around. They had to roll their eyes or pout or look in open-mouthed amazement at Margaret or any number of things except stand there in shock. The role allowed for plenty of animation both before and after this moment, which is why doing nothing was so effective. But they NEVER got that until I painstakingly explained it to them. Oy.

Mamet also has some interesting things to say about pleading. One of the biggest challenges for the actor who played Rochester in my recent JANE EYRE was the monologue where Rochester tries to convince Jane that his behavior (trying to marry Jane while he had a wife, albeit a barking mad wife, alive and living in the attic) was understandable, forgivable and that furthermore she should come away with him to France and live in sin (from Jane's perspective) because in spite of any technicalities, Jane and he were truly husband and wife.

I explained up front to him that Rochester was basically pleading his case, almost as if he was a defense lawyer and Jane was a judge. He seemed to find this offensive and we had an argument - although in retrospect I believe now that he was influenced by another actor in the cast who kept trying to direct the play for me. Does David Mamet ever have to deal with bullshit like that? In any case, eventually Rochester and I came to an agreement, and the scene was pretty effective on stage.

You can read the Rochester pleading scene here.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Cinco de Mayo

I'm still hoping that my composition "Cinco de Mayo" will become the official theme song of the holiday.

Yikes, the link was broken. I fixed it.

Go Hillary!

Whoah, I didn't realize Senator Evan Bayh was so damn cute. If there was any justice in the world, Hillary would be getting some of that.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Is There a Real Woman in This Multiplex?

Awesome rant from Manohla Dargis


In “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” the lucky guy is Peter (the screenwriter Jason Segel), whose stunning conquest, Rachel (Mila Kunis), is so out of his league as to be in another universe. No matter. Peter snags this prize specifically because - from his full-frontal nudity to his penchant for hugs and voluble crying jags, for which he's literally mistaken for a woman - he’s basically another chick, or what Arnold Schwarzenegger once called a girlie man. (The softly plumped Mr. Segel even looks as if he could fit into an A cup.) In one scene Peter goes swimming with Rachel only to end up clinging to the side of a cliff. Rachel, who has already taken the plunge, laughingly yells up at him, "I can see your vagina!"

Better a virtual vagina, I suppose, than none at all. Last year only 3 of the 20 highest-grossing releases in America were female-driven, and involve a princess ("Enchanted") or pregnancy ("Knocked Up" and "Juno"). Actresses had starring roles in about a quarter of the next 80 highest-grossing titles, mostly in dopey romantic comedies and dopier thrillers. A number of these were among the worst-reviewed movies of the year, including "Premonition" (Sandra Bullock) and "The Reaping" (Hilary Swank), the last of which was released by - ta-da! - Warner Brothers. The days of "Million Dollar Baby," for which Ms. Swank won an Oscar, and "Speed," which rocketed Ms. Bullock to stardom in the summer of 1994, feel long gone.

There may be more women working in the industry now — Amy Pascal is a co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment — but you wouldn’t know it from what's on the screen. The reasons are complex and certainly beyond the scope of a seasonal rant like this one. Some point to the lack of female directors, whose numbers in both the mainstream and independent realms hover at around 6 percent. Others blame the female audience, though the success of “Baby Mama” indicates — just as the summer hit "The Devil Wears Prada" suggested two years ago — that if given something decent that speaks to their lives and lets them leave the theater without feeling slimed, women will turn out. The Apatow she-male isn’t bad, but give me the real deal any day.

One thing I meant to blog about was the antagonism between Jon Stewart and Judd Apatow when the latter appeared on The Daily Show . Although maybe it's wishful thinking on my part - I already think Jon Stewart is amazing, dare I hope that he's so cool that he also dislikes Judd Apatow, the People's Asshole? Oh Jon Stewart, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Wildwood Summer

The easiest money I've ever made as a writer was the short story I sold to Freshmen a gay men's erotica mag in the 1990s. My story, "Wildwood Summer" was published in the October 1996 issue.

I'm surprised this magazine is still being published - I would have thought the easy access to virtually any erotic genre thought of by humankind through the Internet would have killed paper magazines. I'm sorry to say that my issue is not available on the one back issues site I found, although November and December 1996 are available.

I just re-read my story, and it's not bad, as a story. In fact it's kind of funny how much of the story is not about sex, although the sex bits are quite explicit.

My nom de plume was Eric Lahr, which is an anagram of the name Earl Rich, the insanely sexy married man I was pining for at the time. I never got to show him the published story though - he died a month before the issue came out, in a motorcycle accident.

I'm very big with sublimating my desires into art, and this story is another example. It is a story about two guys, Vinny and Woody, and I lived vicariously through Vinny and Woody was a stand-in for Earl. Not that Earl was gay, although lots of gay men had crushes on him. But Earl liked to surf down the Jersey shore, and his wife was named Michele, with one "L" just like Woody's girlfriend in the story.

At the time I wrote this, I thought I was a real trailblazer, a straight woman writing gay erotica. But actually the fan fiction sub-genre known as "slash" had been around for years. Since then I wrote a play about two women writing a story together called THE SLASH, which I self-produced in 2004. It was later produced by Looking Glass theatre, but I try to forget about that experience, since the director had no respect for me, casting one of the worst actors ever in one of the roles, and then inserting a line from Brokeback Mountain ("I wish I could quit you") for the last performance. One more lousy experience with a director, which is why I direct my stuff myself.

I rarely write anything these days besides playscripts, blog posts, and technical manuals. And actually I'm not a big fiction reader - most fiction bores me. But I do love four particular novels.

I've already adapted two of those four into plays - JANE EYRE and HUCK FINN. I have no desire to adapt "To Kill a Mockingbird" since a good adaptation has already been done, and I can't adapt "Catcher in the Rye" because nobody is permitted to do such a thing. My four favorite novels are all written in first-person, and so is my Wildwood story, and looking at it now, it's funny how much my style is influenced by Catcher. My Vinny sounds like a half-Irish half-Italian gay Holden Caulfield.

I always find it easier to adapt novels into plays than writing original plots. I think I'll adapt my own story into a play.

"Wildwood Summer" is about being true to yourself. And hot manly sex.

Here's how it begins:

This is the story of two guys, Vinny and Woody. I'm Vinny. I met Woody last summer while I was working down the shore in Wildwood, NJ. My job was renting out beach umbrellas and Boogie boards. I liked my job - it paid enough to cover another semester at Rutgers, and I got to hang out on the beach. One thing I especially liked about Wildwood was that it was full of Italian guys. I'm half Italian myself, which is why I tan so deeply, and I'm half Irish, which is why I have the blue eyes. You'll hate me for this, but I'm in great shape and I don't even work out that much. I have one of these wiry, muscular physiques. I know it sounds conceited, but I'm just telling you how it is.

The day I met Woody was typical: I got up, showered, and put on my swim trunks, a pair of flip-flops, shades, and a gold chain with my apartment key around my neck. Then it was off to work. I got to the beach by 11 a.m.

By 2 that day I was bored. I was standing there slathering some more lotion on my smooth pecs when along comes this dork of a customer. At least I thought he was a dork at first because he was wearing a white terry-cloth robe and a straw hat. But when he got up close, I could see that he was a damn cute guy. In this soft, husky voice, he said he wanted to rent an umbrella. I had him sign my clipboard. His name was Woodrow Brooke Lovejoy III.

"That's some name you got," I said. I bet old Lovejoy didn't have to work for his college education; his name said money loud and clear.
"Yeah, I guess. They call me Woody." He smiled this crooked little smile that made my...

You can read the rest of it, with the explicit sex parts left out here.

If you want to read the version published in the magazine you can email me at nancy at mergatroyd dot org and I'll tell you where you can read it online.

Seven Samurai

Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai" is the best movie ever made. Period. Do not give me no "Citizen Kane" crap. SS beats CK by every criterion.

You can watch a trailer for Seven Samurai on youtube here.

Seven Samurai wiki.

Roger Ebert's review of Seven Samurai

The youngest Samurai (the guy on the left in the photo above) looks a little like my ex-boyfriend (although he's Korean.)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Everybody should read Krugman

More in the NYTimes

The Democrats have been offering real plans in response; they’re not perfect, but they are serious.

The G.O.P., by contrast — and this goes as much for Mr. McCain as for the Bush administration — hasn’t even tried to address concerns about coverage. Instead, it has all been about costs, which Republicans insist (wrongly) can be dramatically reduced by a policy of, you guessed it, deregulation and tax cuts.

Until a few days ago, the only answer the McCain campaign offered to those worried about lack of coverage was the vague, implausible assertion that the magic of the marketplace would make health care cheap enough for everyone to afford.

Now Mr. McCain has admitted that maybe a government program is needed for those who can’t get private insurance. This appears to be a response to criticism from Elizabeth Edwards, who has been pointing out that deregulated insurers would deny coverage to anyone with, say, a history of cancer — a category that includes both her and Mr. McCain himself. But the way Mrs. Edwards has rattled the McCain campaign is evidence of just how vulnerable he is on the issue.

The point is that the health care issue could be Exhibit A for a Democratic campaign based on the argument that they are the party of pragmatic solutions, while modern Republicans won’t even acknowledge problems that don’t fit into their rigid ideological framework.

But are Democrats ready to make that case?

To be clear, both Democratic candidates have been saying things they shouldn’t; Hillary Clinton shouldn’t have endorsed the bad idea of a gas tax holiday.

But I think Mr. Obama is doing much more harm to the Democratic cause by echoing Republican attack lines on such issues as insurance mandates and Social Security. And now he’s demonstrating his post-partisanship by giving Republicans credit for good ideas they never had.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

More on the Queen Bee syndrome

I came across James Martin Capozzola's web site Rittenhouse Review today, and the article for which he won the 2002 Koufax Award (given to lefty bloggers) "Al Gore and the Alpha Girls."

This section in particular is enlightening...

Watching the media’s unrelenting pig pile on Al Gore in recent weeks revived these teenage memories, many of them unpleasant, even painful. And as I thought about the matter and observed purportedly mature men - mostly men anyway - attack Gore with a ferocity I had not witnessed since I said good-bye to the Class of 1980, I thought also of “Girls Just Want to be Mean,” an article by Margaret Talbot in the February 24 issue of the New York Times Magazine.

I found Talbot’s essay spellbinding, fascinating, and extraordinarily accurate, at least with respect to my own high school years and much of what I had heard about kids today from friends and colleagues. I was surprised to see Talbot’s piece greeted in many quarters, the predictable and otherwise, with venomous hostility and transparent denial. In the article, which was based upon visits to several schools and extensive interviews with students and teachers, Talbot identifies the characteristic traits and behavioral patterns of the most selective girls’ cliques, the members of which she refers to as “Alpha Girls” and “Queen Bees.”

Alpha Girls, Talbot wrote, armed with intelligence and cunning, devote considerable time and energy to waging complicated, intricate, and highly personalized battles with other girls of similar age, the intent of which is to damage the other girls' friendships, relationships, and reputations, all in an effort to enhance and sustain their popularity and status.

The Alphas accomplish their goals through a wide variety of means, including spreading rumors - some true or at least based on truth, others wildly false - using the power of information and the means of its distribution to assault their prey. With an uncanny ability to identify and exploit their victims’ weaknesses, their opponents’ most vulnerable Achilles’ heels, the Alphas mercilessly exclude from membership - or "merely" reduce the social standing of -- those who don't make the cut.

Membership in the group is uncompromisingly exclusive - like the all-male Augusta National Club, obvious eagerness to join is certain to result in rejection - and unquestioning loyalty to the group’s mores and agenda is required for a girl to maintain membership in good standing. Even the most petty offense - wearing the wrong clothes on the wrong day, eating the wrong food in the cafeteria or even eating in the cafeteria at all, or joining the wrong extracurricular activity, to say nothing of speaking with, or worse, dating, the wrong boy - is grounds for immediate expulsion.

Alliances, many of them temporary and fleeting, are a critical element of the Alphas’ strategy. When it suits them, Alphas will befriend a girl with whom they would not ordinarily be associated with the sole intent - not always apparent to the newly befriended girl -- of inflicting revenge and retribution on their latest victim. Although Alphas can be mean and cruel, they aren’t physical; catfights aren’t their thing. Rather than engaging in physical altercations, they rely on words, insults, rumor, gossip, innuendo, and manipulation. And the Alphas use others who are not members of the clique, including girls aspiring to this lofty status, and boys, naturally the most popular boys whenever possible, in their campaigns to ruin the reputations of others they find threatening or morally, intellectually, socially, or physically superior.


The Betas and the Gammas

In her Times essay, Talbot identified two other groups in the social hierarchy of high school girls: the Betas and the Gammas.

The "Beta Girls," or "Alpha Wannabees," rank just below the Alpha Girls. Although the Betas generally earn better grades than the Alphas, demonstrate greater achievement in extra-curricular activities, and typically enjoy the favor of teachers and parents, most wish desperately to become Alphas. Their self-directed, usually independent, Alpha-directed membership drives can border on the obsessive and even the pathetic. Beyond their quest for membership in the school’s highest-ranking clique, the Betas’ most clearly identifiable motivation is fear of offending the Alphas, this out of a justifiable reluctance to become the group's latest target.

Finally, according to Talbot, there are the “Gamma Girls,” girls who generally fit the standard characteristics of the familiar label, “Most Likely to Succeed.” These girls, while not the most popular or most successful girls in school, also happen to be among the most well adjusted. They view themselves and evaluate their peers on the basis of their accomplishments and personal qualities rather than their appearance or social standing; they are often the most consistently congenial girls in school, this despite their often depressed self-esteem; they form new friendships easily and end them without conflict or animosity; and their relationships are more circular than hierarchical in nature, a testament to their more advanced mental and emotional development. The Gammas differ from the Betas, however, in that the Gammas profess a complete lack of interest in becoming Alphas, and this lack of interest, sometimes affected by a few Betas, is genuine.

(My own observation, one not developed by Talbot, is that the Alphas, knowingly or not, tend to define themselves in opposition to the Gammas, those who are, in truth but in secret, the Alphas’ most dreaded adversaries. The Gammas, though, are not cognizant of this latent power and therefore are consigned to operating at an unwarranted disadvantage.)