A Theatre Reviewers Time Travel through Covid 19
I’m back, after a ten-month, life altering, time travel to Theatrius.com, and to a world of theatre reviewing and beyond. Oh, yes, and learning how to maneuver the many tricky pathways of media. Quite the exploration! Tough navigation, too.
Haven’t posted a lot of my 27 reviews because they find their way on Theatrius.com, Facebook, twitter, and now Instagram … all those direct electronic lines to many people’s computers.
My last review, “The 7th Voyage of Egon Tichy”, represent the isolated, yet expansive sojourn through Covid 19. The voyage took to space when COVID 19 invaded our lives and incarcerated us in own homes amid a world-wide pandemic. Like Egon, (Joshua William Gelb) we were flying “where no man had gone before.”
Every once-in-a-while, while I was away, I thought about blending my own experiences about writing these reviews into my blog–not actual impressions and opinions and snippets of the plot. But how the particular review relates to my experiences and thoughts, and maybe some of yours.
Actually, my true feeling is that all written reviews relate to the universality of human nature, and how the human, in nature, is achingly slow to change. But that’s not new.
Covid is. And how it quickly altered many of our lives, all aspects of our existence, is also new.
My change is very much like “Egon Tichy’s” life voyage: a causal time loop blowing all aspects of ourselves asunder, then somehow, through exploring each clone in life, each day of the week, we manage to reunite with ourselves, the new us.
But what we realize through this experience is that many of us, through the quarantine, have expanded, have grown, like the many Egons! And quickly.
I’ve written reviews for many streamed theatres in the Bay Area and throughout the world. My favorite has been the Australian theatres, but I have watched awesome shows in theatres in Ireland, and of course, the bigger theatres in England, and add New York to those streaming list. It’s a true cultural learning experience.
But now as theatre houses begin to open their doors in England, that avenue has closed to me. And soon the doors will shut to my Australian favorites, and then Ireland and Scotland, and then the one theatre in Wales! And New York! One of the playwrights in Australia wrote to Theatrius and thanked us for reviewing their show. That was like a hug from around the world! Soon I will be confined to reviewing Bay Area shows. As wonderful as that is, the world-wide stages will be in-person, non-streamed, really what we miss the most at home, the realness of live theatre. However, I’ll feel quarantined again, alone in the Bay Area, yes, but renewed, yes, a different me with a different perspective on theatre, and culture.
My friends who work remote, with children at home, feel the expanded change of freedom, but confined. Many say they have spent more valued time with their family than ever before. They have organized their time, share the load, and the children benefit also. Of course, there is craziness, but they have united to expand their options; car rides, games, camping, hikes. They, too, like Egon, have to expand their chambers.
Freedom is an odd word, isn’t it? We can feel free in the mandated confines of our homes. Several of my friends do not want to venture out to the ball-and-chain rituals that bound them for years: family members, work, gyms, driving the kids to soccer and birthday parties.
Like Egon, having the rocket-shattering difficulty of fixing a rudder, we have altered the direction in our lives, and found healthy solutions in the horrible universe of a deadly disease.
On Becoming a Reviewer
Theatrius, a review website for plays, has added me to their team! Exciting doesn’t quite fit the elation of receiving free tickets to plays you most want to see, free parties that accompany “Press Nights,”discussing the play’s value with other theatre reviewers—who possess a huge repertoire of plays at their fingertips and can pull any play for comparison from their creative minds.
Thanks to the mentoring of Barry Horwitz, creator of Theatrius, I’m seeing plays with a different eye, allow myself to unite thoughts and feelings I experience during the play, and produce an essay, of sorts, that can enlighten theatregoers on the relevance of the play to today’s world and people. In “Stomp,” below, I emphasized the drums as the heartbeat of humanity, and draw the reader into how the play, the noise, grew from a primordial single beat to the birth of a community.
I thought I would share my second review: We keep our views to 500ish words. Many reviews go on and on and on. Theatrius gives you the quick pulse and breath of plays. TRY US. www.theatrius.com
“Stomp” Plays the Heartbeat of Humanity, at ACT, S.F.
Cresswell & McNicholas Create Community with Sound
by Patricia L. Morin
The long running New York hit show “Stomp” introduces us to a group of eight street-wise percussionists and mimes, six men and two women, dressed mainly in rags. The floor-to-ceiling, two level stage sets the mood—filled with thousands of instruments and household tools, along with traffic signs, car parts, and brooms.
I love “Stomp”!
It’s visceral. The raucous street sounds touch the primordial streak that connects humanity. We can feel the pounding in our solar plexus—everyone in the Geary Theater feels it, at the same moment.
The sounds sometimes culminate in a harmony of loud beats or a cacophony of clashing garbage cans—while the performers dance in syncopation. The swishing invitation of the lone broom holder attracts more broom holders. They begin striking the brooms in a complex rhythm of bangs and movement.
In one scene, Cade Slattery, dressed in slacks and shirt with a hat, is sitting on a stool reading a newspaper alone. He is soon crowded by his newspaper-reading friends. A chorus of newspaper tapping and scrunching breaks out.
When high on the second level, the lights dim, I, too, sway on a thin thread of rope with the performers, beating the many sized drums. My heart pulsates with the deafening bangs. The drums speak to us. The pounding of an orange industrial garbage pail unites us in fellow-feeling, as Joyce Joyner wields a hammer handle. Joyner’s beat resonates with an African festival dance amidst a chorus of sound.
Invited by the leader, Jordon Brooks, into the performance, the audience responds. Brooks claps, we clap in reply. He snaps his fingers, we snap our fingers, too. He claps multiples times, and we communicate. A conversation has started, the community has reached out and we join them in acceptance.
An hour-and-forty-five minutes fly by in seconds. I am amazed Phillip Meyer’s complex use of lighting to change the mood. Co-Directors Luke Cresswell and Neil Tiplady awe us with eight performers in constant motion, flinging items at each other, dancing, and then catching and banging them on the floor. Amazing.
Do not miss the opportunity to be WOWED! “Stomp” reignites the deep, resonating heartbeat of our tribal ancestors, uniting diverse peoples. “Stomp” reconnects us to a universal pulse.
“Stomp” by Luke Cresswell & Steve McNicholas, directed by Luke Cresswell & Neil Tiplady, at A.C.T., The Geary Theater, San Francisco, through Sunday, November 10, 2019. Info: act-sf.org
Cast: Jordon Brooks, Joshua Cruz, Jonathon Elkins, Jasmine Joyner, Alexis Juliano, Riley Korrell, Cary Lamb Jr., Serena Morgan, Artis Olds, Sean Perman, Ivan Salazar, and Cade Slattery.
New Reviews: “Stomp” and “Driven”
Read Pat’s latest reviews for Theatrius:
“Driven”—A Filipino Family Races For Life, at Rhino, S.F.
Writers and Psychic Energy
My friend was discussing psychic perception and writers.
“I was talking with another playwright the other day and we got onto the topic of how when your writing is in full flow you feel like something outside of yourself is actually doing the writing, and at the same time you can get frequent “psychic ” events– like premonitions, predictive dreaming, synchronicity events. It’s like going to an unconnected event and someone who is an expert in the field you are writing about just happens to be there. We wonder if playwrights in general are more psychic than the normal population? So I said I’d ask here and check if any of you have had similar experiences.” Margaret McSeveney to ICWP connect list.
As it turned out, several of the playwrights responded that they had. One had called it fate’s intervention, like writing a psychic book and then meeting a psychic at the grocery store … similar occurences. The universe’s way of saying, “This was supposed to happen.”
In Psychology, there is a syndrome where we can feel like a “Participant” and “Observer” at the
same time. The observer watches the participant. The observer, the other worldly judge, and the participant, the person moving through the action. An example would be when you went to a party you didn’t want to attend. You moved through the party watching the people, maybe not participating in a conversation at first, just observing those around you. Then you interact with a fellow party goer, maybe someone you know. But you have stepped back, into a world of observing, half-attentive, and you can watch the people around you, take in their conversation while you are talking. It’s like angels picked you up and carried you in their arms above those speaking, away from you and your guest, but you are still interacting with the person speaking directly to you. At the same time you have a sense, a perception that you should leave. That all is not well somewhere, or the party may have trouble, or the world is going to shake. You leave. You find out later that someone in the party initiated a brawl that seriously hurt other party person.
Is that similar to the other-worldliness of the writer? Is that any different then the gas station attendant, the English teacher, the worker bee in any field that is working in full flow … and feel like something outside themselves is actually helping with their work and, at the same time, receiving a “psychic ” flash, like going to party and something outside of themselves tells them to leave?
I believe it is part of the human condition, a natural part of us that we are in the process of understanding.
LINEA: A Magazine of Short Fiction
Spring 2019 volume 1
My short piece, “Clay Horse Ashtray,” was selected to be part of the first release of the hand-stitched, limited copies, 180 worded pieces.
Clay Horse Ashtray
I love my room of four years, its flea market vogue. Vonnegut would be proud. A cockroach crawls up my desk as Beethoven’s Moonlight crescendos. Next to the desk, bamboo crates from the corner bodega holds my overdue textbooks, my NYU acceptance letter. The roach hits my clay horse ashtray choked with half-smoked Marlboros, wisely turns around. I stick a finger in the pages to hold my place in Vonnegut as the roach scurries over my exams, all A’s. I wish for nothing but my smokes, and, on special occasions, fresh water from one of those bottles that says its pure, two bucks a piece! Almost as much as I payed for my dying DVD player. Masters of Fine Arts: I try it on in the mirror. Moonlight Sonata ends. This summer, my framed NYU acceptance will hang at the entrance of my family’s diner, for all to see, before I come to their tables to take their orders. Pat Morin
Hanukkah and Yiddish
It’s fitting for me this year to discuss this holiday. Why should a would-be Christian care about this beyond respecting the faith of my friends and fans? Because I have worked on my full-length play A CLEAN WELL-LIGHTED PARK BENCH (taken from a short story in my mystery short-story collection, DEADLY ILLUSIONS and made into a short play that was part of an award-winning TBA anthology!_ Hoo-Haa!) Saul, a Jewish Octogenarian sits on a bench in Central Park lamenting the death of his wife, that he believes he killed, and to the moon. He reminisces about her, not in a positive way, She was a verkelemp shiksa that “Hokk me a tshynik“. Translation: Crazy non-Jew that talked and talked and talked, oh, and ad nagged, to the point of abuse. At their wedding, Saul signing on the dotted line of the Ketubah, and they stood under the Chuppah, the wedding cover, she was supposed to circle Saul seven times for the seven days of creation, a Jewish tradition, she stopped after five and told the Rabbi that people should only work five days, not seven. Truth be she was zaftig, fat. Her mother said they may as well be in Hotseplotz, middle of nowhere, that they should not expect many visits. New York City, is that far away from Toms River, New Jersey? No homemade latkes, potato pancakes, for Hanukkah either.
An appreciation of my growing Yiddish words lead me to a better appreciation of the traditions, their tongue-in-cheek humor, and their religious honor–for their loyalty to their goy kadosh (a holy nation).
So for all you Jewish fans out there es gezunterheyt with your whole mishpocha. Yes. Eat in good health with your family, or friends, or have a vegan lunch with your pets, and Happy Holiday!
A fun Sunday–dog surfers
Sometimes you just have to do something very different, and fun, and maybe silly … like I said on my tweet … throw work cares into the mist of the waves.
AND WATCH DOGS SURF!
Here are some fun photos we took on the Pacifica, CA, beach.
Leave my unicorn alone!
Pug on surfboard, actually had a good time.
Oh no, not this again!
Retriever surfing home.
The line getting to the beach.
The crowd on the beach
Fellow watchers above beach
The area surrounding the event on Linda Mar Beach, Pacifica.
Channel 4 and the surfing pugs
So, what do our non-surf dogs do while all this is going on?
look good AND
Gender Parity: A Road More Traveled
This is my article to Sisters In Crime Newsletter
I was drawn to the relationship between gender parity in theatre and publishing through my work with the International Centre of Women Playwrights (ICWP). Of which I am the president. We had just completed our 50/50 Applause Award honoring theatres that promote women playwrights on an equal basis to male playwrights. ICWP’s mission is to connect, inspire, and empowers women playwrights to achieve equity on the world stages.
The theatre world is dominated by men: artistic directors who choose the plays, directors, board members, decision makers, and other employees. Women’s productions on main stages is where bigger budgets are allotted for royalties, actors, and marketing. Unfortunately, the statistics for women productions has only ticked up oa few percentage points in the last seven years (from 25 percent to 28 percent, and in some places 30 percent). Although ICWP reached Seven countries outside of the US: Australia, Canada, Finland, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, and Wales—our percentage of theatres promoting gender parity remained low.
In late 2017, American Theatre magazine reported that, out of 513 not-for-profit theaters across the U.S., only 26 percent of their new plays and revivals were written by women, with 63 percent written by men and 11 percent co-written by women and men.
Women playwrights were paid less in royalties, given smaller stages, and had fewer performances.
My work with ICWP and gender parity led me to ponder about women who write mysteries. Are women mystery authors paid equal or close to equal royalties to their male counterparts? Similar advances (given same individual publishing data)? Do they get equal review space in newspapers and magazines? How has the women movement impacted women mystery writers as far as equal pay and equal opportunity?
Are women mystery writers paid less in royalties, given smaller advances, and fewer reviews?
Let’s take a short look at what has happened in gender parity over 2017 and 2018 thus far.
In January, 2017, the first Women’s March, one of seismic proportions (over 4,000,000 women), created a tsunami of awareness and solidarity that flooded major US cities, as well as other cities throughout the world. Women were taking a unified stand.
Actress America Ferrerra, during th march, said, “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families.” January, 2017 https://www.womensmarch.com/
This march was repeated again in January, 2018
The #MeToo movement spurred on more resistance by women. What began in October 2017 rocked the film, media, publishing, and theater industries across the world–when actresses started using the #MeToo hashtag on social media to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment. It followed on the heels of the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations
The #MeToo, #TimesUp, #I’m With Her movements strengthened the power of the Women’s March, 2017-2018. Issues of job discrimination and pay discrimination shared the spotlight with sexual harassment complaints. Women were asking questions, becoming bolder, and demanding recognition. Men in power were stepping back and reevaluating, while also being made to answer for sexual harassment complaints. Women, also, mind you, but men more so.
Leigh Anne Ashley, writing in Writer’s Digest said, “There seems to be no genre that has not been impacted by women finally feeling able and welcome to tell their stories. A recent Google search with the words “#MeToo articles” returned 6.6 million results. To those of us who have been paying attention, seeing the internet filled with so many women’s voices, including so many new voices, is a remarkable thing. I’ve noticed a shift in my writing; I feel gutsier and less apologetic.” “The #MeToo Movement and Its Impact on Women’s writing.” March 29, 2018
Has this movement helped women mystery writers on the road to gender parity?
I say yes … even though the crime writing, mystery world has slowly been amassing female authors, the publishing world around them needed to change.
“Though overall numbers have improved, more mysteries by men than women are nominated for and receive high-prestige awards,” Barbara Fister wrote in Bitchmedia 2014, “More men than women are reviewed in high-profile publications such as The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Women are far more likely to be published in paperback than hardcover and find the warmest review reception among book bloggers, who are increasingly important contributors to book criticism but get less respect than “professional” reviewers. “Women make up more than half of the mystery writers—but get criminally few reviews.”
Unlike plays that are divided into flash, short, one act, and full-length, the fiction world breaks down into many genres, with more delineated statistics: Gender Ratio of the Best-Selling Genres by Decade: https://pudding.cool/2017/06/best-sellers/ “Bias, She Wrote,” by Rosie Cima of Pudding breaks down the history of M/F percentage in the fiction world from 1950 to 2015.
The publishing business, however: “Publisher’s Weekly’s annual salary and jobs 2016-2017 survey certainly (also) backs up the … power that men hold in the publishing industry. Despite the fact that men are a minority (20 percent) of the overall workforce, 51 percent of managers are men (2016). Publishers Weekly Survey 2017 (PW, Nov 3, 2017 Jim Milliot) Women dominate men as literary agents.
But now, after 2015, women mystery writers, as well as crime writers, have taken women mystery and women crime writers close to the 50/50 gender parity mark (55M-45W).
Female crime writers have fared the best, with a slow but steady rise in the last ten years. Today, men are using female pen names to sell crime mystery, a real turnaround in the world of publishing! As Sophie Grant states in The Atlantic,August, 2017 “Over the last decade, female writers have come to dominate crime fiction, a genre traditionally associated with men.” “Why Men Pretend to Be Women to Sell Thrillers.”
“Also, through the work of Sisters in Crime 1986-2013, the percentage of mysteries by women reviewed in the New York Times Book Review went from a miserable 17 percent in 1987 to 36 percent in 2013. The Paris Review and the New York Times have grown more responsive to women’s writing. The New Republic and The New York Review of Books, not so much. We know women have been seriously underrepresented in high-prestige venues, and that this situation can be improved” (Fisher also wrote in Btichmedia).
And so it has … 2016, and especially 2017 sees a marked change in the number of reviews, and the number of awards, as well as the number of mystery authors on the top ten list of Times, Post, Atlantic, Kirkus, and others.
Where does that bring us? Women in the mystery and crime genres are nearing perfect gender parity and, notwithstanding gender-changing names from men, have flooded the market!
Also, in 2016 and 2017, and growing in 2018, women mystery authors crept to a near 50/50 gender split with men mystery writers for “best-mystery-books-of-the-year” choices.
The Washington Post’s 2016 “best mystery” listed seven men and three women, however the Washington Post 2017 honored six women and four men!
In 2016, the New York Times selected four women and six men on their “best-of- mystery list”. In 2017, the number for the Times remained six men and four women.
Kirkus Review showed an even seven-seven pick for best of 2016, 2017.
Booklist for 2017 named fourteen men and six women as their best for the year.
Although … reviews on women’s mystery books are still lower, and the recent pay differences between male and female mystery writers were not available Although … a recent article by Danuta Kean in The Guardian states: “Women fare worse, according to the survey, earning 75% of what their male counterparts do, a 3% drop since 2013 when the last ALCS survey was conducted.”
In the US, there were (202-2012) fluxes in prices from women and men books according to genre, and women identified books (Romance) were not consider as highly as other genres. There is more to be explored on the recent issue of pay differences between men and women authors.
Top Mystery magazine recently placed 20 women in their 100 pick of best mystery writers.
Would the changes in the publishing industry have occurred without the impact of the surging wave of the women’s movement? Probably, but I believe, much slower. Also, women in the publishing workforce will hopefully speak louder and more clearly about the changes that still need to be made in the both the theatre and publishing industry. The movement is still growing.
In most areas, though, women authors have leaped to the forefront in mystery and crime fiction: A success story, and one we hope to see in the future with playwrights.
FYI: definition and history of feminist hashtags:
Characters from our collective unconscious, or are we psychic?
But we also have: negative influences
and one of the conduit: dreams
and another: meditation
Then there are those realizations.
Stephen King once thought that many of his characters came from the deepest part of his unconscious, a collective unconscious- so many characters, so many lives, so many stories.
WT Jowett says:
The common themes of the collective unconscious are referred to as archetypes; like the unconscious mind, individuals do not have ready conscious access to the archetypes, but they are revealed through events and experiences in individuals’ lives. When an archetype is experience individuals unconsciously recognize it as what it represents and it appears as “mental forms whose presence cannot be explained by anything in the individual’s own life and which seem to be aboriginal, innate, and inherited shapes of the human mind” (Jung, 1978).
What does this have to do with being psychic, you may ask?
Rupert Sheldrake, (Morphic Resonance, The Nature of Formative Causation) has found statistical evidence of a psychic connection between every species that is evolving and growing.
“Ever have the feeling that you know you’re being watched? Or that feeling when you’re thinking about someone right before they call you? These feelings are sometimes thought to be merely coincidental or just happenstance. But the fact that these are common incidences and something that everyone can relate to, leaves open the possibility that there could be something metaphysical happening. Rupert Sheldrake says he believes that these occurrences are psychic phenomena that is evidence of an interconnected consciousness between all humans …”
Can the connection between us and the collective unconscious be that psychic thread?
To be continued …