When I first caught sight of a Madeline Burrows, the writer and performer at the center of new play Mom Baby God, I wanted to head straight for the bathroom and hide. She was sporting a side ponytail and pink hoodie, chatting up theatergoers with a chirpy valley girl lilt about some sort of “Students for Life Conference.” Just as I was about to make a beeline for the can, she caught me in her weird immersive-theater snare.
Alright, so, we are now halfway through my stint blogging here at Bitch, which, by and large, has been wonderful. But there is an important aspect to writing about live theater, one I mentioned briefly in my opening post, that I think I need to expand upon.
Perhaps no show serves as a better celebration of the older actress than Follies. The show is set at a reunion of former Follies showgirls in the theater they once performed, which is about to be torn down. The core cast features numerous older women "recreating" the numbers that, in the context of the story, they once performed when young. The breadth of roles for older actresses in this show is wonderful, and a sign of one way, at least, in which live theater pulls ahead of screen work most of the time.
As a mentally ill musical theatre fan, depictions of characters who share that trait with me typically fall into one of two categories: they a) don't exist or they b) make me rage. next to normal comes closer than most shows to getting it right, in a lot of ways. But where it fails, it fails hard.
I am in a fairly light mood today, so I thought I'd match that with a pretty light post. One of my favorite things to do is to play with music or other media by mentally flipping the script, changing the context in which it operates. Today I want to flip the script...WITH FEMINISM
Musical theatre black women are often minor characters who show up to enlighten the main (white) ones with a Big Gospel Number, and then sink once more into the background. In spring 2006, not one but two shows premiered containing songs specifically lampooning this trope. And these are what I want to talk about.
Because I'm a slightly perverse creature, I'm going to start this series about feminist literary icons with a one you've probably never heard of. Written by a man. Featuring a woman who dies of longing when her dreamed-of lover doesn't materialize.
I was one of those major theater nerds in high school; my nerd-dom, however, did not usually translate to reading many well-regarded Classics of Theater. I did not read Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie until college, and, looking back, I would have read it much earlier, had such a thing been possible. The Glass Menagerie, written in the early 1940s, is one of Williams' works that continues to get quite a bit of mileage out of the "faded Southern belle" archetype (if I may quote The Simpsons). It is notable also because of its depiction of disability in the character of young Laura Wingfield—who has a limp due to an adolescent bout of pleurisy. Though Laura, as a character, is problematic in some aspects, she is still worth a look because she does not totally conform to many dominant cultural narratives of disability.