About Carol S. Lashof

Carol S. Lashof is a playwright, librettist, and educator. Her work has been broadcast on BET (Gap, dir. Ryan Coogler) and NPR (The Story, dir. Martin Esslin) and has been staged on five continents—from Symmetry Theatre in Berkeley to Peking University in Beijing. Publications include Medusa's Tale in Plays in One Act, as well as short plays, scenes and monologues in numerous anthologies. Clay, The Minotaur, Options, and Persephone Underground are published and licensed by YouthPLAYS. [www.youthplays.com] As a librettist, Lashof collaborates with British composer James McCarthy; their work has been commissioned by the Crouch End Festival Chorus and the Scottish National Opera. After receiving her BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her PhD from Stanford University, Lashof joined the Department of English and Drama at Saint Mary’s College of California, where she taught until 2008, at which time she retired precociously in order to focus full-time on her writing. While on the faculty at St. Mary’s, she helped to establish the Creative Writing MFA Program and the Women’s Studies Program. Lashof lives in Berkeley, California and is a member of the Dramatists Guild and the International Centre for Women Playwrights. She likes putting new twists on old myths.

Where do you draw the line? Who decides?

ADAM:  Being a girl, growing up, is that what it’s like?  Do you have to deal with—I don’t know what words to use—do you have to deal with men being … creepy all the time?

 

The following is a scene from my full-length play DISCLOSURE, originally produced by Those Women Productions at PianoFight in San Francisco.

DISCLOSURE is available for production. Contact the author for rights: clashof[at]gmail.com.

(C) All rights reserved. The author is a member of The Dramatists Guild.Disclosure, Rehearsal photo with Gabriel Kenney & Kelly Rinehart

—————–

Adam, a 21-year-old college student, has had an affair with his graduate teaching assistant, Janice. She broke off the relationship because of ethical doubts and from fear of being disciplined for sexual misconduct. Now Adam comes to Janice to discuss his term paper. Shortly before this scene, Adam learns that his mother was abused by her uncle when she was a child.

 

(JANICE is sitting in her professor’s office, grading papers.  ADAM knocks tentatively on the half-open door.  JANICE looks up.  When she sees ADAM, she sighs miserably and shakes her head.)

 

ADAM

I just want to talk to you about my final paper.  Like any other student.  Okay?

 

JANICE

Yeah.  Okay.

 

(ADAM enters and sits down.  He pulls books and notes out of his backpack.)

 

ADAM

This passage here.  I want to use this in my paper, but it’s bothering me.

(He opens a book and begins to read aloud.)

“One day in 1867, a farm hand from the village of Lapcourt, who was somewhat simple-minded, employed here then there … was turned into authorities.  At the border of a field, he had obtained a few caresses from a little girl, just as he had done before and seen done by the village urchins round about him …”

 

JANICE

We talked about that in the discussion section last week.

 

ADAM

I wasn’t there.

 

JANICE

I noticed.

 

ADAM

It’s hard to be in class when … I mean, it’s hard for me to see you and, you know, not—

 

JANICE

I won’t mark your grade down for attendance if that’s what you’re worried about.

 

ADAM

I’m not.  Worried about my grade.  Although, I thought you said you were going to treat me like any other student.  You did say that.

 

JANICE

If you had pneumonia or something, or a family emergency, I wouldn’t mark you down.

 

ADAM

Whatever.  I really don’t give a shit.

 

JANICE

Sorry.

 

ADAM

Me too.

(Pause.)

My paper?

 

JANICE

Yes.  Sorry.

(Pause.)

You were thinking …?

 

ADAM

About how Proust and Foucault represent childhood.  And also, Foucault uses the phrase “timeless gestures”—I thought maybe I could make a connection to Proust’s search for lost time.

 

JANICE

Interesting.  That’s good.

 

ADAM

Thanks.

 

JANICE

So what’s bothering you?  About the passage.

 

ADAM

Foucault says: “What is the significant thing about this story?  The pettiness of it all …” And he calls it an “everyday occurrence” and an “inconsequential pleasure.”  And then he says, basically, that it was ridiculous for the authorities to make a big fuss, to turn this “everyday occurrence” into a matter for policemen and judges and doctors.

 

JANICE

In the overall context of his argument, Foucault is explaining how the discourse we use to discuss sexuality has changed over the past three centuries./ He suggests—

 

ADAM

But is it true?

 

JANICE

Is what true?

 

ADAM

That child abuse is an everyday occurrence?  Okay, I know that Foucault wouldn’t call it “child abuse.”  I mean, the things that happen between the peasant girl and the farm hand, he calls them “timeless gestures” and “bucolic pleasures.”  But, whatever you call it, does it happen all the time?

 

JANICE

It happens a lot.

 

ADAM

And does that make it petty and inconsequential?

 

JANICE

Not necessarily.  It’s a controversial passage.

 

ADAM

But, an “everyday occurrence”?  Is that what it’s really like?

 

JANICE

I’m not sure what you’re asking me.

 

ADAM

Being a girl, growing up, is that what it’s like?  Do you have to deal with—I don’t know what words to use—do you have to deal with men being … creepy all the time?

 

JANICE

“Creepy”?

 

ADAM

Yeah.

 

JANICE

Not all the time.  But, yes, there are a lot of “creepy” men in the world.

 

ADAM

And only a few of them get arrested or put in jail, and not every woman spends years and years in therapy dealing with her childhood traumas … so, is it actually “inconsequential,” like Foucault says? I mean, if it’s just the way things are, then … ?

 

JANICE

Well, there are differences in degree.

 

ADAM

But who draws the line?  Who decides?

 

JANICE

That’s a good question.  You should explore that in your essay.

 

ADAM

Oh, crap.  You sound just like a teacher.

 

JANICE

Well, I am a teacher.  That’s the problem, isn’t it?  Anyway, you said you wanted to talk to me about your paper.  Like any other student.  So I’m trying to talk like any other teacher.

 

ADAM

Okay, but you can tell me what you think, can’t you?  As a teacher.  As a person.  Is that not allowed, to have a real conversation about a real subject?

 

JANICE

Of course.  Sorry.

 

ADAM

Thanks.  So.  Let’s say a person, as a child, had an experience with an adult involving sexual contact … If you say she was “abused” or “molested,” then it’s a crime.  It’s a terrible violation.  But you might use different words, like “seduced” or “fooled around” or “obtained a few caresses,” and then what?  Does it change the experience?

 

JANICE

It changes the significance of the experience.

 

ADAM

For whom?  For the child?

 

(Pause.)

 

JANICE

That’s a good question.

 

ADAM

When she was a child, my mother was abused by her uncle.  She told me about it just recently.

 

JANICE

Oh.

 

ADAM

And she thinks our relationship, yours and mine, is abusive.  Was.  Was abusive.

 

JANICE

What?

 

ADAM

An abuse of power.

 

JANICE

Your mother thinks that—about me?

 

ADAM

She’s the one who reported us to the dean.

 

JANICE

Me.  Reported me.  I doubt your name was mentioned.  In any case, you are a tuition-paying undergraduate, by definition innocent.

 

ADAM

What do you mean?

 

JANICE

Just that you won’t—wouldn’t—wouldn’t have gotten in any trouble for having sex with me.  You weren’t running any risk.

 

ADAM

I wasn’t trying to put you in a bad situation.

 

JANICE

But did you think about it?  Did you think about the consequences?

 

ADAM

I thought about, you know, pregnancy, STDs, condoms—

 

JANICE

Points for that.  But you also read the student handbook, you knew the rules about “amorous relationships” and “sexual misconduct.”  You knew right from the beginning.

 

ADAM

But I didn’t think about it.  Not that way.

 

JANICE

How did you think about it?

 

ADAM

I don’t know.  Just.  You know.

 

JANICE

No, I don’t know.  I don’t have any fucking idea.  So why don’t you tell me?

 

ADAM

Well, it actually sounded kind of sexy:  “Sexual misconduct … Amorous relationships.”

 

JANICE

Sexual harassment.  Violation of ethical standards.  Does that sound sexy?

 

ADAM

No.  That just sounds creepy.

 

(Pause.)

 

JANICE

When you came to class wearing those damned pajamas—did you have it all planned?

 

ADAM

Did I have what planned?

 

JANICE

Getting me to go to your room with you.  I mean, you had a condom in your pocket—

 

ADAM

I always have a condom in my pocket.  Like most guys.  I thought that was a good thing, being responsible—

 

JANICE

Were you planning to have sex with me?

 

ADAM

Planning?  No. … I was hoping, I guess.  I mean, yeah, I thought about having sex with you.  But it was just a fantasy.  Not a plan.  I didn’t think anything would happen really.

 

JANICE

But you tried.

 

ADAM

You can’t blame a guy for trying, can you?

 

JANICE

That’s open to debate.

 

ADAM

I didn’t force you to do anything against your will, did I?

 

JANICE

No.

 

ADAM

I’m not a … creep.  I’m not a … rapist.

 

JANICE

No.  No.  I didn’t mean that.

 

(Silence.)

 

ADAM

So, now what?

 

JANICE

So now I’m a teacher, you’re a student.

 

ADAM

Until I graduate?

 

JANICE

Not only until then, no.

 

ADAM

Forever.  Even when I’m not a student?  Just put it behind us?

 

JANICE

Yes.

 

ADAM

Is that really what you want?  It’s not just what you’re saying because of not wanting to, you know, violate standards of ethical conduct, or whatever?

 

JANICE

Yes, it’s what I want.

(Pause.)

I like you a lot, Adam.

 

ADAM

But you don’t love me.

 

JANICE

I’m sorry.

 

ADAM

Right.

 

(ADAM stands, gathers up his things, and turns towards the door.)

 

JANICE

Are you okay?

 

(ADAM shrugs without turning back to look at JANICE.)

 

ADAM

See you in class.

 

(He exits.)

 

END SCENE

 

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Monologue from DISCLOSURE

But here is what I did not imagine: what he would say after I said, “This is what you did to me.”  What he did say. Which was:  I did? When?

Female/ femme identified actors, I offer the following monologue which speaks to the present moment. It’s from my full-length play DISCLOSURE, originally produced by Those Women Productions at PianoFight in San Francisco with Valerie Weak in the role of MAYA.

Actors are free to use this monologue for auditions; all other rights are reserved. The script is available for production.

Contact the author at: clashof[at]gmail.com

———————

MAYA

What did I imagine? Did I think he would grovel, beg for forgiveness?

I don’t know. I imagined how I would feel later, after the great moment, after the triumphant—or maybe the catastrophic, or the cataclysmic, or … the apocalyptic? Certainly, the transformative moment. That’s what I imagined. How I would feel afterwards. After I had become a different person, a person who was done with the past. Over it. Done with it.  Ready to let the healing begin.

But here is what I did not imagine: what he would say after I said, “This is what you did to me.”  What he did say. Which was:  I did? When?

When I was a child. Ten. Eleven. Twelve.

He said:  Are you sure?

Yes, I’m sure.  How can you not be sure about something like that?

And then, for a moment, I wasn’t.

He said: Memory plays tricks.

But I am.  I am sure.

And he said: It was a long time ago.  He said:  You were young.  He said that he was drunk, that he was drunk a lot in those years.  He said he was sorry, sorry for being drunk.

And I said again:  Here is what you did to me.

And he said:  If I did that, then I’m sorry, but I don’t remember.  And then he … shrugged his shoulders.  And he said again, sadly, “I’m sorry.”  Not meaning, I believe, to be cruel.  And I just stood there staring at him, speechless.  And after a while, I turned around and left.  Because there was nothing else to say.

 

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.

 

 

 

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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