- Author: Tom Murphy (1935)
- Title: DruidMurphy: Plays by Tom Murphy
- Published: 1977
- Table of contents: 3 plays
- A Whistle in the Dark (1961) (read)
- Famine (1977) (read + review)
- Conversations on a Homecoming (1985) (read)
- Trivia: Ireland: Luck of the Irish Reading Challenge
- List Reading Challenges 2017
- Tom Murphy grew up in Tuam, County Galway, a tough frontier town.
- The youngest of 10 children, he saw his family “wiped out” by emigration.
- He was religious as a child, but had faith beaten out of him by the Christian Brothers.
- “The repressiveness of the Catholic upbringing was extreme,” he shivers
- Murphy was inspired to write this play after
- ….reading The Great Hunger by C. Woodham-Smith.
What is Tom Murphy’s approach to writing a play with a historical background?
- Murphy reads many books about the subject of his play.
- Sometimes is takes him 1-2 years to write the script.
- He read at least 6 non fiction books
- …researched the collections of the Irish Folklore Commission
- …and 3 novels about the famine in Ireland.
- Novels: all by William Carleton
Valentine McClutchy: the Irish Agent
The Emigrants of Ahadarra
The Black Prophet.
In each case noting passages of dialogue and colloquial phrases.
What was TM’s biggest challenge?
- How to represent the action of more than 100 years ago so as to
- …engage audiences in the present time of theater.
What was Murphy’s goal?
- Murphy wanted to voice through the actors the
- general effect of famines on the poor.
- The neighborhood ties loosen of dissolve.
- Theft becomes endemic.
- Resistance changes into apathy.
- The feeling of a ‘group’ is shattered.
- Style: Brechtian history
- the Brechtian style that relies on the audience’s reflective detachment
- …rather than emotional involvement.
- Structure: 12 scenes (not divided into acts)
- Main character: John Connor —- unofficial leader of the village
- Minor characters: 3 women and 15 other male villagers
- Timeline: 1846 (Autumn) – 1847 (Spring)
- Setting: village of Glanconor – space is ‘charged’ with historical trauma.
What is the problem?
- John tells the villagers ‘We must do what is right’.
- — restrain violence
- — no attacks on convoy of corn-carts
- — providing hospitality to others…..even when his own family is starving.
What is the conflict?
- Doing ‘what’s right’ and placing faith in the laws of God and man
- …get him and the villagers no where.
- Passive resistance; pragmatic idealism ( John Connor) VS.
- Desperate reality (John’s wife) and
- Militant, activist, a survivor who favors violent action (Malachy O’ Leary)
- Tom Murphy writes with more force and less nostalgia.
- Famine is hard edged realism.
- Scenes 1-4 introduce the reader to the characters and village.
- Scene 5 is powerful.…
- …and the language indicates the higher-class officials are speaking.
- Landlord, tenant John and the clergy Fr Horan and Fr Daley discuss the political
- …strategy that has been agreed upon by the government.
- The policy is to offer “..a great number of people an alternative to death.”
- The farmers will be given a paid ticket to leave the country…to emigrate to Canada.
- Fr Daley explodes when he hears “It is cheaper it clear them away”
- Fr Daley ask: “Who are we saving?”
- Scene 6-10 builds the tension…planned assassination, final interview for John Connor.
- He must choose to leave or stay in Glanconor
- “…I was born here, I’ll die here, I’ll rot here.”
- Scene 11 Tom Murphy brings the play to a close introducing unexpected actions.
- John Connor continues to be defiant, “..do what’s right”
- We see John as an isolated figure, perhaps he has lost his senses.
- Now the reader must decide: was John a hero or a fool?
Tom Murphy does not seek the limelight
…but his plays are ‘beacons’ of insight into
the Irish psyche.
He is considered to be the greatest living Irish playwright.
- Author: S. Shepard
- Title: Seven Plays
- Published: 1984
- Trivia: S. Shepard died 31 July 2017….so sad.
- #PulitzerPrize Drama 1979 Buried Child
- #PulitzerPrize Drama nomination 1983 True West
- #PulitzerPrize Drama nomination 1984 Fool for Love
- Sometimes when I read that an icon in literature has died
- ….I feel so sad.
- This week (31 July 2017) we lost Sam Shephard.
- I will honor his legacy by reading Shephards seven plays.
- I was able to find 2 plays on Audible.com. Buried Child and True West.
- I want to feel, read, and hear the words of Sam Shepard.
- Shepard is the author of forty-four plays as well as
- ….several books of short stories, essays, and memoirs.
- Shepard received Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for play Buried Child.
- He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
- ….for his portrayal of pilot Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff (1983).
- Shepard was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1986.
- The members are chosen for life and have included
- …some of the leading figures in the American art scene.
- Sam Shepard dropped out of college but
- ….got his diploma at the School of Hard Knocks.
Table of Contents:
- Buried Child – Pulitzer Prize 1979
- True West – nominated for Pulitzer Prize
- Curse of the Starving Class
- The Tooth of Crime
- La Turista
- Tongues and Savage/Love
- ….these are theater piece, experimental plots reduced to sounds and utterances.
- Characters: Austin – Lee (brothers) – Saul (producer) – Mom (comic relief)
- Location: outskirts of LA….border with the desert
- Timeline: 2,5 days
- Lighting: moonlight, candlelight and blazing yellow light (desert landscape)
- Sounds: chirping crickets , yapping coyotes and ticking on typewriter
- Major props: typewriter, TV, toasters, golf club, telephone cable
- Two brothers clash.
- Lee is the drifter, the man of the desert.
- He is envious of his brother Austin, the successful screenwriter.
- Austin feels his story (filled with imagination) is the True West.
- Lee replies “There’s no West anymore. It’s a dead issue”.
How is the stage set?
- Starkness with only light (moonlight, candle, blazing yellow light)
- …as an emotional beacon.
- Trashy or dirty room…kitchen.
- It is a world of discards and throwaways.
- At the end of the play the interior is strewn with debris.
What is the conflict?
- Austin (writer, educated) argues that the West no longer exists
- …..it turns out that he really wants it to.
- He creates ‘his’ West in a fictionalized screenplay.
- Lee can’t go back to the West…. because it never really existed.
- The West is only in movies.
- The West is in the minds of both brothers as a place of escape
- …because they both are unhappy in with their present life.
What do you notice when you compare opening with the closing scene?
- Night – Kitchen – sounds crickets in the night – moonlight fills the kitchen; candle illuminates the alcove. Austin is seated at glass table hunched over a writing notebook, typewriter. Lee with beer in hand is sitting on counter behind him.
- Mid-day – Kitchen that transforms into desert-like landscape – No sound, blazing heat of a high-noon yellow light, stage strewn with debris. Austin and Lee assume a fighting stance and prepare to exchange blows…again.
- The first and final scenes are vastly different.
- The peaceful co-existence between brothers (act 1;1) ends (act 2;9)
- in a violent strangulation brawl showing the decline in their relationship.
Do characters become wholly different in the course of the play?
- This took me time to figure out….
- Austin: goes from playing a ROLE –> to playing himself
- Austin is confident and an accomplished writer in the beginning. Saul the producer is going to be his ‘big break. When Saul rejects the screenplay… Austin doubts his talent will help him achieve his dream. Austin decides to try Lee’s way of life.
- He becomes irresponsible….and starts stealing toasters!
- Lee: Austin: goes from playing HIMSELF -> to playing a role!
- Beginning: Austin and Lee are complete opposites.
- Austin is clean cut, conventional writing a screenplay for producer, Saul.
- Lee is a drifter, ill-kept and burglarizes the neighborhood…a petty thief.
- End: Austin and Lee reverse character traits.
- Austin has assumed Lee’s habits of heavy drinking and petty crime.
- Lee ‘s movie idea has won Saul’s favor and Lee
- …starts to work hard to promote his ideas!
What did I notice on the audio book?
- Shepard takes great care to write extensive stage directions.
- Lighting, the position of the actors and the actions without words
- …..that can transform the audience….is what I have to imagine.
- But the audio book…. produces the sounds.
- There were two main sound effects….the crickets and coyotes
- …in Shepard’s stage directions.
- Did I hear them on the audio book?
- All the sounds were wonderful…!
- I do recommend reading the play
- …and then listening to it.
- The impact is so different.
- The audio book brought out the humor in the play
- …that I missed by just reading the script!
- Audio book: 1 hour 12 min.
- Weak point: Introduction in this book by Yale University professor
- ….R. Gilman was a disappointment
- I expected more…his ‘heart’ was not into this essay.
- Seven plays are listed in the book
- Weak point: ….but really there are just five.
- The last two selections Tongues and Savage/Love
- ...theater pieces, experimental plots reduced to sounds and utterances.
- Shepard resists telling the audience what it should think.
- True West is an open-ended play.
- There is not denouement….Shepard hated endings.
- Weak point: This may please some readers….and frustrate others.
- Strong point: with no formal training in theater
- …Shepard managed to produce plays in which people could relate to.
- Strong point: His characters are brutally honest.
- Strong point: audio book.
- I love plays and whenever a good one is available on Audible I buy it.
- Sounds sets the mood….reveals character in the voices.
- Sound just makes everything better.
- There is more in these plays … than meets the eye!
- On the surface as you read the play ….it is a just a
- ..back and forth slinging of verbal salvos between brothers
- When you take the time to
- …ask yourself some questions ( see review)
- only then do you see the layers in the play.
- This surprised me and only confirms the depth of thought
- …that was in this man, Sam Shepard.
- You have to did deep.
- I could only muster the energy to review one play
- …you’ll have to discover the rest yourself!
Broadway Production True West 2000
- Philip S. Hoffman and John C. Reilly
- They both were nominated for Tony Awards for their roles!
- Author: Euripedes
- Title: Medea
- Trivia: #20BooksOfSummer
- Trivia: Here are 10 plays essential for every education…
- …try one this summer!
Colchis on the Black Sea
- This is back round information not in the play:
- Medea is a woman in Greek mythology.
- She was the daughter of the king of Colchis,
- granddaughter of Heilios the sun god and later
- …wife of the hero Jason.
- They had two children Mermeros and Pheres.
- Janson leaves Medea when Creon the king of Corinth
- …offers him his daughter Glauce.
- The play tells of a insanely jealous Medea
- …who gets her revenge on her husband for his betrayal.
Medea, the princess of Colchis
Jason, Medea’s husband, a great hero
Glauce, Jason’s new wife, the princess of Corinth
Creon, Glauce’s father, the king of Corinth
Aegeus, the king of Athens
Medea’s nurse, who delivers the prologue of the play
- Theme: revenge
- Timeline: 1 day
- Setting: 431 BC, Corinth Greece
- The play is short (31 pages) with no specific division into acts or scenes.
- Medea laments the cause of her grief and
- …shares her plot for revenge which foreshadows her actions.
- Prologue: Nurse: speaks to the audience with backround information and
- …the central problem of the play.
- Parodos: enter of the chorus (sing, dance)
- Episodes: action of the drama alternated with spoken passages by the chorus (odes)
- Exodus: at the end of the play, the chorus gives some piece of final wisdom.
The play begins…
- Medea and Jason settle in Corinth.
- They have lived together for some years and have 2 sons.
- The play starts
- ….the nurse and tutor whisper the gossip…
- Jason is leaving his wife to marry Glauce.
- Medea wails with grief and hates the sight of her children!
Core of the play:
- — Medea’s reaction to news of Jason’s marriage.
- — the terrible revenge she decides to take against Jason.
- — the difficulties of women in ancient Greece.
Main focus of the play:
- Euripides stresses the horrifying details
- ….as Medea plans to kill her two sons with her own hands.
— her decision to kill the children
— her following through on it
— the result this has on Jason
Highlights of the play:
- Medea is portrayed as a ‘wronged wife’, a victim.
- Marriage is inevitable:
- — we women are among the most unfortunate creatures
- …to take for our bodies a master for not to take one is even worse.
- Women have an easy life:
- — how wrong they (men) are,
- I would very much rather stand three times in the
- …front of battle than bear one child.”
We must not forget Jason:
- In the great scene of confrontation
- …Medea reminds Jason she saved him
- and now he has betrayed her.
- Jason says:
- yes she saved him but he…brought her to Greece, a civilized country.
- Jason says:
- he decided to marry Glauce …also to benefit Medea and their children.
- They would have had a ‘connection’
- …to the royal household and a protection for them.
- Medea is a character without a home.
- She is cut off from her father by marrying Jason without permission.
- Then gets herself banished from Corinth by vowing revenge on Jason.
- With no home and no husband Medea’s life in Greek society
- would be little better than that of a slave.
- There is a very thin line between love and hate in this play.
- Medea is a desperate woman pushed over the edge.
- She is even driven to kill her own children.
- Medea lives the rest of her days in an unhappy exile
- …grieving for her murdered young boys.
- I read Medea on the Kindle
- …while listening to the audio book.
- Narrated by: Judith Anderson and A. Quayle
- Length: 1 hr and 8 mins
- I choose the abridged audio book because the
- unabridged was awful to listen to.
- Always sample before you buy!
- The difference between both versions was 20 minutes.
- I compensated this by reading the play while listening.
- Once and a while a small bit of ‘quick dialouge’ was omitted.
- This was one of the most depressing plays I’ve ever read.
- But this play is an iconic role for women!
- I wanted to see the play on DVD.
- Olivia Sutherland (2016) that has gotten rave reviews in Medea.
- I’ve seen a small 4 min clip on You Tube.
- Unfortunately the actress is very young and did not have
- the gravitas for such an evil woman.
- I think if I could ever find the video ….
- Diana Rigg would be the best version.
- Broadway, Longacre Theater appearance in Medea in 1994. (these 2 pictures)
- She won 1994 Tony Award for Best Performance for a leading actress.
1993 production of Medea at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London