venus in orange

a performance piece with movement & music

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Free Play Reading List – #52playsbywomen

Compiled by Laura Shamas

Theatre tickets can be expensive. So how can you participate in #52playsbywomen if you’re on a budget?

If you are interested in learning more about plays written in other eras by female writers, there are quite a few free options available online. The list below of fifty free plays is just a start.

For more information about women playwrights of the past, please check out History Matters/Back To The Future. They have a terrific Library Page. And the plays of the writers listed on that page may purchased, as most are in anthologies or are published separately. And libraries, too, carry anthologies of plays.

(Note: If you’re interested in reading contemporary plays by women playwrights, you can join the New Play Exchange for a minimal yearly fee and read hundreds of plays online by women playwrights.)

FIFTY FREE PLAYS BY WOMEN PLAYWRIGHTS ONLINE

PRE-TWENTIETH CENTURY

Three Plays by Aphra Behn:

THE ROVER, (Pt. 1 [1677] & Pt. 2 [1681]);
THE DUTCH LOVER (1673);
THE ROUND-HEADS; OR THE GOOD OLD CAUSE (1681).

THE WITLINGS by Frances Burney (1779)

17 Plays by British Women Playwrights around 1800 :
Frances Burney LOVE AND FASHION (1799);
Hannah Cowley, THE RUNAWAY (1776);
Elizabeth Craven, THE GEORGIAN PRINCESS (1799);
Catherine Gore, KING O’NEIL (1835);
Elizabeth Inchbald, SUCH THINGS ARE (1788); THE MASSACRE (1792); THE WEDDING DAY (1794); WIVES AS THEY WERE AND MAIDS AS THEY ARE (1797); LOVERS’ VOWS (1798);
Harriet Lee, THE MYSTERIOUS MARRIAGE (1798);
Sophia Lee, ALMEYDA, QUEEN OF GRANADA (1796);
Mary Russell Mitford, CHARLES THE FIRST (1834);
Anne Plumptre, THE NATURAL SON (1798);
Elizabeth Polack, ESTHER (1835)
Jane Scott, WHACKHAM AND WINDHAM: or THE WRANGLING LAWYERS (1814);
Mariana Starke, THE SWORD OF PEACE (1788)
Lady Eglantine Wallace, THE TON, or FOLLIES OF FASHION (1788).

Five Plays by Susanna Centlivre:

THE PERJUR’D HUSBAND (1700)
THE BUSIE-BODY  (1709)
THE CRUEL GIFT, a tragedy  (1717)
A BOLD STROKE FOR A WIFE  (1718)
A BICKERSTAFF’S BURYING, a farce (1724)

5 Plays by Mercy Otis Warren:

THE ADULATEUR, a tragedy, as it is now acted in Upper Servia (1772)
THE BLOCKHEADS, a farce (1776)
THE DEFEAT (1773)
THE GROUP (1775)
THE MOTLEY ASSEMBLY, a farce (1779)

Two Plays by Anna Cora Mowatt:

FASHION (1845)
ARMAND or THE PEER AND THE PEASANT (1855)

TWENTIETH CENTURY

MISS LULU BETT by Zona Gale (1920)

TRIFLES by Susan Glaspell (1916)

Nine Plays by Lady Augusta Gregory:

Five Plays (1913): THE BOGIE MAN,
THE FULL MOON,
COATS,
DAMER’S GOLD,
MCDONOGH’S WIFE
WONDER’ Plays – THE DRAGON (1917),
ARISTOTLE’S BELLOWS (1921),
THE JESTER (1919)
THE UNICORN FROM THE STARS by Lady Augusta Gregory and W.B. Yeats (1908)

RACHEL by Angelina W. Grimké (1916)

A SUNDAY MORNING IN THE SOUTH by Georgia Douglas Johnson (1925)

BLACKOUT by Lawenda Jones (1994)

VOTES FOR WOMEN by Elizabeth Robins (1907)

RUTHERFORD AND SON by Githa Sowerby (1912)

MACHINAL by Sophie Treadwell (1928)

Any suggestions of plays with free links to add to this list? Please put it in the #52playsbywomen hashtag on Twitter and we will add it. Or e-mail us at: venusinorange (at)gmail (dot) com. Thanks. 

#52playsbywomen – The Big Launch

It’s Monday, August 1, and The Big Launch of #52playsbywomen is here.

The Simple Guidelines for our new Call to Action are here:

#52playsbywomen

On our launch day, it’s important to know why this Call to Action is needed.

Women buy 70% of theater tickets sold, and make up 60-70% of the theater audience.

But women writers only constitute about 22% (or less) on global stages, in terms of produced plays.

Let’s build conscious theater-going strategies so there’s a clamoring for work by women playwrights on a weekly basis. And if no play by a woman playwright is available in terms of performed plays in a specific region, then let’s promote reading a play by a woman as another option of support.

It’s easy! Join us in a year of #52playsbywomen. See you at the hashtag!

BigLaunch

Weighing Love With Aphrodite

by Laura Shamas

One of my favorite classical images of Aphrodite is on this ring: “The Weighing of Love.” This ring is gold, dates to about 350 B.C.E., and is an erotostasia in the Getty Museum Collection. The goddess Aphrodite weighs her son Eros in each balance.

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(Another gorgeous example of an erotostasia is at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. )

The Getty Museum site says that the exact purpose of an erotostasia is still “open to a variety of interpretations; it is possibly akin to our own ‘he loves me, he loves me not.’” This speaks to the uncertainty of new love—an attempt to know what fate has in store in terms of romance and matters of the heart. Is it safe to love? Are we falling in love? A possibly related old-fashioned French game is “Effleur la Marguerite,” in which a love-charmed seeker pulls off daisy petals saying “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not” (or “She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not”). The answer is given with the final petal pull.

But the reason I love the Getty’s “The Weighing of Love” ring is because of its representation of Aphrodite. The ring is gold, one of Aphrodite’s main colors as a solar goddess. Seated, her form is elegantly engraved; she holds the scales in her own hands, giving her agency. Her son Eros, the god of Love, is her measure of Love’s own worth. The divinity of love is doubly reinforced in the image of goddess and god.

In one section of Venus in Orange, Paula Cizmar and I elaborated on the crazy wonderment or weight of insecurity at the beginning of new love:

“Ever wonder how you get from standing close

not knowing what’s happening

to that first kiss?

Ever keep your eyes open

tracking the looks

the sounds

the shift in the air

the way you’re both standing or sitting

the way one head moves closer

or does it

or how does it

or do they both move as one

and how do you know

what to look for

what to expect

if you don’t know

what’s happening

and then—a kiss.”

“I Just Try Not To Be Seen”

By  Laura Shamas

Abusive theatre practices continue to be of concern in 2016. In late April, Howl Round published an article by Holly L. Derr that details the toxic atmosphere of “Bro Theatre” at a university theatre department in upstate New York.  Now, a June report from the Chicago Reader details abusive practices at a non-Equity company there: Profiles Theatre.

From Aimee Levitt and Christopher Piatt’s lengthy CR article, which was researched for a year: “The reason Killer Joe felt so vicious and so real was because it was. All of it: the choking, the bruises, the deep-throating of a chicken leg, the body slam into the refrigerator, Cox’s groping of Wellin through her dress as Joe attempts to seduce Dottie, Cox’s semi-erection at the beginning of Act II after Joe succeeds. ‘It was real,’ says Darcy McGill, the costume designer, ‘because there was a psychopath onstage.’”

As Howard Sherman reports, events have snowballed in the aftermath of the Levitt and Piatt news story; this includes the removal of a theatre website editor who seemed to place partial responsibility on the victims in such situations.

Abusive behavior and practices, as detailed in the articles by Derr, Levitt and Piatt, have no place in the field of theater, or any field. Such abuse is wrong; we must work to shut down such practices immediately. Period.

The effects of abuse on all actors (and other theatre artists–and anyone else who has been abused) can never be accurately measured or perhaps completely healed; my heart goes out to them.

In a general sense, the aftermath of sexual and domestic abuse for women–and its longterm effect on the victims, is part of our play Venus in Orange. In our interviews with young female college students, we found that many had already faced sexual and/or domestic violence by the time they were old enough to enroll in college. It was not part of their theatre training experience at that point, but rather, a part of their teenaged or young adult years growing up in the United States. Here’s one sample from our script:

“I tell you. He still loves me. He does. He doesn’t mean to—. Well, it’s just that when he’s drinking–. See, you have to understand, without him I don’t have anyone. Nowhere to go. And I–. I probably provoke him. I think I do. Because he’s not really a violent man. Not really. He just gets—.

I mean, sometimes I think if I were a better person, then—

Well, maybe if I were stronger, then I could get out of this whole thing.

If—If I had any sense.

If there was anything I could do…

I don’t call the cops anymore.

I bite my lip

And I don’t scream.

So the neighbors can’t call either.

I tried driving to different ERs, but

now I think they know me.

So I just stay home.

I don’t cry.

I don’t call out.

I just try to not be seen.”

We see you. We must all work for change in our world, our culture, and our field.

Hello World

Our play, venus in orange, is a performance piece for an all-female cast.  It can be performed with as few as 6 actors, but it’s one of those pieces that gets even richer and fuller when performed with more.   We’ll be posting a copy of the script soon.  Check back in on us, or drop us a line.

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