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Posts from the ‘plays’ Category

30
Oct

Tom Murphy Irish Playwright

 

 

Introduction:

  1. Tom Murphy  grew up in Tuam, County Galway, a tough frontier town.
  2. The youngest of 10 children, he saw his family “wiped out” by emigration.
  3. He was religious as a child, but had faith beaten out of him by the Christian Brothers.
  4. “The repressiveness of the Catholic upbringing was extreme,” he shivers
  5. Murphy was inspired to write this play after
  6. ….reading The Great Hunger  by  C. Woodham-Smith.

 

What is Tom Murphy’s approach to writing a play with a historical background?

  1. Murphy  reads many books about the subject of his play.
  2. Sometimes is takes him 1-2 years to write the script.
  3. He read at least 6 non fiction books
  4. …researched the collections of the Irish Folklore Commission
  5. …and 3 novels about the famine in Ireland.
  6. 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?

  1. How to represent the action of more than 100 years ago so as to
  2. …engage audiences in the present time of theater.

 

What was Murphy’s goal?

  1. Murphy  wanted to voice through the actors the
  2. general effect of famines on the poor.
  3. The neighborhood ties loosen of dissolve.
  4. Theft becomes endemic.
  5. Resistance changes into apathy.
  6. The feeling of a ‘group’ is shattered.

 

Famine 

  1. Style:   Brechtian history
  2. the Brechtian style that relies on the audience’s reflective detachment
  3. rather than emotional involvement.
  4. Structure: 12 scenes  (not divided into acts)
  5. Main character: John Connor —- unofficial  leader of the village
  6. Minor characters: 3 women and 15 other male villagers
  7. Timeline: 1846 (Autumn) – 1847 (Spring)
  8. Setting: village of Glanconor – space is ‘charged’ with historical trauma.

 

What is the problem?

  1. John tells the villagers ‘We must do what is right’.
  2. — restrain violence
  3. — no attacks on convoy of corn-carts
  4. — providing hospitality to others…..even when his own family is starving.

 

What is the conflict?

  1. Doing ‘what’s right’ and placing  faith in the laws of God and man
  2. get him and the villagers no where.
  3. Passive resistance; pragmatic idealism ( John Connor) VS.
  4. Desperate reality (John’s  wife) and
  5. Militant,  activist, a survivor who favors violent action (Malachy O’ Leary)

 

Conclusion:

  1. Tom Murphy writes with more force and less nostalgia.
  2. Famine is hard edged realism.
  3. Scenes 1-4 introduce the reader to the characters and village.
  4. Scene 5  is powerful.
  5. …and the language indicates the higher-class officials  are speaking.
  6. Landlord, tenant John and the clergy Fr Horan and Fr Daley discuss the political
  7. strategy that has been agreed upon by the government.
  8. The  policy is to offer “..a great number of people an alternative to death.”
  9. The farmers will be given a paid ticket to leave the country…to emigrate to Canada.
  10. Fr Daley explodes when he hears “It is cheaper it clear them away”
  11. Fr Daley  ask: “Who are we saving?”
  12. Scene 6-10   builds the tension…planned assassination, final interview for John Connor.
  13. He must choose to leave or stay in Glanconor
  14. “…I was born here, I’ll die here, I’ll rot here.”
  15. Scene 11 Tom Murphy brings the play to a close introducing unexpected  actions.
  16. John  Connor continues to be defiant, “..do what’s right”
  17. We see John as an isolated figure, perhaps he has lost his senses.
  18. Now the reader must decide:  was John a hero or a fool?

 

Last thoughts:

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.

 

 

3
Aug

Sam Shephard ‘True West’

  • 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

Introduction:

  1. Sometimes when I read that an icon in literature has died
  2. ….I feel so sad.
  3. This week (31 July 2017) we lost  Sam Shephard.
  4. I will honor his legacy by reading Shephards seven plays.
  5. I was able to find 2 plays on Audible.com. Buried Child and True West.
  6. I want to feel, read, and hear the words of Sam Shepard.

 

Sam Shepard:

  1. Shepard is the author of forty-four plays as well as
  2. ….several books of short stories, essays, and memoirs.
  3. Shepard received Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for play  Buried Child.
  4. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
  5. ….for his portrayal of pilot Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff (1983).
  6. Shepard was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1986.
  7. The members are chosen for life and have included
  8. …some of the leading figures in the American art scene.
  9. Sam Shepard dropped out of college but
  10. ….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.

True West:

Quickscan:

  1. Characters:  Austin – Lee (brothers) – Saul (producer) – Mom (comic relief)
  2. Location: outskirts of LA….border with the desert
  3. Timeline:   2,5 days
  4. Lighting: moonlight, candlelight and blazing yellow light (desert landscape)
  5. Sounds: chirping crickets , yapping coyotes and ticking on typewriter
  6. Major props: typewriter, TV, toasters, golf club, telephone cable

Plot:

  1. Two brothers clash. 
  2. Lee is the drifter, the man of the desert.
  3. He is envious of  his brother  Austin, the successful screenwriter.
  4. Austin feels his story (filled with  imagination) is the True West.
  5. Lee replies  “There’s no West anymore. It’s a dead issue”.

How is the stage set?

  1. Starkness with only light (moonlight, candle, blazing yellow light)
  2. …as an emotional beacon.
  3. Trashy or dirty  room…kitchen.
  4. It is a world of discards and throwaways.
  5. At the end of the play the interior is  strewn with debris.

 

What is the conflict?

  1. Austin (writer, educated)  argues that the West no longer exists
  2. …..it turns out that he really wants it to.
  3. He creates ‘his’ West in a fictionalized screenplay.
  4. Lee can’t go back to the West…. because it never really existed.
  5. The West is only in movies.
  6. The West is in the minds of both brothers as a place of escape
  7. …because they both are unhappy in with their present life.

 

What do you notice when you compare opening  with the closing scene?

  1. Opening:
  2. 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.

 

  1. Closing:
  2. 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.

 

  1. The first and final scenes are vastly different.
  2. The peaceful co-existence between brothers (act 1;1)  ends (act 2;9)
  3. in a violent strangulation brawl showing the decline in their relationship.

 

Do characters become wholly different in the course of the play?

  1. This took me time to figure out….
  2. Austin:  goes from playing a ROLE –> to playing himself
  3. 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.
  4. He becomes irresponsible….and starts stealing toasters!
  5. Lee: Austin:  goes from playing HIMSELF -> to playing a role!
  6. Beginning: Austin and Lee are complete opposites.
  7. Austin is clean cut, conventional writing a screenplay for producer, Saul.
  8. Lee is a drifter,  ill-kept and  burglarizes the neighborhood…a petty thief.
  9. End: Austin and Lee reverse character traits.
  10. Austin has assumed Lee’s habits of heavy drinking and petty crime.
  11. Lee ‘s movie idea has won Saul’s favor and Lee
  12. …starts to work hard to promote his ideas!

 

What did I notice on the audio book?

  1. Shepard takes great care to write extensive stage directions.
  2. Lighting, the position of the actors  and the actions without words
  3. …..that can transform the audience….is what I have to imagine.
  4. But the audio book…. produces the sounds.
  5. There were two main sound effects….the crickets and coyotes
  6. …in Shepard’s stage directions.
  7. Did I hear them on the audio book?
  8. All the sounds were wonderful…!
  9. I do recommend  reading the play
  10. …and then listening to it.
  11. The impact is so different.
  12. The audio book brought out the humor in the play
  13. …that I missed by just reading the script!
  14. Audio book:  1 hour 12 min.

 

Conclusion:

  1. Weak point: Introduction in this book by Yale University professor
  2. ….R. Gilman was a disappointment
  3. I expected more…his ‘heart’  was not into this essay.
  4. Seven plays are listed in the book
  5. Weak point: ….but really there are just five.
  6. The last two selections Tongues and Savage/Love
  7. ...theater pieces, experimental plots reduced to sounds and utterances.
  8. Shepard resists telling the audience what it should think.
  9. True West is an open-ended play.
  10. There is not denouement….Shepard hated endings.
  11. Weak point: This may  please some readers….and frustrate others.
  12. Strong point: with no formal training in theater
  13. …Shepard managed to  produce plays in which people could relate to.
  14. Strong point:   His characters are brutally honest.
  15. Strong point: audio book.
  16. I love plays and whenever  a good one is available on Audible I buy it.
  17. Sounds sets the mood….reveals character in the voices.
  18. Sound just makes everything better.

Last thoughts:

  1. There is more in these plays … than meets the eye!
  2. On the surface as you read the play ….it  is a just a
  3. ..back and forth slinging of verbal salvos between brothers
  4. When you take the time to
  5. ask yourself some questions ( see review)
  6. only then do you see the layers in the play.
  7. This surprised me and only confirms the depth of thought
  8. …that was in this man, Sam Shepard.
  9. You have to did deep.
  10. I could only muster the energy to review one play
  11. …you’ll have to discover the rest yourself!

Broadway Production  True West  2000

  1. Philip S. Hoffman and John C. Reilly
  2. They both were nominated for Tony Awards for their roles!

 

 

30
Jun

Slow down…

 

  1. I can collect all the LISTS in the world.
  2. I can join a million reading challenges.
  3. But a book all comes down to my mood.
  4. At the moment…I’m in a rant  mood.

 

  1. I’ve been so disappointed with a few classics on
  2. Modern Library’s  list of best 100 novel…so dejected.
  3. Who puts three James Henry books on  the list
  4. one was more than enough?
  5. Light-weights….
  6. The Postman Always Rings Twice,
  7. From Here to Eternity, Kim, Catcher In The Rye
  8. USA by Dos Passos and The Magnificient Ambersons
  9. …are good but not TOP 100 novel-ish.
  10. So I have decided to replace the Books I Dread
  11. with some books  I really want to read.
  12. Terry Pratchett was a very wise man…..

 

 

  1. I took the time to think for myself and choose books
  2. Some are diamonds…some are glass…
  3. but most important
  4. ….they are all books I want to read

 

Science fiction:  Fahrenheit 451 – R. Bradbury

  • I always thought that science fiction was just mumbo-jumbo.
  • How wrong I have been.
  • In 1953  SF moved from magazines to the novel genre.
  • There was a market for these books filled with veiled
  • commentary on the times.
  • Bradbury touches on  destruction of culture (book burning by Nazis)
  • public’s addiction to TV, the power of advertising and McCarthyism.
  • This is just the first SF book I will read.
  • I want to learn about all that I have been missing!

 

Science fiction:    The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula Le Guin

  • I hope Ursula Le Guin wins the Nobel Prize one day.
  • It should be soon because she is 88 years old.
  • What is her strength?
  • She gives us a view from the other side…
  • showing us that that our perception of reality may be incomplete.
  • The author M. Chabon says Le Guin gave 21st C writers new tools
  • to work in the “borderlands,” the place where the fantastic enters literature.

 

Biography:  Orwell – M. Shelden

  • I found this book by accident.
  • Again…dreading books by George Orwell I thought
  • if I learn more about the man….reading his books would be easier.

 

Fiction:  1984 – G. Orwell

  • Ironically after reading the introduction to the  Orwell the biography
  • 1984 is a the only book from my ‘dread’ list that
  • …I am keeping on my list.

 

Fiction:    The Slow Natives – T. Astley

 

Short Stories:   several collections

  • I need a quick read  while
  • …drinking my morning coffee with the cats.
  • Short stories  have  never lost their artistic value
  • …but I seldom read them!
  • I am going to choose stories from several collections:
  • The New York Stories  – Edith Wharton
  • The Early Stories – John Updike 1/103
  • Complete Stories of – Dorothy Parker
  • The Rendezvous and other Stories – Daphne  du Maurier
  • Collected Stories – Katherine Mansfield
  • Complete Stories of – Flannery O’ Connor
  • The Collected StoriesWilliam Trevor

 

Crime fiction:    several choices

  • I will try yet again to read more crime fiction.
  • Le Carré – The Perfect Spy
  • Len Deighton – Berlin Game
  • Rex Stout – Some Buried Caesar – READING
  • Olen Steinhauer – An American Spy
  • D. Sayers – Strong Poison

 

Non-fiction:

  • I have several books written ‘about books, authors and plays’.
  • In the past I never allowed myself the time to read them.
  • Now it is time…to slow down and enjoy these books.
  • Approaches to Teaching the Plays of August Wilson – S. Shannon, S. Richards
  • Introduction to the American Short Story – M. Scofield
  • The Figure of the Detective – C. Brownson
  • Seamus Heaney – H. Vendler
  • The Politics: in Shakespeare’s History Plays – U. Kizelbach

 

Magazine:  The New Yorker

  • I have been reading this magazine since grammar school.
  • The literary content was beyond me at the time
  • …I just loved the cartoons.
  • Now every week the magazine arrives…and I ignore it.
  • Why?
  • No time to read it….I say to myself.
  • Now I’m making time to…
  • enjoy one of the best magazine in the world!
  • Issue 26 June 2017 – READ  cover to cover –  03.07.2017

 

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor terry pratchett quotes

 

  1. I find the slower I go…the more I want to do!
  2. Terry Pratchett said something that really stayed with me:
  3. “So much universe…so little time.”
  4. Clive Jones  poems Sentenced to Life is a book I cherish.
  5. In his title poem he said:
  6. “No birds touch down in the trees without me seeing them.
  7. I count bees.”
  8. A True lesson in slowing down…
  9. and end of rant.
2
Jun

Medea

 

Introduction:

Colchis on the Black Sea

  1. This is back round information not in the play:
  2. Medea is a woman in Greek mythology.
  3. She was the daughter of the king of Colchis,
  4. granddaughter of Heilios the sun god and later 
  5. …wife of the hero Jason.
  6. They had two children Mermeros and Pheres.
  7. Janson leaves Medea when Creon the king of Corinth
  8. …offers him his daughter Glauce.
  9. The play tells of a insanely jealous Medea
  10. …who gets her revenge on her husband for his betrayal.

Characters:

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
Jason’s sons

 

  1. Theme:  revenge
  2. Timeline: 1 day
  3. Setting:   431 BC,  Corinth Greece

Structure:

  1. The play is short (31 pages) with no specific division into acts or scenes.
  2. Medea laments the cause of her grief and
  3. …shares her plot for revenge which foreshadows her actions.
  4. Prologue:  Nurse:  speaks  to the audience with backround information and
  5. …the central problem of the play.
  6. Parodos: enter of the chorus (sing, dance)
  7. Episodes: action of the drama alternated with spoken passages by the chorus (odes)
  8. Exodus:  at the end of the play, the chorus gives some piece of final wisdom.

The play begins…

  1. Medea and Jason settle in Corinth.
  2. They have lived together for some years and have 2 sons.
  3. The play starts
  4. ….the nurse and tutor whisper the gossip…
  5. Jason is  leaving his wife to marry Glauce.
  6. Medea wails with grief and hates the sight of her children!

Core of the play:

  1. Medea’s reaction to news of Jason’s marriage.
  2. — the terrible revenge she decides to take against Jason.
  3.  — the difficulties of women in ancient Greece.

Main focus of the play:

  1. Euripides stresses the horrifying details
  2. ….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:

  1. Medea is portrayed as a ‘wronged wife’, a victim.
  2. Marriage is inevitable:
  3. — we women are among the most unfortunate creatures
  4. …to take for our bodies a master for not to take one is even worse.
  5. Women have an easy life:
  6. — how wrong they (men) are,
  7. I would very much rather stand three times in the
  8. …front of battle than bear one child.”

We must not forget Jason:

  1. In the great scene of confrontation
  2. Medea reminds Jason she saved him
  3. and now he has betrayed her.
  4. Jason says:
  5. yes she saved him but he…brought her to Greece, a civilized country.
  6. Jason says:
  7. he decided to marry Glauce …also to benefit Medea and their children.
  8. They would have had a ‘connection’
  9. …to the royal household and a protection for them.

Conclusion:

  1. Medea is a character without a home.
  2. She is cut off from her father by marrying Jason without permission.
  3. Then gets herself banished from Corinth by vowing revenge on Jason.
  4. With no home and no husband Medea’s life  in Greek society
  5. would be little better than that of a slave.
  6. There is a very thin line between love and hate in this play.
  7. Medea is a desperate woman pushed over the edge.
  8. She is even driven to kill her own children.
  9. Medea lives the rest of her days in an unhappy exile
  10. grieving for her murdered young boys.
  11. I read Medea on the Kindle
  12. …while listening to the audio book.
  13. Narrated by:  Judith Anderson and A. Quayle .
  14. Length: 1 hr and 8 mins 
  15. I choose the abridged audio book because the
  16. unabridged was awful to listen to.
  17. Always sample before you buy!
  18. The difference between both versions was 20 minutes.
  19. I compensated this by reading the play while listening.
  20. Once and a while a small bit of  ‘quick dialouge’ was omitted.

Last thoughts:

  1. This was one of the most depressing plays I’ve ever read.
  2. But this play is an iconic role for women!
  3. I wanted to see the play on DVD.
  4. Olivia Sutherland (2016) that has gotten rave reviews in Medea.
  5. I’ve seen a small 4 min clip on  You Tube.
  6. Unfortunately the actress is very young and did not have
  7. the gravitas for such an evil woman.
  8. I think if I could ever find the video ….
  9. Diana Rigg would be the best version.
  10. Broadway, Longacre Theater  appearance in Medea in 1994. (these 2 pictures)
  11. She won  1994 Tony Award for Best Performance for a leading actress.

1993 production of Medea at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London