Moonlight and Magnolias
By Ron Hutchinson
April 28 – May 15, 2011
The Playhouse at Overture Center
Thursdays 7:30 pm: Pre-Show Talks 6:30 pm
Fridays 7:30 pm
Saturdays 8:00 pm
Sundays 2:00 pm: Pre-Show Talks 1:00 pm
1939 Hollywood is abuzz. Legendary producer David O. Selznick has shut down production of his new epic, Gone With the Wind, dissatisfied with the adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s 800-page book. In desperation he locks himself in his office with screenwriter Ben Hecht and director Victor Fleming, determined to fix the script. Subsisting only on peanuts and bananas, the three men struggle to fashion a screenplay for one of the most beloved stories of all time ‑ without losing their minds.
Forward Theater Company's funny Moonlight & Magnolias visits 1930s Hollywood
Katie Reiser, The Isthmus
Three weeks into the production of Gone With the Wind, producer David O. Selznick assembled in his office writer Ben Hecht and director Victor Fleming to completely rewrite the script. What might have happened?
That's the clever and ripe premise devised by playwright Ron Hutchison for Moonlight & Magnolias. Forward Theater Company's production opened Friday in Overture Center's Playhouse.
The play is largely a comedy, with splashes of broad slapstick. (Accent on the slap: there is some silly and satisfying Three Stoogesque business.) But there are also stretches of social commentary, as the men, and the audience, look at the realities of slavery and the Civil War -- as well as the anti-Semitism and the mounting threat of fascism at the time the movie was produced.
There are many laugh-out-loud moments. One is when the men try to figure out how to handle an iconic scene in which Scarlett, confronted with the stress of delivering Melanie's baby, slaps Prissy the slave for dawdling. This is a time when the push-pull of comedy and social commentary works.
The marvelous set is by Sasha Augustine. Oh, the gorgeous curves and angles of 1939! Augustine has lovingly and accurately captured the period in the desk and bar of Selznick's office: the fabric of the sofa, the rugs, the warm glow of the burl wood wall coverings, the perfect placement of exactly the art you'd expect a producer to hang on those walls.
The care, time and money spent on the show are evident.
Click here to read full article.
Forward’s Moonlight and Magnolias – big brain, big guy, big shot, fun play
Christian Neuhaus, Dane101.com
The Selznick of Moonlight and Magnolias has to be a storyteller and boss, has to inspire, order, and beg. In performance Mark Ulrich made these seemingly divergent behaviors seem natural, fully selling me on the character’s extremes. Michael Herold as Hecht and Jim Buske as Fleming are a pleasure to watch as well, both for their individual performances and the comic antagonism between the two. Celia A. Klehr as executive assistant Miss Poppenghul was a welcome representative of the world outside Selznick’s office, communicating a long-suffering history with her boss in each “Yes, Mr. Selznick.”
The humor, performances, and evocation of a legendary piece of American culture make this a production that any movie fan and comedy fan will likely enjoy.
Click here to read full article.
Click here to learn more about the real history of the legendary film Gone with the Wind.
Click here for a behind-the-scenes look at Moonlight and Magnolias' first rehearsal.
Click here for thoughts from Moonlight and Magnolias' cast members about their experiences with the show from rehearsal through the end of the show's run.
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Celia Klehr as Ms. Poppenguhl and Mark Ulrich as David O. Selznick
Photo by Zane Williams
Click here to see more production photos.
Inspiration for Moonlight and Magnolias
Excerpt from the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s Moonlight and Magnolias Study Guide
by David G. Anderson
“The inspiration for Moonlight came when I was visiting my father in England. I was reading Daily, Daily, the autobiography of Ben Hecht’s week rewriting Gone with the Wind, and literally from one footstep to another, it struck me, wow—this is classical farce. Can you imagine? All the elements are there. Three high-powered individuals lock themselves in a room existing on peanuts and bananas, and they are ever mindful that the clock is ticking, in a total pressure cooker situation.”
There was no stretch of the imagination for Hutchinson to identify with Hecht. “I’ve been all around the world in closed hotel rooms from Libya, to Morocco, to Mexico hammering out new scripts with ulcer ridden, catatonic producers ever present. The most memorable was a few years back when they flew me to the Kalahari Desert in Africa to assist with Flight of the Phoenix. The pressure is immense, there is craziness all around, but somehow you hammer it out. I enjoy the challenge and fun of it.”
Moonlight and Magnolias, he confesses, “was really more of a celebration to correct the image of film’s golden age writers, directors, and producers than an indictment of Hollywood. Though Hecht is the voice in the play, the hero is the producer David Selznick. Too often today, the producer’s image is that of the sleazy, behind the scene guy, who rakes in the money. Selznick had everything on the line: his fortune, reputation, and his marriage. The producers of yesteryear are the ones upon which the industry was built. I’ve had the great fortune to work with some outstanding producers who aren’t afraid to make the tough decisions.”
So much of the humor in the play is driven by the tension between Fleming and Hecht. When asked if there was a director he had worked with in the fashion of Fleming, Hutchinson laughed again, “Actually, I did have a person in mind in the casting. Fleming is a lost director of the golden age, a man’s man, a real tough guy. I had the great opportunity to work with John Frankenheimer on several occasions. John was six-feet-five-inches tall and full of aggressive energy. To John, directing was a full contact sport. Once again, it was my intent to shed today’s image of the director who has a scraggly beard, a backwards baseball cap, and a shaggy green belt.”
Full Study Guide here.
Excerpt from “Moonlight and Magnolias is a Hoot “
by Richard Connema
The Chicago Sun-Times declared it "a hyperventilating slapstick comedy" and Howard Kissel of the Daily News said "Frankly, my dear, this is one funny play." The audience is taken into the inner sanctum of the famous producer's office in 1939 in this two-hour ten minute two-act production. We see a clash of titanic egos that is both hilarious and entertaining.
Moonlight and Magnolias is not all comedy. There is a serious side to this farce, which is also about the hidden prejudice of Jews in Los Angeles during 1939. Ben Hecht tells how Jews cannot live in certain neighborhoods like Bel Air or cannot join the Los Angeles Country Club.
Most of the fun is in the "hidden" stories that the three titans tell about Hollywood. Hecht has only read the first page of the massive novel. At the beginning of the play, he keeps repeating to Selznick, "I have never read the book." However, the producer is determined Hecht can come up with a new script since he is the best screenplay writer in Hollywood.
Read the full article here.
Excerpt from the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s Moonlight and Magnolias Study Guide
by David G. Anderson
It is not difficult to discover personal characteristics of great playwrights scattered liberally among the characters they create within the scope of their works. So it is with Ron Hutchinson. This autobiographical aspect is not as easily recognized in the specifics of his plays, but in the underlying themes that are unmistakably his life. Early in his career, there was a high concentration of what Hutchinson himself calls the “Irish Experience” viewed from outside Ireland. Having lived in Southern California for the past eighteen years, his horizons have broadened and so have his Hollywood enlightenments.
Hutchinson was born in 1947 near Lisburn, Northern Ireland. He moved with his family to Coventry where he attended school. After leaving school, he had varied experiences ranging from gutting fish, working as a clerk in the Department of Defense, and investigating claims for the British Department of Health.
Already an acclaimed British playwright, Hutchinson also has become a prolific screenwriter and “hired gun” script doctor. He has written literally dozens of stage plays which include The Irish Play, Flight, and his self-proclaimed best drama, Rat in the Skull. Among his screen plays are Emmy Award-winning Murders Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story, The Burning Season, The Josephine Baker Story, Fatherland, The Tuskegee Airman, Traffic (nominated for three Emmys in 2004), The Ten Commandments, and Marco Polo.
Full Study Guide here.
Going to St. Ives
By Lee Blessing
March 3-19, 2011
Thursdays at 7:30 pm
Fridays at 7:30 pm
Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Also at 2:00 pm on March 19th
Sundays at 2:00 pm
Talkbacks with the cast after most performances
Colleen Madden as Dr. Cora Gage
Olivia Dawson as May N'Kame
Directed by Laura Gordon
Promenade Hall at Overture Center
Buy tickets now by clicking here to buy online or by calling the Overture Box Office at (608) 258-4141
May N'Kame, the mother of an African dictator, travels to England to see Dr. Cora Gage about medical treatment for her failing eyesight. During a pre-surgery consultation it becomes clear that both women have other agendas. The surgeon hopes to win the release of colleagues held captive in Africa, while the patient seeks the means to rid her country of her murderous son. May and Cora face difficult questions of personal ethics, global politics, and moral responsibility as they sip cups of tea and trade confidences across a wide cultural divide.
Thoughts from Director Laura Gordon:
"Lee Blessing has written a challenging, eloquent, provocative, moving, witty, poetic, political, human story in Going to St. Ives ‑ one that just happens to contain two extraordinarily great roles for women. I was fortunate enough to be able to experience this play as an actress, in Next Act Theatre’s lovely production directed by Mary MacDonald Kerr in 2009, and I am thrilled to revisit it again now as a director for Forward Theater.
It’s rare to find a play that is able to explore such big, geopolitical ideas in such an accessible, down-to-earth way. The story is global in scope, while never losing touch with the immediate and the personal. It’s a play about two mothers. Two women who are wrestling with who they are, who they have become, and where they belong."
"Madison's Forward Theater is giving "Ives" the sort of production we've come to expect when Laura Gordon directs: smart, intense and clear, while nevertheless true to the ambiguities in a script that refuses easy answers."
~ Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"[Director Laura] Gordon keeps the focus tight in this well-acted, beautiful production. Even in sleepy St. Ives, lives can change around tea sets while women quietly change the world."
~ Lindsay Christians, 77 Square
"Director Laura Gordon, coaxes what may be career-defining performances out of actors Colleen Madden, a member of American Players Theatre’s acting company, and Olivia Dawson. The narrative by Blessing, who has won both Tony Awards and Pulitzer Prizes for his work, balances the play’s emotional and intellectual facets with ruthless precision. All components combine beautifully in this production to signal that the two-year-old company may have come of age."
~ Michael Muckian, Wisconsin Gazette
"Both [Colleen] Madden and [Olivia] Dawson are up to the task as they flawlessly weave together a masterful story of power, revenge and empathy."
~ Amanda Connors, The Badger Herald
Click here to read all reviews.
Click here for a behind-the-scenes look at Going to St. Ives' first rehearsal.
Click here to experience the journey through the artistic process as described by FTC advisory company member and Assistant Director Richard Ganoung in his Going to St. Ives blog.
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Olvia Dawson as May N'Kame and Colleen Madden as Dr. Cora Gage
Photos by Jason Fassl
Click here for more production photos.
Lee Blessing, head of the Playwriting Program at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, has become a major voice in modern American theater. His plays have been nominated for Tony and Olivier awards and a Pulitzer Prize. Recent plays in New York, Thief River, Cobb and Chesapeake, received Drama Desk nominations and an award, plus nominations from the Outer Critics Circle. He's had two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as from the Guggenheim, Bush, McKnight and Jerome Foundations. His plays include A Walk In The Woods, Eleemosynary, Two Rooms, Down The Road and Going To St. Ives among many others, and have been performed throughout the world. His work has been stage-read in eight different summers at the O'Neill Playwrights Conference in Waterford, CT.
American Theatre Wing
Downstage Center Interview Program at American Theatre Wing
Excerpt from an Interview with Lee Blessing
How did you come to write Going to St. Ives?
LB: Really the way it began, oddly enough I had a show at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center years ago, a play called A Walk in the Woods, a play that later played on Broadway and it had a man who was in his 50s and another man who was slightly younger and they were an American and a Soviet negotiator. It went very well obviously. But while I was up there there were two actresses who said one day (and they were about the same age as these actors), “You should write a play like that for women sometime.” So, I said “I’m going to get right on that”. Ten years later I started this play. [Laughter] What was interesting was in trying to write another play that was [for] two people that dealt geopolitical issues, but you know, these were woman. I sort of took a different tack and I did not allow them to be people who were in government for example as the men in Walk in the Woods are. The one is the mother of the leader of a country and a rather monstrous leader at that. The other one doesn’t want anything to do with politics at all. So it instantly became a very different kind of play and the themes in it became very different. In the case of both women there’s a big issue about their sons - life and death issues about their sons. So it quickly became a play very much about motherhood. About . . .what it is to be a mother, what it is to lose a son or at least contemplate losing a son. And, that became a large part of the play. And, also the play is a murder suspense story and that differentiated it a great deal from Walk in the Woods.
Listen to the full interview (38 min) by clicking here.
Going to St. Ives
Excerpt from A CurtainUp Review
Some artists are settlers. Whether painters or playwrights, once they find a style to which the public responds, they settle in and work within that comfort zone. Other artists are lifelong explorers, not content to keep mining familiar territory to insure success. Lee Blessing falls into this latter category. While you might say he's stuck to a writing formula in the sense of using a small canvas for stories that revolve around big ideas, he keeps trying out new styles and taking on previously unexamined themes. Consequently, audiences and critics are likely to be all over the map in their response to his plays.
The Blessing play that has garnered the most unanimous praises was of course his 1988 Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-nominated A Walk in the Woods.
Read the full review at curtainup.com.
In The Next Room,
or the vibrator play
2010 Pulitzer Prize Finalist
By Sarah Ruhl
November 4-21, 2010
Playhouse at Overture Center
Dr. Givings is obsessed with the marvels of medical technology. His wife, Catherine, is only a bystander in her husband’s world, listening at the door as he treats his female patients with a strange new electric device. The doctor is not sure exactly how vibrators cure the women he treats, but they do keep coming back. The only woman not helped by the doctor is his own wife, who longs to connect with him – without the aid of electricity. A tender tale that takes place in the twilight of the Victorian age, this elegant comedy is lit by unexpected sparks from the approaching era of electricity, equality, science, and sexuality.
The Isthmus' Jennifer A. Smith applauds In the Next Room, or the vibrator play,
"As helmed by Forward artistic director Jennifer Uphoff Gray, this is a handsome, smart and well-acted production . . . Scott A. Rött’s costumes are sumptuous.” Click here for full review.
Lindsay Christians of The Capital Times says, "With In the Next Room, Forward Theater took on a challenging title and a drama that could have easily been played broadly for laughs. This astute, poignant production demonstrates that Forward is not only ready to step up as Madison’s premiere professional company, but has already done so." Click here for full review.
James Malone of Dane101.com says, "In the Next Room; or, the Vibrator Play has a title that suggests a broad, bawdy sex comedy. What the Forward Theater Company brings instead is a unexpectedly gentle and heartfelt play about longing and intimacy." Click here for full review.
Mike Fischer at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says, "They're all good, in a cast with no weak links and a play stuffed with quietly evocative scenes...the result is electrifying, and you don't even need to plug in to feel it." Click here for full review.
Another great review from the Milwaukee area by Damien Jacques at OnMilwaukee.com, "The show was produced on Broadway a year ago, and Madison's Forward Theater Company opened an entertaining production of it last weekend. In the Next Room is not sexy, salacious or prurient. It is amusing, gently feminist and really about an ageless relationship problem -- one half of a couple being too busy and preoccupied to pay adequate attention to the other half." Click here for full review.
Laurie Stark, Your Ill-fitting Overcoat Blog says, "Despite its eyebrow-raising title, this play is ultimately about intimacy, vulnerability, and the intersection of jealousy and love. For me, In the Next Room was a play of moments. Some made me blush, some made me laugh, and a few made me cry. The last scene of the play is the sweetest, most affecting scene I have ever seen on stage." Click here for full review.
Sarah Ruhl is among the most acclaimed and accomplished young playwrights on the contemporary scene. A recent winner of a MacArthur "genius" grant, she was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2005 for the comedy The Clean House, which has been seen at many regional theaters and was produced in 2007 at Lincoln Center Theater. Her other plays include Eurydice, a playful gloss on the Orpheus myth. Ms. Ruhl's signature style blends a vibrant emotionalism with quirky comedy in theatrically adventurous ways. -- Charles Isherwood, The New York Times, June 18, 2007
Q&A: Sarah Ruhl
The award-winning playwright on the inspiration for “In the Next Room, or the vibrator play”
By PATRICK LEE for the Theatre Development Fund
Sarah Ruhl’s plays, which include The Clean House and Dead Man’s Cell Phone, have made her one of the most distinctive and celebrated playwrights to emerge this decade. Already the winner of a MacArthur “genius” grant, she’s currently making her Broadway debut with Lincoln Center Theater’s production of In the Next Room, or the vibrator play, a 19th century period drama that explores a surprising intersection of sex, medicine and electricity.
TDF: What inspired this play?
SR: I read The Technology Of The Orgasm by Rachel Maines, and I was so shocked and fascinated to find out that doctors treated women with vibrators in the 19th century for hysteria. The other fact that I found equally interesting was that before the invention of vibrators, the doctors stimulated the women manually, and it wasn’t seen as sexual at all. Once I started writing, the characters came to me, and then the relationships got complicated and entangled. You’re lucky if voices start speaking to you, which they did in this case, and then you follow the characters.
TDF: Since an audience of today knows more than the characters do, how do you keep modernity out of the writing?
SR: Ultimately, that double sightedness is important. You can’t ever completely write a period piece when you’re writing from a contemporary sensibility because you’re always looking back. I tried to maintain a real innocence and to tell it from the characters’ point of view. I didn’t want it to turn into a wink-wink, nudge-nudge campy version. You hear the word “vibrator” and some people want to laugh because it has a set of campy associations. Not that I don’t admire and appreciate a certain kind of camp, but I wanted this to feel human rather than to make a joke out of their sexuality.
TDF: You show so much compassion for the doctor in the play…
SR: Maybe because I am surrounded by doctors in my family, I have a lot of respect and compassion for doctors in general. Reading historical accounts, these men were not perverse. They genuinely wanted to help these women, and in a way you have to believe that they did, even as weird and misguided as it seems today. I didn’t set out to write a treatise about gender politics in the 19th century. I was interested in him as a full human being.
TDF: Do you see this play as a stylistic departure?
SR: People have said it is, but I don’t purposefully write in a stylistically different way, except insofar as I have the need to have people talk in a way that I find interesting. Because this play is set in the 19th century, I felt a permission to write dialogue in a somewhat elevated language, because we don’t really know how people talked then. I wanted the frame around the play to be very real and grounded — it looks, sounds and smells like a costume drama. I didn’t want people thinking that these vibrator treatments were something that I thought up and that the play was in some dream landscape. The content of the play is so radical that I needed the audience to believe in the world.
TDF: Do you write in broad strokes or labor over every word?
SR: I obsess over every word. Perhaps because I started as a poet, where you might have twenty words and each one matters, I think of theatre that way too. A big rewrite for me in a day might be to cut two words and a semicolon. The first rewrites I did were mostly due to the technical challenges of having two rooms happen simultaneously — you need to be very exact about how long it takes to unbutton a corset while a line is being said. The rewriting in New York that was partly based on what the actors were bringing. I’ve adored working with them; they’re not egoists, they all submit to telling the story, so I was never writing around them. If Laura Benanti can’t say that line, or if Michael Cerveris can’t make something work, then there must be something wrong with it, and it ought to be changed.
TDF: Is there a theme that runs through all your plays?
SR: Probably an obsession with love and death. This play and “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” share a curiosity about what technology is doing to us as human beings culturally and psychologically. I do hope that during some of the speeches about electricity that people are reflecting about how seismic shifts in technology affect our psychic life.
TDF: What do you hope the audience is thinking about women?
SR: I was very moved on opening night by some formidable actresses, who were moved that the play was told from a woman’s point of view. You don’t read about vibrating treatments or wet nursing in 19th century novels. Even on a contemporary stage, there are certain elements of a woman’s experience that are left out. It’s important for me to draw a curtain aside. I think putting some of those things on stage is saying something, but as for what exactly it is saying, I would leave that to the men and women who see it to refract from their own experience.
Sarah Ruhl was born in Wilmette, Illinois in 1974. She studied under Paula Vogel at Brown University (A.B., 1997; M.F.A., 2001) and did graduate work at Pembroke College, Oxford.
She gained widespread recognition for her play “The Clean House”, a romantic comedy about a physician who cannot convince her depressed Brazilian maid to clean her house. It won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in 2004, and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2005.
Her play “Eurydice” was produced off-Broadway at New York's Second Stage Theatre in June-July 2007.
She is also known for her “Passion Play” cycle that opened at Washington's Arena Stage in 2005, and subsequently was produced by the Goodman Theatre and Yale Rep. Passion Play made its New York City premiere in Spring 2010 in a production by the Epic Theatre Ensemble at the Irondale Center in Brooklyn, New York. Each part of the trilogy depicts the staging of a Passion Play at a different place and during a different historical period: Elizabethan England, Nazi Germany, and the United States from the time of the Vietnam War until the present.
In February 2009, her play "In the Next Room, or the vibrator play” premiered at Berkeley Rep. The play opened on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre with previews starting on October 22, 2009 and an official opening in November 2009. This marked her Broadway debut. "In the Next Room" was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was nominated for the 2010 Tony Award for Best Play, Best Actress, and Best Costume.
Other plays include “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” and the premiere of “Stage Kiss” at the Goodman Theatre as part of their 2010-2011 season.
“A fascinating, funny and evocative play…The disconnect between sensory experience and mental perception forms the tantalizing heart of Ruhl’s latest…Ruhl develops the story with the enticing blend of irreverent humor and skewed realism…It’s beautiful. Like most of the play, the end vibrates with sexually charged comedy and affectionate striving.”—San Francisco Chronicle
Excerpt from “'The Vibrator Play': Why Yes, It Is About Exactly That”
by Jeff Lunden, NPR
November 21, 2009
The title of her latest comedy may be a little titillating, but playwright Sarah Ruhl wants you to know one thing right upfront:
"A lot of it happens under a sheet."
Yes, Ruhl's impish new play, which opened Nov. 19 at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre, is in fact about sexuality. But it's just as much about intimacy, she says. And about marriage.
Ruhl began writing In the Next Room, or the vibrator play after she read a book — called “The Technology of Orgasm” — that described how 19th century doctors treated women diagnosed with "hysteria" by using a curious new electrical device.
Actress Maria Dizzia, who plays a patient named Mrs. Daldry, says hysteria — an exclusively female illness, its name derived from the Greek word for "uterus" — was something of a catchall condition.
"It was irritability, it was sleeplessness, it was anger, it was feeling solemnity," Dizzia says. Any behavior beyond the prescribed feminine ideal — "anything that was pretty much unacceptable to the people around you."
Earlier generations of doctors, according to the history books, had to make do with manual methods to achieve such a release. With the advent of electricity, medical science discovered new options.
In one of the play's scenes, Dr. Givings (actor Michael Cerveris) describes the cause of hysterical symptoms as "congestion in your womb," explaining that "if we can release some of that congestion and invite the juices downwards, your health will be restored."
Ruhl wrote In the Next Room while she was nursing her own child, and she found herself interested in another topic that might be nearly as foreign as Dr. Givings' therapies to a contemporary audience — the history of wet nursing. In the play, Mrs. Givings finds herself unable to produce enough milk to nurse her baby, so she and the doctor hire a young African-American woman to breast-feed the child.
In addressing both topics, Ruhl centers her play on "how we separate out bodily functions and labor and love." She's intrigued, she explains, by "this notion of paying someone to do something that, ideally, one does for one's own child — or paying a doctor for the sexual treatment that ideally your partner is giving you in a more intimate way. So it's all these questions of intimacy."
Listen to NPR story here.
Excerpt from "Playwright Sarah Ruhl wins Glickman Award for 'Vibrator Play"
Sarah Ruhl’s cheekily titled In the Next Room, or the vibrator play is the 2009 winner of the Will Glickman Award. 1/10/10
Ruhl’s scintillating comedy of sexual manners opened at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre last year before going on to a buzzed-about Broadway run.
This highly provocative period piece examines the fault lines of gender, power and freedom in the Victorian era, when women were thought incapable of physical pleasure.
Yearning is a running theme throughout Ruhl’s works. From the dead bride in Eurydice to the mousy Luddite in Dead Man’s Cell Phone, her oddball heroines are driven by an insatiable curiosity to explore. In Next Room, two prim young ladies unlace their corsets and discover their own desires.
Insightfully directed by Les Waters, who also directed Ruhl’s sublime Eurydice, it’s a deeply inventive play marked by the playwright’s trademark juxtaposition of the mythic, the mundane and the quirky. The plot may spin around electrical devices, but it’s Ruhl’s facility with subtext and her lust for adventure that give In the Next Room its real charge.
The Glickman Award goes to the author of the best play to make its world premiere in the Bay Area. It comes with a $4,000 prize plus a plaque for the theater that produced the show. Honorary mentions went to Lloyd Suh’s American Hwangup and Ann Randolph’s Loveland.
Competition was fierce because last year included the world premieres of many high-profile projects including the Green Day musical American Idiot and Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of The Kite Runner.
Read full article here.
Excerpt from “Female Sexuality in the Victorian Era”
by Jennifer Shakeel
October 21, 2008
While Britain's Victorian era, which spanned roughly sixty years until the turn of the twentieth century, was a time marked by prosperity and ingenuity, it was also a period of repression and shame. Such a contradiction as the contrast between ingenuity and repression was a defining characteristic of the time period, as double standards and mixed messages were prevalent, especially related to women and to sexuality. Women in 19th century Britain were living in the ultimate contradiction: a patriarchy, a societal order in which power and influence is passed through males, ruled by a woman, Queen Victoria. Though history has shown that the Queen herself took great interest in the nude form and had possible lovers after the death of her husband, her Britain was a place of sexual repression, particularly in the lives of her female subjects.
The patriarchal, and sometimes patrilocal, system ensured that men held the most influence and power in nearly every sphere, private and public. Patrilocality, a term used to describe a society in which women leave their families when they get married to go live with the family of their husband, while not as prevalent as societies ranging back to Biblical times, was still common in Victorian Britain. Such a system meant that women severed all ties to their past, in a way starting their lives anew now that they had a husband to define them. Women belonged in the care of men, be it their father, who cared for them until they could find a husband or their husband, who took responsibility after that. As women were viewed, even medically, as being both physically and mentally weaker than their male counterparts, marriage was the only way to assure that they would be secure and safe in life, as their parents could not be counted on to provide for them forever. Being able to care for a home and children was the only way for a woman to repay their husbands for the supposed gift of marriage they were given.
While men were subject to a code of chivalry in the period, women had their own code, alternatively called the Cult of Domesticity and the Cult of True womanhood. The tenants of the "cult" were meant to provide women with guidelines to living a good and productive life (i.e.. a good married life), but also inherently kept them oppressed. Marriage was the ultimate goal, as unmarried females were viewed as impure. Pre-marital sex would cause the same viewpoint and would also leave a woman unable to be married, so marriage was the only way to prove one's virginity and worth. Women, according to the code, were to remain pure, as purity was the one trait that women inherently had over men. They were to be a fitting and good mother. They were to remain pious and do all they could to proselytize their religion to spread the piety. Finally, they were to remain submissive to their men. British cities such as London were seen as entirely corrupted and impure, so it was the woman's job to provide the sexual, moral, and societal purity in the home; to make it a safe haven from the city outside.
Read full article here.
Excerpt of “The Technology of Orgasm and the Vibrator”
By Natalie Angier
The New York Times
When female patients suffered "hysterical" or "neurasthenic" symptoms, doctors saw wonderful results from" pelvic massage," culminating in orgasm. The patient was pleased enough to guarantee her habitual patronage.
Electricity has given so much comfort to womankind, such surcease to her life of drudgery. It gave her the vacuum cleaner, the pop-up toaster and the automatic ice dispenser. And perhaps above all, it gave her the vibrator. In the annals of Victorian medicine, a time of "Goetze's device for producing dimples" and "Merrell's strengthening cordial, liver invigorator and purifier of the blood," the debut of the electromechanical vibrator in the early 1880s was one medical event that truly worked wonders -- safely, reliably, repeatedly.
As historian Rachel Maines describes in her exhaustively researched if decidedly offbeat work, "The Technology of Orgasm: 'Hysteria,' the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction" (Johns Hopkins Press, 1999), the vibrator was developed to perfect and automate a function that doctors had long performed for their female patients: the relief of physical, emotional and sexual tension through external pelvic massage, culminating in orgasm. For doctors, the routine had usually been tedious, with about as much erotic content as a Kenneth Starr document. "Most of them did it because they felt it was their duty," Dr. Maines said in an interview. "It wasn't sexual at all."
The vibrator, she argues, made that job easy, quick and clean. With a vibrator in the office, a doctor could complete in seconds or minutes what had taken up to an hour through manual means. With a vibrator, a female patient suffering from any number of symptoms labeled "hysterical" or "neurasthenic" could be given relief -- or at least be pleased enough to guarantee her habitual patronage.
"I'm sure the women felt much better afterwards, slept better, smiled more," said Dr. Maines. Besides, she added, hysteria, as it was traditionally defined, was an incurable, chronic disease. "The patient had to go to the doctor regularly," Dr. Maines said. "She didn't die. She was a cash cow."
Read full article here.
The Love that Changed My Life
February 11th 8 pm
February 12th 4 pm
February 12th 8 pm
Promenade Hall at Overture Center
Forward Theater invited playwrights from across the country to contribute to this celebration of true love, in all its incarnations. The result is an engaging evening of monologues examining the relationships that affect us most profoundly, whether life-altering love comes in the form of a best friend, a Labrador retriever, a great slice of pizza, or a matinee-movie idol. It’s the perfect Valentine’s Day outing for you and the one you love.
“The Love That Changed My Life is a charming, sad and funny theatrical valentine to Madison theatergoers that reflects Forward's admirable commitment to new work.”
“Plenty of unexpected treats, both in terms of snappy, original writing and in terms of local actors I haven't seen before, such as Kate Ewings, whose ode to hot dogs (Star Crossed Lovers, written by Madisonian Joseph Rice and directed by Tony Trout) is a thing of beauty.”
~Jennifer A. Smith, Isthmus
“The performance featured a good mix of dramatic and comic pieces, a variety of perspectives and situations, and wonderful performances. The quality of the acting is what made the strongest overall impression on me and it was a pleasure to see so many accomplished local actors onstage.”
~Christian Neuhaus, Dane 101
"Some solos could translate into comedy club sketches. The Nuts that Changed My Life by Yarnall gives Michael Herold a chance to wax buttery — and hilariously — about a seedy obsession. (The nuts he describes really are that good; they changed my life, too.)"
~Lindsay Christians, 77 Square
Click here for that wonderful Hot Nut recipe and to read an excerpt from Kimberly Yarnall's The Nuts that Changed My Life.
“When Forward was established, one of the things we wanted to do was promote the development of new plays,” said Artistic Director Jennifer Uphoff Gray. “This is a great way to work one-on-one with a wide variety of playwrights and get to know their writing styles. We’re very excited to start rehearsals.”
“It was really interesting to see the writers’ creative approaches on the subject of love,” added Kimberly Yarnall, a member of the advisory company who coordinated the contest. “It was even more interesting looking at the scores for each monologue once the authors’ names were revealed. Everyone read the pieces ‘blind’ so we could honestly respond to the writing.”
The festival’s roster of short plays includes work from Wisconsin writers, as well as notable dramatists Christopher Durang (Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them), Beth Henley (Crimes of the Heart), and Constance Congdon (Tales of the Lost Formicans). The Monologue Festival is dedicated to the memory of David Schanker, a Madison playwright who worked with Forward earlier this year on a staged reading of his award-winning play, Kiritsis.
The performance will include:
“An Evening with Jon Jones” by David Schanker, formerly of Madison, WI
“Autumn Sky Blue” by Russell Weeks, Seattle, WA
“Being Reasonable” by Heather Meyer, Minneapolis, MN
“Certainty” by Joe Rice, Madison, WI
"Trouble With Love" by Christopher Durang, Pipersville, PA
“Getting Back Together” by Christopher Durang, Pipersville, PA
“I Am the Tree” by Kimberly Yarnall, Madison, WI
“Izabella” by Rob Matsushita, Madison, WI
“Jenny’s Cough” by Lori Romero, Santa Fe, NM
“Memo From My Father” by Amanda Petefish-Schrag, Maryville, MO
“My Brother’s Love” by Beth Henley, Los Angeles, CA
“The Love That Changed my Life” by Constance Congdon, Amherst, MA
"Something Real" by Gwendolyn Rice, Madison, WI
"The Nuts that Changed My Life" by Kimberly Yarnall, Madison, WI
"Star Crossed Lovers" by Joe Rice, Madison, WI