Profiles Theatre, rape culture, and abuse onstage and off

Content warning: Discussions of sexual harassment, abuse, rape, and violence against women.


survival

“survival,” keon loo.

It’s been quite a week to be female.

I thought I was going to come back to this blog to write something about how joyful I feel about Hillary Clinton becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, because I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about her, and about representation, and about strong women I have known. I can’t even pick an article to sum up what I’m feeling so I can cheat and not write a whole post — there are just too many interesting pieces being written and published right now.

At the same time as my Facebook feed has been flooded with a head-spinning combination of joy and outrage over Clinton’s nomination, it has also been chock full of commentary about the Stanford rapist. (Warning: link has an autoplay video of the survivor’s letter to Turner.) Again, there are so many blog posts and articles and videos being made about this case that I don’t even know where to start linking.

And, among these, my community — the theatre community — is abuzz with Aimee Levitt and Christopher Piatt’s in-depth investigation of abuse at Chicago’s Profiles Theatre: Continue reading

Senbazuru

I have this nervous tic where I fold cranes. Any suitable piece of paper — paper napkin rings, foil candy wrappers — I’ll trim and tear it down to a square and start folding. Corner to corner, corner to corner, flatten, open, mountain fold, valley fold. I think I got into the habit around high school, when I stage managed a show set in a circus: huge inch-and-a-half wide confetti pieces were scattered all over the set, and I’d sit backstage sweeping them up, fidgeting and folding.

Right now I’m stage managing again, assisting on Book-It’s The Brothers K. Any rehearsal process has a certain amount of hurry-up-and-wait to it, whether it’s waiting to finish table work or waiting for the next scene transition. And when I’m waiting I either fidget or I get distracted by something with a screen. So a few weeks ago, I dug out a pack of small origami paper my mother gave me a while back, and I started making cranes.

 

First I finished up that pack — a little less than half the paper had already been folded and the cranes probably given away to someone or other. It didn’t take me nearly as long as I might have hoped to get through all the paper, and then to string the finished cranes together. And since it had taken so little time, I decided hell, I may as well make a thousand.

A group of one thousand paper cranes is called a senbazuru. They’re considered good luck symbols, and according to some sources, if a person folds a thousand cranes in a year, they are granted one wish. Famously, a young survivor of Hiroshima named Sadako Sasaki folded a thousand cranes after she was diagnosed with radiation-induced leukemia. Sadako and her cranes have become a symbol of a global longing for peace. I used to walk past the statue of her in the University District on a regular basis. She’s always draped with strings of cranes of every size — paper wishes, bright in Seattle’s rain and mist.

I’m superstitious enough to feel like most wishes are best kept to the wisher’s self. But it does seem appropriate, while working on an anti-war play, to fold these cranes with an anti-war intention. Or, more positively, a peaceful intention.

The prismatic string on the left here, hanging on our callboard, that’s the leftover paper I started with — probably a hundred or a hundred and fifty cranes. The string on the right is 272 cranes, the first pack of paper I finished and strung yesterday.

Just 728 to go.IMG_20160402_141807

Wrighting drama

With the holidays come invitations holiday parties, and with parties come the questions of “So what do you do?”

Depending on who I’m talking to, I’ll tell them how I pay my bills — “I drive a food truck” — how I want to pay my bills — “I’m a writer” — or what I’m actually working on right now — “I’m interning at Book-It as a dramaturg.”

The first two answers are pretty easy for people to digest. The third . . . not so much. Non-theatre people have never heard of a dramaturg. And plenty of theatre people aren’t clear on what, exactly, a dramaturg is or does. Many artists haven’t ever worked with one.

As a result, I’ve spent seven years assuring people that dramaturgy is not a word I made up on the spot and trying to explain what it is we do, with varying levels of success.

DAMMIT GRIFF I thought I told you to stop making up animals Continue reading

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Review: “Love In the Time of Zombies”

Last weekend Elisa and I were honored to be invited to review Vagabond Alley Productions‘ “Love In the Time of Zombies,” which opened on Saturday. We were doubly honored when the Horror Honeys offered to host said review as part of their Undead Thursday line-up!

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The play’s central plot-line is the most fundamental of zombie tropes: our heroes are in a safe enclosed space, fighting the zombie hordes, when another survivor (Robert Hankins) comes into their sanctuary with a suspicious wound. This scene is practically obligatory in any zombie media, and it’s easy to see why. You’ve got immediate tension, a mystery to solve—is it a cut or a bite?—and the ethical questions of whether or not to kill the infected person before they turn. (Pro tip: It’s never just a cut. Tie that guy up before it’s too late.)

Click on over for the full review, and thank you again to Vagabond Alley and the Horror Honeys for giving me a chance to actually use my degree for its intended purpose. It’s a fun show: if you’re in Seattle and in the mood for some late-night zombies and live theatre, check it out! Tickets are only $10 online.

And if you enjoy me and Elisa yakking about horror, you should also check out our fledgling podcast, Femimonstrosity, wherein we sit around with coffee and ramble about movies like Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Rosemary’s Baby. I promise it’s worth every penny.

Review: “Song of Spider-Man”

Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano as Peter and MJ, at the Tonys. They sound like nice kids. I forgive Carney for his lackluster turn as Ferdinand in “The Tempest.”

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine, Becca, acquired a copy of Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History, by Glen Berger. She then sent it on to a friend of ours in England, Debi who had seen the show with her in New York. They wrote about their thoughts on the book, and they agreed on several things: that Glen Berger is unnervingly in love with Julie Taymor, that Glen Berger finds it very important to tell everyone that he is a Serious Professional Writer, and that the book invites you to throw it across the room multiple times.

I, stressed out about the upcoming tech week for the spectacular production I was assisting on, commented to Debi that I HAD to read this book. And just before tech week actually started, I got a parcel from the Royal Post containing Glen Berger’s tell-all.

My cackling could, I hope, be heard across the pond.

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‘Authentic’ Shakespeare? Not Really.

‘Authentic’ Shakespeare? Not Really.

Samuel Barnett as Viola and Mark Rylance as Olivia in “Twelfth Night.”

This is so, SO interesting. Elizabeth Dalton writes in the Wall Street Journal about whether the current run of Twelfth Night on Broadway is really as “authentic” to Elizabethan staging practices as it could be:

These Shakespearean boy actors could indeed have appeared girlish. Although the age of puberty now seems to be heading rapidly downward towards kindergarten, in Renaissance Europe it was quite late. Even in mid-19th-century England the average age of menarche—first menstruation—was 17, so it must have been at least that late in Shakespeare’s day. The nutritional and other factors involved in the onset of puberty presumably applied equally to boys, who tend to mature later than girls. Thus the audience might well have believed Malvolio when he says of Viola disguised as Caesario: “Not yet old enough for a man . . . ; one would think his mother’s milk were scarce out of him.”

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World AIDS Day

This disease will be the end of many of us, but not nearly all, and the dead will be commemorated and will struggle on with the living, and we are not going away. We won’t die secret deaths anymore. The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come. Bye now. You are fabulous creatures, each and every one. And I bless you: More Life. The Great Work Begins.
-Angels in America
, Tony Kushner

One thing that surprises me, over and over and over again, is how very compressed the timeline of AIDS is. It reached plague levels in the 1980s; growing up in the ’90s and ’00s, it loomed large as a huge, terrifying specter in all my health classes. We knew you couldn’t get it from hugging or kissing or from toilet seats, but the message received was that you could still get it shockingly easily via sex or drug use or maybe, just maybe, blood transfusions. And now it’s — almost like it’s just another disease. Treatable. Preventable. Survivable.

This is mind-boggling. Continue reading

Review: “Jersey Boys”

(l to r) Michael Lomenda, Nick Cosgrove, Miles Jacoby and John Gardiner Photo: Jeremy Daniel From jerseyboysinfo.com

So a couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing one of my classmates from CMU, Kaleigh Cronin, in the touring production of Jersey Boys when it came through Seattle. Apparently this is a show that attracts Tartans: the tour cast I saw also includes Skye Scott, class of ’10, and Nick Cosgrove (in the picture above), also class of ’10, has been playing Frankie Valli in the other touring cast. I never get tired of seeing CMU alumni in stuff, man — Tartan pride! Anyway, I promised Kaleigh I’d write a review, so here goes.

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Book-It’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Uncensored”

Geoffery Simmons as Jim and Christopher Morson as Huck in Book-It’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Uncensored.” The play runs through May 12, 2013. Click the picture for more info. Photo by Alan Alabastro.

I should say at the outset that I’m simultaneously a biased and an unbiased reviewer for this show. Biased because my roommate was the dramaturg for the production; unbiased because, well . . .

When the house lights came up for intermission, I leaned over to tell Alex how much I was enjoying it and congratulate him on how good the show was. “And now we come to the second act,” he said, “which I like to describe as being like if the Mississippi suddenly ended in Niagra Falls.”

“So is this the part where I confess that I’ve never actually read Huck Finn?”

“I kind of figured judging by your reactions.”

Wishbone the dog relaxing on a stack of classic Western novels.

You don’t understand how traumatized I was when I found out that most versions of “Faust” end with Faust being dragged to Hell. It was really bad.

So yes. This is the problem with having gone to a weird alternative secondary school (and to a lesser extent a weird gifted elementary school where Jerry Spinelli and Lois Lowry were required reading): I may have read Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in eighth grade, Howard Zinn and “By the Waters of Babylon” in tenth, and Black Elk Speaks senior year, but I only read standard novels like To Kill a Mockingbird and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest when we got a new, older, more conservative teacher who clearly desperately wanted to inject some established order into the school and realized she could only get people to sign up for her class by making it about books that had been adapted into movies. And then I went to college and read Elizabethan/Jacobean plays for four years. In short, for someone with an undying interest in the written word, I’m kind of hilariously illiterate, and my exposure to a lot of classics is more thanks to Wishbone than anything.

So I went into Book-It’s production of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Uncensored prepped to enjoy it, because my friend had worked on it, and with almost no idea of what I was getting into.

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