FlashPlays

Just for fun, I’m sharing the two shorty-short plays I wrote for the Bay Area Playwrights Foundation FlashPlays Festival, which ran at Brava Theater Center in San Francisco on December 6 & 7, 2015:

PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCE

SETTING: A classroom. TIME: The present.

CHARACTERS:

TEACHER, White, any gender.

PARENT, Black, any gender.

The PARENT and TEACHER sit across from one another. The teacher consults paperwork.

TEACHER

You should begin talking to your son now about college as a goal.

PARENT

In our family, we don’t talk to the kids about whether to go to college—

TEACHER

Oh, but you should! Jerome is very bright.

PARENT

I meant, we don’t talk to them about whether, we talk to them about / where to go—

TEACHER

It’s important to begin the conversation now, before he starts high school, because the ninth-grade curriculum is so important. In order to be eligible for admission to a Cal State University—

PARENT

My husband and I met at Princeton.

(The TEACHER looks up.)

But we’re thinking that Jerome might do better at a smaller liberal arts college. A college where the faculty gets to know their students on a personal basis.

(Leaning in)

Do you know what I mean?

END OF PLAY

——————

WEATHER FORECAST

Four people enter from various directions. They crisscross the stage, passing each other while talking to themselves and/or pausing to address one another. They look up at the sky hopefully. One or more of them carries an umbrella. The following lines should be spoken in order but they may be divided, overlapped and repeated as desired.

Storm clouds: at noon above the East Bay hills—

I saw them too. The Weather Channel said—

When I awoke, the wind chimes had gone still.

The lull, you know, / before—

Is that a thunderhead?

The forecast said, tonight there would be rain.

A chance of rain, they said.

The air is warm.

I felt a drop.

Me too.

My elbow pain

is always worse before a major storm.

What matters is the mountains, if there’s snow—

When did you last see roses, or green grass?

In June I was—

I used to hate to mow

the lawn. But now I wish—

In June I was

back east where skies are grey. I miss the grey.

The forecast is for rain.

Tonight?

They say.

 

The cast members gather in the middle of the stage. They look up. They wait. If we have been having a wet winter [a consummation devoutly to be wished] their reactions, suitably jubilant, will show that rain arrives.* If not, then not: they will continue to gaze skyward and long for rain.

*We got our first significant rain of the season in the week preceding the show, so this play ended happily.

 

 

 

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On Mentorship and Harassment

October 14, 2015

Several times before now, I have considered writing about my experience of sexual harassment in academia in the early 1980s, but I thought: this is old news, it’s not really relevant or useful. Then a few days ago the news broke that Dr. Geoff Marcy, a famous professor of Astronomy at UC Berkeley, had been harassing his students with impunity for a decade or more.  I found myself following the news of his case obsessively and returning again and again to considerations of how my own early career had been shaped by a powerful and sexually-predatory mentor. This morning I wrote the following narrative: 

[Note: my stylistic approach in this piece was inspired by a post about “Impostor Syndrome” by Elisabeth Newton, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; it was shared recently on the blog “Mahalo.ne.trash.” You can read it here (and I recommend that you do): http://mahalonottrash.blogspot.com/2015/09/guest-post-by-elisabeth-newton-impostor.html]

On Mentorship and Harassment:

Young Ambitious Professional is thrilled when Powerful Older Professional praises her achievements. Y.A.P. is even more thrilled when P.O.P. recommends her work to his colleagues and nominates it for prizes. Suddenly unknown doors are opening and previously unimagined vistas of success appear on her horizon. P.O.P. seems to know everyone and everything. Y.A.P. drinks in his knowledge and his wisdom; she glories in his championship of her work. True, P.O.P. is a touchy-huggy kind of guy but that doesn’t especially bother Y.A.P. because she’s a reasonably huggy kind of gal too. Anyway, it’s California. It’s the eighties. “Sexual harassment” isn’t a thing, not a thing anybody names or talks about. Y.A.P. considers P.O.P.’s attentions to be evidence of her talent and intelligence, not her physical attractiveness. When he begins dropping hints about his “open” relationship with his wife, she ignores them. When he mentions a fellow P.O.P. at another major university who is opening doors for one of his students and also sleeping with her, she ignores the implications very hard indeed. When P.O.P.’s hugs turn into pats on the butt, she pulls away and says nothing.

Time passes. Y.A.P.’s professional career has gotten off to a brilliant start, thanks in no small part to P.O.P.’s mentorship. But now her career has stalled. Although no longer P.O.P.’s student, Y.A.P. continues to send him her manuscripts. He responds with articulate, intelligent, and dismissive criticism. “A tempest in a teapot” is one phrase she remembers decades later. She deliberately draws no conclusions from his slackening interest in her work, and she continues to seek his approval. But after he writes her the world’s most tepid letter of recommendation for an important fellowship, she finally stops trying to figure out how to please him.

Eventually, she will find other champions for her work and, more important, she will learn how to advocate for herself. But she wishes to this day that she had learned these lessons much earlier.

Shortly after writing this piece, I learned that Dr. Marcy had resigned from his faculty position. This result was thanks to four former students of his who filed complaints and to the investigative journalism of BuzzFeed news reporter Azeen Ghorayshi. Without the courage and persistence of these women, Marcy’s harassment would have remained the “open secret” it long had been in the Astronomy community. Ghorayshi’s original article posted on October 9, 2015 can be found here:  http://www.buzzfeed.com/azeenghorayshi/famous-astronomer-allegedly-sexually-harassed-students

What choices would you make to take back your power?

Those Women Productions presents

IN PLAIN SIGHTStories you never knew you never knew

What choices would you make to take back your power?

The legendary characters of In Plain Sight will risk almost anything.

Inspired by classic tales such as Medea, Cinderella, and the Iliad, five Bay Area playwrights explore beyond the margins of our favorite stories, revealing hidden truths of gender and power. By turns harrowing and hilarious, this anthology of short plays ranges in tone from whimsical comedy to Southern Gothic.

IN PLAIN SIGHT plays weekends through September 20

The Metal Shop Theater

2425 Stuart St, Berkeley (1 block east of Telegraph)

Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm.

Tickets available online via Brown Paper Tickets http://thosewomen.brownpapertickets.com/

& at the door beginning a half hour before show time.

Suggested donation: $0-$30

 

Those Women Productions practices Radical Hospitality.

We invite everyone to join our audience regardless of ability to pay.

The Plays

Mississippi Medea by Lee Brady

Pankhadi and the Prince by Patricia Reynoso

Palace Watch by Kat Meads

After the Prologue by Carol S. Lashof

When Briseis Met Chryseis by Carol S. Lashof

My Name Is Mother by Mimu Tsujimura

Directed by: Norman Johnson, Christine Keating, and Libby Vega

Ensemble cast includes: Alicia Bales, Ed Berkeley, Sharon Huff*, Alexandra Lee, Ria Meer, Louel Senores, and Suzanne Vito.
*Member, Actors Equity Association; IN PLAIN SIGHT is an Equity-approved project.

Please note that plays contain dark themes and disturbing imagery – not suited for children under 12.

IPS, postcard front

Meetup #33: Carol Lashof’s Disclosure

Wondering why I haven’t been blogging on WordPress lately? Producing theater has been keeping me busy. My fledgling company Those Women Productions, cofounded with Libby Vega was recently named “Best Year-Old Theater Company” by the East Bay Express. We have one show running now – DISCLOSURE at PianoFight in San Francisco – and another, IN PLAIN SIGHT, opening in Berkeley September 4. Tickets for IN PLAIN SIGHT here: http://thosewomen.brownpapertickets.com/
Tickets for DISCLOSURE here:
http://www.eventbrite.com/e/disclosure-tickets-17559102749

Works by Women San Francisco

disclosure1 Disclosure by Carol Lashof (Photo by Those Women Production Staff)

For our 33rd Meetup, WWSF attended the latest play Disclosure, by Berkeley playwright Carol Lashof. It is the second production from Those Women Productions, a female led, and female focused company ‘giving stage to hidden truths of gender and power’

Disclosure questions where the lines between memory and truth, pleasure and transgression, love and the abuse of power are drawn. Who decides? 

Women artists on this production include: Anne Hallinan (actor), Emily Holtzclaw (costume design), Gabi Immelman (set design), JinAh Lee (stage management), Kelly Rinehart (actor), Molly Stewart-Cohn (lighting design), Libby Vega (Producer) and Valerie Weak (actor, member Actor’s Equity).

The show runs until Saturday August 29th. Get tickets here.

If you saw the show with the WWSF Meetup Group or on your own, leave a comment and share your thoughts!

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Invite to a fight … PianoFight!

 A statue comes to life! It’s a miracle, for sure. But it’s also a major problem for Gail, an emerging artist on the verge of a breakthrough. She’s been commissioned to create a statue of a handsome young tennis player, not the real thing. If she fails to deliver, what will become of her career?
I’m thrilled to report: my short play Gail and Peter is part of PianoFight’s ShortLived comedy festival. The festival runs March 5th to April 18th at San Francisco’s “newest landmark entertainment venue” at 144 Taylor Street. Gail and Peter will mount the stage in Round 3, March 19-21, along with five other short comedies by fellow Bay Area theater artists. The complete line-up for Round Three is:
“Out of Tune” by Wylie Herman
“Tipsy Turtle Fourth Dimension” by Spencer Bainbridge
“The Chasm” by Earl T. Roske
“Gail and Peter” by Carol Lashof
“Baby Baby, Jesus” by Taste Better Wit
“J & J” by Handsome Daughter
Tickets for Round Three of ShortLived can be purchased here:  http://www.eventbrite.com/e/shortlived-round-3-tickets-15752261438
 
 What’s ShortLived? Here’s a message from PianoFight about the event:

TO ALL AUDIENCE MEMBERS EVERYWHERE
Have you lost faith in theater? Are you tired of large donors deciding what’s good, what’s bad, and what gets made? Then welcome to ShortLived, the largest audience-judged theater competition in the nation. 30 playwrights will battle for your love, affection, attention and votes. Who stays? Who goes? Who gets $5,000 and a month long run produced free of charge at SF’s newest landmark entertainment venue? Only you can decide.

And what’s PianoFight? Below is their self-description. I went Thursday night for the first time to check it out, and I can vouch that it’s true:

PianoFight is a full service restaurant and bar with a cabaret stage and two intimate theaters. We present New Work by New Artists, most of which is local. Shows run the gamut from world premiere plays to inventive sketch comedy, choose-your-own-adventure plays to audience-judged theater competitions, improv to variety shows, dance, live podcasts, film screenings and more. Plus we usually have a live band playing on our cabaret stage before and after shows. The beer is cold, the food is delicious and it’s all affordable. PianoFight – no drink minimums, no ticket fees, no bullshit.

http://www.pianofight.com/

Tickets for ShortLived can be purchased here:  http://www.eventbrite.com/e/shortlived-round-3-tickets-15752261438
Shows in Round 3 are March 19 and 20 at 8 pm, March 21 at 5 pm and 8 pm.  General admission is $20. Groups of 6 or more are only $12, so gather your friends and make it a party.  Hang out in the cabaret before the show, enjoy some great music and bar snacks, bring your drinks into the theater and have an amazing time.
Coming from the East Bay? I recommend taking BART. The theater is only two blocks from Powell Street Station.

Wanted: New Takes on Old Tales

THOSE WOMEN WANT YOUR PLAYS!

Call for short plays from Bay Area writers. Deadline: March 8, 2015

Those Women Productions seeks one-act plays from local San Francisco Bay Area writers for “In Plain Sight: Stories you never knew you never knew,” a collection of original short plays to be given a full professional production at the Metal Shop, an 80-seat theater in the Elmwood neighborhood in Berkeley. The show will open Labor Day weekend 2015 and will run for 7-9 performances. We are looking for scripts that fit our mission to bring hidden truths of gender and power to the stage. Plays should offer new takes on old tales, reimagining a story from world mythology and/or classic literature. We are particularly interested in scripts that bring marginalized characters and storylines to the center of the action. All plays must stand on their own and have the potential to appeal to a broad audience, including those not familiar with your source material.

• Length: 10 – 30 minutes
• Cast: no more than 5.
• Deadline for submissions: March 8, 2015
• Scripts may be produced or unproduced. If previously produced, include production history in the body of your email.
• Send us no more than two scripts.

To submit:
~ Email <ThoseWomenProductions@gmail.com> with a blind copy of your script(s) attached as Word or PDF documents. Author’s name should not appear anywhere on the script but each page of the script should include the title of your play. Number your pages please!
~Include the title(s) of your play(s), the author’s name and your full contact information in the body of your email, and please affirm that you are a San Francisco Bay Area resident and would be available to attend some rehearsals and one or more performances of your play if it is selected. Rehearsals will be scheduled evenings and weekends during August and early September in Berkeley and/or Oakland.
~Questions? Email: ThoseWomenProductions@gmail.com

Performance dates (tentative): September 4-20.
Selected scripts announced in mid-April. Stipend.

Directors for In Plain Sight will include Norman P. Johnson, Christine Keating, and TWP cofounder Elizabeth Vega. In addition to 2-4 scripts selected through this open call, the production will include two short plays by TWP cofounder Carol Lashof.

Visit our website for more information about Those Women Productions: http://www.thosewomenproductions.com/

Thank you for sharing your work with us!

Old Stories, New News

December 9, 2014

On ancient stories and current events:

This Friday, students at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas www.obu.edu will be performing my one-act play Medusa’s Tale. I’m thrilled of course. I’m thrilled anytime anybody anywhere performs any of my plays. And naturally I take it as a compliment to my skills as a playwright that since its 1991 publication in Plays in One Act, Medusa’s Tale has been performed all over the world. In 2014 it’s been produced at high schools in Oskaloosa, Indiana and Fountain, Colorado as well as at the San Diego Fringe Festival and the University of Tulsa. Previously, it has served as the subject for a senior thesis written by a Classics student at Monash University in Australia and has been performed by students in the English Drama Society at Peking University in Beijing (in English with Mandarin side titles). It has also been performed in London, Manhattan, San Francisco, Tokyo, Brussels, Guam, Fairbanks, Barstow, Kalamazoo … and so on. Mostly by high school and college students. It’s my most-produced play by far, and I doubt that its appeal comes entirely from the quality of my writing.

Medusa’s Tale is about rape. It’s about “justice” serving the needs of those in power. It’s about turning the victim into a scary thing so that instead of eliciting empathy, the monster can become fair game for the hero. In other words, it’s relevant to current events. But the story is a very old one. The plot comes straight from Ovid’s Metamorphosis: the god Poseidon rapes the girl Medusa in the goddess Athena’s temple. Athena gets angry. So she punishes Medusa by turning her into a monster with snakes for hair and the power to turn men to stone by looking at them. Later, with the help of Athena, a young man shows up to slay the monster, become a hero, and marry the princess. In my rendition of these events, Medusa tells her story to the hero Perseus. He is moved but kills her anyway, because he is as much doomed by circumstances to be a hero as she is to be a monster.

Evidently, young men and women from very many different cultures connect to the themes of this story. But suppose I had given the play a contemporary setting – let’s say a frat house at a large public university or the streets of a racially-segregated American city. Suppose I had written directly about date rape and slut-shaming. Or about police brutality and a racist legal system. Would that play be staged at a university whose most famous graduate is Mike Huckabee? Maybe. Probably not.

I’ve drawn on Greek mythology for the plots of several of my plays. My aim in donning classical clothing is not to sneak wolfish ideas past conservative sheep herders. Not exactly. It’s to avoid easy categorizations and judgments coming from any pre-established perspective. If you come to the theatre to see a play about a subject in the headlines, you will most likely arrive already knowing what you think. But if you come to see a play about Medusa, or the Furies, or Persephone, you may not anticipate your own reactions. You may unexpectedly find yourself in sympathy with the monster. Or maybe, to your even greater surprise, with the hero.