What does it mean to be a woman playwright in today’s world?
I’ll answer my own question. It means you’re frigin’ invisible.
It also means you’re thought of as a bit ‘different’ and perhaps a little delusional in that you admit to being something that cannot be found in the work place or in any drop down menu job search.
It can also mean you’re thought of as special—- (I’ve never known a playwright before) and if you’re outgoing, entertaining, and attractive, you can be a welcome guest at a social gathering.
I got an e-mail from Amazon.com inviting me to write a review of a book that I’d ordered from them. (I ordered the book because I had a play in it.)
The book was called Mother/Daughter Monologues, Babes and Beginnings. (The first book in a four-volume set of dramatic monologues exploring the Mother/Daughter experience.)
How can I write an objective review about a book that has my play in it?
Duh, there are 35 plays (34 not counting mine) in the collection—how hard can it be to write about the other 34 plays?
But I decided not to write a review of the book but rather give my impressions of a few of the plays in the collection that I particularly liked with the hope that it will inspire other people to buy the book.
Let me make it clear that I will not profit in any way by the sale of the book. (In fact I had to purchase the only copy I have!) But I profit in another way: the proceeds from the sale of the book “…will assist ICWP (International Centre of Women Playwrights) to fulfill its mission by enabling more women’s plays to be printed, promoted and produced across the world)
Great Audition Pieces
According to Dr. Gretchen Elizabeth Smith, Head of Theatre Studies, and Division of Theatre at Southern Methodist University: “…This collection of monologues, written by contemporary woman playwrights, offers young actresses “moving and effective material while, simultaneously, focusing in on characters and conflict close to home.”
As a playwright for a good many years, I’ve had many actors (women who act don’t like being called actresses) tell me that there is a dearth of good monologue pieces for them to choose from. Traditionally, men have had a much wider range— they are not stereotyped, (like women are) into ‘roles’ of wife, mother, mistress, old crone etc. but can choose an audition piece that more accurately represents their life experiences.
This paucity of audition pieces that women can relate to is (almost) a thing of the past and monologue collections like this one represents the changing tide.
Just a sample, please
The themes in the Mother/Daughter monologues are all about what it’s like being someone’s daughter and take in all the complexities and nuances of the mother daughter relationship.
Patrica Montley, “From Juice” is a piece that deals with a young girl’s starting her menstrual period, telling her mother that it feels when her body takes on “a life of its own’. It feels scary to her, and out of control, but there are other feelings (the wonderful feelings) that come with her changing body. The feelings are wonderful, she says. Sort of. Like the time she goes on a picnic with a boy from her class and being right up against his chest “so close I could smell the fabric softener in his shirt.”
Maggie Gallant, “The Letter” is a beautiful monologue about a young girl who writes a letter to her mother telling her that she wanted to be a boy. As a matter of fact, she is a boy on the inside. She gives the letter to her mother and waits for her to read it. She thinks she must’ve read her letter because she hears her mother crying on the phone telling her Aunt Laurie that “my princess is gone.”
“The Intervention” (An excerpt from “The Diet Monologues” by Monica Bauer is another favorite of mine.
The play deals with Lacey, a sixteen year girl who is ‘hip’ and born to shop. So hip that she’s embarrassed by her best friend Susie who had just ‘blown out the crotch” trying on size 46 Double-Wide pair of Relaxed Fit Levis. Lacey takes it upon herself to help her girlfriend lose weight and puts together an ‘intervention”. She throws a ‘surprise’ party for Susie and everyone comes bearing weight loss books and diet plans. The party did not turn out as Lacey’s had hoped.
The monologue, “Me And The Rain” (From “Living Dolls”) by Elaine Romero deals with the loneliness of an 18 year old runaway. Sofia, the ‘waifish-looking” Latina sits in a twenty-four hour café where she feels safe (because the people who look for her are not looking very hard) and it is a monologue that will break your heart.
Sophia watches the rain as she thinks about the people who will look for her like her identical twin, but she won’t find her because she’ll look in the wrong places. And her mom, she can’t look for her because “her eyes—they’re real cloudy. From all the drinking she’s doing.” Sophia’s afraid of staying in the café and she’s afraid of going out. But she will go out in the rain because she can hold it close and it holds her and “it’s okay to cry now ’cause I have the rain.”
Kaite O’Reilly, “Peeling” takes me on a journey into the world of a beautiful young girl with a reduced life expectancy. Beaty just buried her mother and she recalls what it it’s like living with “the grim reaper’ stalking close behind.
She talks of her mother calling her into the bathroom and making her stare at her face.
Mother tells daughter that she has a short ‘shelf life’, but that’s she’s lucky. She’ll die when she’s young. She’ll never live to be old.
That just a sampling (I liked them all!) of what this extraordinary collection has to offer the reader.
I strongly recommend the book to actors, playwrights, or just people who love the theatre.
Note: If you’re a theatre lover it might be a fitting Valentine’s Day gift to give your best friend if he/she is an actor.
If you’re a playwright who wants to buy the book, I believe the honesty of the monologues will inspire you to begin your next play.
Whatever the reason you decide to buy, purchasing one of the monologue books from the collection will help support the invisible women who work (without financial compensation) in today’s theatre.