(briefly) on The Zoo Story

ImageThe Zoo Story by Edward Albee is a one act play that can very easily be produced. Essentially all you need is two people for the cast, two park benches for the set, and a prop knife. It really should be more popular in high schools. I think I would rather watch this than sit through hormonal, pimply-faced teenagers trying to act out Macbeth.

The play is about a man (Peter) from the Upper East Side sitting on a Park bench reading a book for work (he is in publishing) when all of a sudden his peace is interrupted by another man (Jerry) who happens to be more or less the exact opposite of Peter. Jerry is the type that has “been around” a couple of times, only owns the essentials, and has more than his fair share of eccentricities. Image

Basically, Jerry winds up being a man who wants to die. His life has no meaning. He doesn’t want it anymore. After pestering Peter, a man with a family, a nice home (with pets) and a steady job, with stories of his life, an unlikely conversation on a park bench quickly becomes violent and deadly. Jerry dies by Peter’s hand, but only because Peter was tricked by Jerry’s tomfoolery.

I am a New Yorker, born and raised. The entirety of the play is said to take place in Central Park East up by 75th Street. Now, if you know anything about this area, then you would know that on a Sunday, when the sun is shining, this area would be swarmed with locals, tourists, kids and nannies, and even dogs being walked. There is no way that a killing could occur without anyone noticing. However, this is exactly what happened in this play. At the end, Peter walks away Scott-free, while Jerry lays dying on a bench with a knife in his chest. Is this likely? I don’t think so. This leads me to join the school of thought that categorizes this play as a “dream play” or rather, a play that occurs within the subconscious of one of the characters. 

It is a stereotype well known in New York City, that those from the Upper East Side are rather stuck up, uptight and of course, well off in the money department. They also tend to be very right-wing conservative. Peter is the the representation of this stereotype, while Jerry is the stark opposite. Perhaps all this is happening inside of Peter’s head, and Jerry is a part of himself that he wish did not exist. Perhaps he is able to do with that part that he despised so much, what many of us who have something we don’t like about ourselves wish we could do: Kill that part. It’s a very powerful idea. 

This play is sure to leave you with your jaw on the floor. If not, chances are you’re a right-wing conservative (joke). The images in this post are from a production of The Zoo Story produced at the Provincetown Playhouse on January 14, 1960. Image

 

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(briefly) on Yerma

ImageThe play Yerma by Federico Garcia Lorca is a tale of a woman, Yerma,  living in rural Spain with her husband Juan, in a time where it is vehemently expected of her to have a baby. The play was originally written in 1934, and was performed for the first time in the same year.

The first time I read the play I thought it was a pretty straight forward story about a woman so hell bent on fulfilling the role placed upon her by society (that of wife and mother) that she would go to any extremes to make it happen. Of course it is also an emotional play that gets it’s emotional core from Yerma’s personal struggles with the issue of her infertility. 

The second time I read the play, I was a little bothered, because even thought it is obvious that Yerma’s husband, Juan, doesn’t actually want a child of his own, it also doesn’t seem that they are actually “trying” to have one. Juan is always tilling the field leaving Yerma to sleep alone. As we all know, it takes two people to actually “make” a baby. Perhaps Juan is the one that is infertile. Perhaps his little soldiers are just terrible swimmers. Of course, no one would ever dare to suggest such a thing in Yerma’s world. Maybe Juan is even a homosexual who took Yerma as a bride with the sole intention of making her his beard. His jealously over Victor is probably just spurned on by the idea that his cover might be blown if people catch wind of the fact that his wife is pining for another. People will think that he does not satisfy her. It is clear either way, that he does not. Image

Yerma killing her husband (sorry if I ruined the ending for some of you), although a desperate act of passion that leads to her own even deeper self-deprecation (“I myself have killed my child”), to me was symbolic of woman breaking free from the chains of social norms of the time. Unfortunately, the words don’t particularly help this argument, but actions certainly do speak louder than words, and with woman’s suffrage taking place at around the same time, it is hard to believe that Lorca was that insensitive to women’s rights. Either way this is a play worth seeing and reading and forming your own opinions on.

Neelam Man Singh Chowdhry directed a production of Yerma in his native India. In his own blog he speaks of his connection to the play and how he tried to evoke the true emotional grit behind Lorca’s words while at the same time connecting it with the Punjabi culture. I wish that I could have seen this production if only for the sole reason that the pictures that I have posted along with this post have some of the most beautiful costumes I have seen associated with this play, and of course to view the stark contrasts and similarities between the rural Spanish and Indian cultures. I believe the play speaks for itself as a piece of emotionally transcendent art, and it’s good to know that Chowdhry did his reasearch and worked very hard to portray that.

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(briefly) on The Misanthrope

ImageIn my opinion, The Misanthrope by Moliere is perhaps one of the most relevant pieces ever written. Not only has it stood the test of time having first been performed on June 4th, 1666, but also having been interpreted in several ways without compromising the integrity of Moliere’s words or main concept. The play itself is a “comedy of manners” which means that it is meant to poke fun at the way the people act. The misanthrope in this play is also the protagonist, Alceste, who as one could surmise by the title, is not a very pleasant fellow. He likes to judge and criticize everyone around him in the French aristocracy. As a result, he is the one that everyone avoids and casts aside. He even judges the woman that he loves, Celimene, who despite being accepted wholeheartedly by her fellow aristocrats, seems to have more in common with Alceste than anyone cares to realize; she too is pretty much a self-centered, judgmental bitch. A self-centered, judgmental bitch who is being courted by 4 different men all pining for her love.7075_orig

Does any of that sound somewhat familiar to you? I think that it should. After all, the popular bitchy girl in high school who has all the jocks chasing her tale is a stereotype that is sadly all too real in our culture. In January of 2008, The Maukingbird Theatre Company put on a production of The Misanthrope that showed exactly how diverse this play can be in it’s applicability, setting the play in the middle of the gay club culture. All the characters were played by men (much like in the original production).

Plays such as this, will always be relevant, and forever entertaining because we can all relate to it. Whether we are the ones who get judged of the ones that do the judging, there is something that will hopefully enlighten us all to the error of our ways; something that I think Moliere would be very happy about.

The Most Elderly Woman from San Jorge Passes/by Sergio Espinoza Hernandes/ translated into English

ImageTo honor Rosa Benita Gómez Arcia after her passing, Sergio Espinoza Hernandes wrote a beautiful blog entry in Spanish which moved me to tears. To show my deep condolences to my dear friends Luis and Maria, who lost their grandmother today, I have translated the post into English so that more may know her story:

Rosa Benita Gomez Arcia, at 109 years of age the oldest woman of the Municipality of San Jorge, and perhaps the oldest of the Department of Rivas (Nicaragua), passed away today, November 20th, 2013 from pulmonary illness. Her funeral will be tomorrow.

Rosa Benita Gomez Arcia was born in San Jorge on January 5th, 1904. Her home had always been two blocks south of the park. She spent her last years living in her son Osvaldo’s house located on the east side of the cemetery.

When she was a little girl, her family took her to Granada in Spain, where she attended El Colegio Maria Auxiliadora for primary school. There, she learned to play the piano and the guitar. She was a homemaker.

Doña Rosa lived in the most densely populated urban area of ​​the city of San Jorge. She had a very large family. She refused to succumb to her own mortality, and thus survived a very atypical century.

She was witness to great changes and developments. For example, she was born in a house of wood planks and adobe with earthen floors. Today she lived in a brick house with tiled floors. She used to pump water from wells or gather it from the lake, but today, pipes provided her home with running water.

She was witness to many great technological advancements (a technological boom if you will) such as the television, radio, electric iron, and parabolic antennas for domestic use.

Sergio Espinoza Hernandes was introduced to Doña Rosa by Hernán Morales (a historian and investigator focusing in the history of the “Georgian” culture):

She received them in the living room of her house, freshly bathed and powdered in November of 2010. She was 107. She was nearly deaf, and had to be screamed at into her right ear to be heard at all. At this point, there was already much that she had forgotten.

Doña Rosa was a very hard working woman, collecting containers of milk left to her by the local farmers very early in the morning, which she would then sell. She also owned and ran a bakery and a general supply store.

Her father Alejandro Mariano Gómez Tablada, originated from Chontales, and her mother, Agustina Arcia, from San Jorge. She married Clodualdo Bobadilla Casanova and became his widow.

My condolences to her children:  Salvador, María Auxiliadora, Celia, Aída, Justo y Osvaldo. She leaves behind a legacy of 23 grandchildren, 29 great grandchildren and 2 great great grandchildren.

We have many questions for Doña Rosa, but perhaps the most poignant would be: What was the cause of her great longevity?
Was it the city in which she was born? Perhaps it is simply a matter of it being a feminine trait? Just what was her secret for reaching such old age?

And of course, it almost seems obligatory to ask all of you: Would you want to live that long?

 

Original Post

Candy Thoughs

I walk up the stairs.

Squished Skittle on the floor.

Then, I am like that hard shelled

Yellow fruit chew elbow to elbow

On the 7.

 

Onward to Manhattan.

At Hunter’s Point the view of

Tagged-up roof tops vanish.

In a Tunnel.

Claustrophobia.

 

The woman next to me is seated.

Her bags are nestled beside her.

I cannot sit.

I hate her.

The man across from her seems

Enthralled by his phone screen.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen we are delayed due to train traffic ahead of us.

 

If there is one track

And all the trains are going

Along it, then how can there be

Traffic if they just kept moving?

42nd Street, Bryant Park.

 

There is a florist shop here.

Do people buy flowers often anymore?

Moreover in the subway?

I ponder as I walk up more stairs.

Gum.

Gum wrapper.

Smushed Starburst on the sidewalk.

 

Candy thoughts get interrupted by a

Realization that there was blood shed

On the Pond not two days ago.

(briefly) on Oedipus Rex

The-Chorus--(Brid-Ni-Chumhaill--Ann-Marie-Taaffe--Audrey-McCoy--Martin-Burns-and-Liam-Heslin) [The Chorus (Bríd Ní Chumhaill, Ann-Marie Taaffe, Audrey McCoy, Martin Burns and Liam Heslin) in ‘Oedipus the King’. Photo: Marius Tatu]

 

As we know, Oedipus Rex is perhaps the oldest play that is still being produced today. The above image is taken from the production of this 2,000+ year old play put on by Classic Stage Ireland in July of 2010, directed by Andy Hinds. This production brings the characters into more modern time, setting the play in a post-war era and dressing them in a very contemporary “non specific, peasant-like costumes” with a “dull khaki palette” (Irish Theatre Magazine). I believe I would have enjoyed this production.

Theatrical choices aside, the allure of this play is first and foremost the fact that it bares a message that is still relevant today. Sophocles’ tragic hero, Oedipus’ tragic flaw is his own hubris. A pride so intense that blinds him from seeing the truth, and thereby leading him to such blasphemies as incest and patricide. The Oedipal Complex is another modern-day psychological term that has its roots in Sophocles’ ancient play; it is a complex that causes a son to have sexual desires or thoughts toward his mother and jealous feelings toward his father.

Obviously, this play, though done (and many may argue overdone) many times over, still has a strong and transcendent message, that I believe should be perpetuated. I’m glad that more modern versions of the play are being produced, for as relate-able as the themes of jealousy and the malignancy of hubris are, ancient Greek costuming and language can make an audience feel a strong disconnect to Sophocles’ brilliance.

Guest Blog: Voivode vs. Vampire – Dracula in Modern Literature

I’ve always been fascinated by the mythology of Dracula and Vampyrism. Check this out!!!

Interesting Literature

By Gemma Norman, University of Birmingham

The name ‘Dracula’ is a name synonymous with vampires: the handsome, seductive aristocratic Count of Bram Stoker’s novel is the image that first comes to mind upon hearing the name. Most people have also heard the name Vlad the Impaler, but it’s rare to find someone who knows that they are one and the same person. Known in Romanian as Vlad Ţepeş and in Turkish as Kazıkulu Bey (The Impaler Prince) Vlad III ruled three times as Voivode (from the Slavic for warlord) of Wallachia. A member of the House of Drăculeşti, a branch of the House of Basarab Vlad gained the name ‘Dracula’ from his father, also called Vlad who was known as ‘Dracul’ or ‘The Dragon’ due to his membership in this chivalric order under the patronage of King Sigismund of Hungary. This Order was sworn to fight the Ottoman Turks…

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