On International Women’s Day, 2014, I cofounded a theater company with director Elizabeth Vega. These days we’re too busy running Those Women Productions for me to post on this site. So if you want to know what This Woman is up to, please check out THOSE WOMEN: Those Women Productions. Thanks! See you in the theater.
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:
SETTING: A classroom. TIME: The present.
TEACHER, White, any gender.
PARENT, Black, any gender.
The PARENT and TEACHER sit across from one another. The teacher consults paperwork.
You should begin talking to your son now about college as a goal.
In our family, we don’t talk to the kids about whether to go to college—
Oh, but you should! Jerome is very bright.
I meant, we don’t talk to them about whether, we talk to them about / where to go—
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—
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.
Do you know what I mean?
END OF PLAY
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.
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.
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.
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
Those Women Productions presents
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.
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.
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:
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!
“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 DaughterTickets for Round Three of ShortLived can be purchased here: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/shortlived-round-3-tickets-15752261438
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.
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.
Tickets for ShortLived can be purchased here: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/shortlived-round-3-tickets-15752261438
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.
~ 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!