Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Moors


I sometimes oversell shows I love to friends, whose expectations are then a bit disappointed, so I should say upfront that The Moors may not be everyone's cup of tea.  But if you have any interest in the literature of past centuries and in writing by women of any century, you should catch this wild and brilliant satire of all things Bronte, by Jen Silverman, produced by the Playwrights Realm. You have through March 25.

http://www.playwrightsrealm.org/

Monday, March 20, 2017

Political Lit


Last summer, Isthmus, a literary magazine based in Seattle, put out a call for submissions for a special issue on Politics.  I answered with a few poems, envisioning, as did the editors, that the issue would debut early in the administration of our first woman president.

The poem of mine they accepted, "Door to Door," is perhaps a little more poignant than it otherwise would have been.  The issue is about much more than electoral politics, though, and what I've read of it so far has been powerful, moving, and thought provoking.  I'm thrilled to be part of it.

For information, see Isthmusreview.com , where you can read much of the issue (though not my poem) online for free, or order it (well worth the $8 price, imho).

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Gardens Speak

Last month I participated in a play, Gardens Speak, part of the Public Theater's Under the Radar festival, that I'm still thinking about.   Here's what I remember:

In an outer room, the guide instructs you to take off your shoes and put on a light raincoat.  

In the next room, you sit on one of two benches along two facing walls.  In the middle of the room is a rectangle with grass, dirt, and ten wooden tombstones--the garden.

You are given a piece of paper with a name in Arabic.

You step into the garden and look for the tombstone with the name matching the one you hold.

When you find it, you brush the dirt off a plaque at the base of the tombstone to reveal the name in English.

You lie down with your head at the base of the tombstone, and the voice of the deceased whispers his or her story in your ear, as if coming from the grave beneath you.

These are all victims of the Assad regime in Syria, many of whom were secretly buried in gardens and parks.  

When you're done listening to the story, you cover the name,  return to the bench, where you find a small notebook in which you are invited to write a letter to the martyr whose story you heard.

You go back to the grave, this time to its foot, and sit a while, as you learn is the custom in Syria.  If you write a letter, you bury it there--perhaps you find letters that others have written.

The letters will eventually be shared with the families of the victims.

Finally you return to the anteroom, where you can wash your feet in a foot bath.

It has been only 45 minutes.

You wish many, many others could share the emphathy-inducing experience you had in that room.


Gardens Speak is the work of performance artist Tania El Khoury, who is based in London and Beirut.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Scoundrel Time

The apt title of Lillian Hellman's memoir of her experiences during the McCarthy era and scathing critique of  the House Un-American Activities Committee, before which she appeared, Scoundrel Time seems at least as appropriate to the present American day, with our scoundrel-led and scoundrel-ridden administration.  So it's an apt name for a new online literary journal that offers a forum for writers to address the issues of our times--something many other literary magazines are doing as well these days.

http://scoundreltime.com/

Stand Up and Take Your Clothes Off!

While my friend Christine's boyfriend was watching the Super Bowl, she and I had made a date to do something that would not involve football.  Stand Up and Take Your Clothes Off, an all-woman show of comedy and burlesque, at the Kraine Theater,  proved to be just the ticket.  Hosted by comedian Kerryn Feehan, abetted by Jillaine Gill, the show featured two other comedians and four burlesque artists.  Yes, artists. To someone who'd seen little burlesque in the past and had never sought it out, these women were revelatory.  

"Do you think the guys would have liked this?" I asked Christine at the break.  She thought the humor might have been a little too female-centric for them--we'd chortled over bits involving IUDs, boobs, and endometriosis--but said, "I think they'd like the dancing."

Stand Up and Take Your Clothes Off can often be seen at the Kraine, 85 E. 4 St., on the first Sunday of the month at 8 pm---next scheduled for April 2.    

http://www.horsetrade.info/the-kraine-theater

Friday, January 20, 2017

The wit and wisdom of George Eliot



Despite my best intentions, I've never got around to rereading Middlemarch, and I haven't read anything else by George Eliot in a very long time.  But at last, years after a former roommate raved about it, I'm deep into Daniel Deronda, her brilliant last novel.  Besides a gripping story and vivid characters, she supplies, on virtually every page, deep insights into the human condition, as relevant as ever to our times.

Here's how she begins Chapter 21:

"It is a common sentence that Knowledge is power; but who hath duly considered or set forth the power of Ignorance?  Knowledge slowly builds up what Ignorance in an hour pulls down.  Knowledge, through patient and frugal centuries, enlarges discovery and makes record of it; Ignorance, wanting its day's dinner, lights a fire with the record, and gives a flavour to its one roast with the burnt souls of many generations.  Knowledge, instructing the sense, refining and multiplying needs, transforms itself into skill and makes life various with a new six days' work; comes Ignorance drunk on the seventh, with a firkin of oil and a match and an easy 'Let there not be'--and the many-coloured creation is shriveled up in blackness.  Of a truth, Knowledge is power, but it is a power reined by scruple, having a conscience of what must be and what may be; whereas Ignorance is a blind giant who, let him but wax unbound, would make it a sport to seize the pillars that hold up the long-wrought fabric of human good, and turn all the places of joy dark as a buried Babylon."


We must not let those about to run the show in our government this term "wax unbound."

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Literature of Crime

My short story "A Case for Muriel," published in the Hawai'i Review's Literature of Crime issue, may finally be read via free download at the HR website: hawaiireview.org. It's one of the two latest issues featured on the first page of the site; other digitized issues can be viewed under the Issues tab.