1

What’s Your Damage, Heather?

I actually finished a book recently, and contrary to the glowing reviews I usually give books, I’d say that this one is not as exciting as I thought it would be. It’s the short but not-so-sweet Heathers, a reflection on the movie, by actor John Ross Bowie.

Note: actual size.

I don’t know what I was expecting from such a teeny little book, but I was thinking that there would at least be some interesting commentary on the movie. There was some of that, but most of the book seemed to be a personal reflection of the author on his high school years and his experience of the movie, with bits of trivia and random facts thrown in, most of which I already knew, being a fan of the movie. Granted, the movie came out when I was about a year old so I can’t claim to be among those who originally followed it, but as it was a box office flop and only really gained traction in the 1990s, it was on my radar as early as 2001 or 2002, when it was mentioned at a meeting of a teen theatre troupe I was a part of. This was in the days before YouTube, and I don’t think my parents would have approved of me renting it, so I ended up finding the script online and reading and rereading it, which is an odd way of going about it. I didn’t see the movie in full until last year, when a bootleg copy surfaced on YouTube (it’s probably still there, somewhere) and was fascinated by every aspect, from the “old soul” nature of the teenage characters to the color palette to the out-of-place music, all of which were discussed in the book.

I guess what I was expecting was more of a retrospective on Heathers rather than a personal reflection. The only person remotely relevant who gets a say in the book is Amy Poehler of Mean Girls fame, who was interviewed by the author. The other two “Snappy Snack Shack” interviews come from two of the author’s high school girlfriends, both named Heather and neither of whom have ever been in my kitchen.

When I say “retrospective,” I mean, like, something akin to a collection of short essays/articles written by different people. When I was in college, I randomly picked up a book called Dear Angela, which was a collection of essays on various facets of My So-Called Life, a short-lived 1990s sitcom that touched a great deal of people with its themes and characters. Even though I have seen maybe one episode in my entire life, the book was a riveting read, and made me want to, at some point in the future, download the episodes from somewhere, since the DVD is expensive (and I don’t have anywhere to play it). Another book that I read that was similar was Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby? which was a short little book on the birth of Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s internet following and the concept of fandom. It was only written from one perspective, but it was entertaining and multi-faceted. I forgot the author’s name, but Bowie could have taken a leaf from that book.

But back to this book, I’d stay that if you’re a hardcore fan of the movie with an hour to spare, give it a skim, and if not, pass on it. Someday, there ought to be an actual, bona-fide book on the impacts of Heathers. Maybe I’ll edit it. I think it could be really good.

Correction…very.

0

Flip The Script Friday: Stella Kon, Emily of Emerald Hill

It’s Friday, and you know what that means – time to flip that script!

I know you’ve been reading a lot here lately on Stella Kon, but it’s only because I have just about everything of hers out from the library right now, and since I wanted to return them all today, I read all the ones I hadn’t gotten to yet. The only ones which I thought were worth talking about here were Butterflies Don’t Cry (which will appear here…but not anytime soon) and Kon’s one-woman tour-de-force, Emily of Emerald Hill.

Basics:

Written in 1982 and first performed in Malaysia in 1984. Leow Puay Tin played Emily. Its Singapore premiere came in September 1985, with Margaret Chan as Emily. She was seven months pregnant at the time, which is pretty incredible. Since then, it has become Singapore’s most widely-performed play, and has been seen in other countries as well. According to the play text, Leow and Chan pretty much switched off the role throughout the 1980s.

Character:

  • Emily Gan – It’s just her, and everyone else is secondary:) no, really, she spends the majority of the play talking to other people, none of whom are on stage. She is in her mid thirties and wears a traditional kebaya as well as bangles and other jewelry. She does not portray any other characters, but goes back and forth through time, from being a young wife/mother to being a grandmother.

Setting/Plot

1950s, Singapore. At the outset, Emily is making phone calls to various people, arranging her son Richard’s birthday party. As she prepares, she tells of the history of her home, a mansion on Emerald Hill where she lives with her husband, children, and an assortment of family members. After the party, we jump forward in time to Richard leaving for university in England. Against Emily’s wishes, he decides to work as a stable hand instead, and the first act ends when Emily finds out he has committed suicide in England. The second act begins with Emily in mourning for her son, growing irritable, and then going back in time to when her son was even younger. She flashes forward and cooks her favorite meal while telling us, Rachael Ray-style, exactly what she is doing and how. As she chops and cooks, she reveals the imperfections of her life; a cheating husband, and her other two sons, Charles and Edward, growing up and leaving Emerald Hill to start their own lives and families, and of her daughter Doris, whom she intends to keep at Emerald Hill, even if she should get married. Doris ends up going to visit family in America, and stays there, abandoning her aging mother. Even though she’s been alone onstage the whole time, we watch her world get smaller, as her home slowly erodes around her.

My Thoughts

This is definitely a very site-specific play, and I think I would appreciate it more having grown up or lived in Singapore. Still, it provides a good glimpse into the life of a fictional but very interesting lady, a wife and mother, who is often pushed aside but has her own story to tell. The right actress could pull off an incredible transformation, taking Emily from a young and vibrant socialite to an antique, much like the mother-of-pearl furniture she treasures. Other plays/characters that come to mind are Charlotte von Mahlsdorf in Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife, or Betty in Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine, both of whom represent a person who stays the same despite the drastic changes that occur around them, becoming a relic without really doing that much themselves.

How I’d Flip It

Oddly, I think that I would love to play the role of Emily. It’s been performed by male actors before, and even though I’ve never imagined myself in drag, she just seems so frozen in time that playing her would be like being a theatrical cryogenic technician, only instead of defrosting Walt Disney or Ted Williams, some random person from another place and time emerges. I’d also love to do it in a place where the lighting could start off bright, with lots of shadows for Emily to navigate through, and then get dimmer until Emily can only move around her chair, while at the same time, the lighting on the rest of the stage (maybe in a blue or green) gets brighter, so we can see the set, which has actually been really dingy this whole time, despite Emily’s vitality. Of course, Emily would be in pink, but everything else on the set would be in duller browns, grays, and tans, so she could stand out. I can’t decide whether a thrust or proscenium would be the best option, but I think a thrust might be really interesting. I think the biggest challenge of this play is to make the audience really care about Emily, despite probably being alien to her history and her way of life before entering the theatre; rather than making it campy, it should almost be like she’s a flower in her own little greenhouse of history, which is great because in one of her final monologues, she mentions that her gardener crossbred a flower and named it for her.

Works Cited:

Kon, Stella. Emily of Emerald Hill. Singapore: Macmillan, 1989. Print.

4

Let’s Face Facts, People

Not The Facts of Life, but the facts of The Face.

Yes, Facebook.

I feel like Facebook has been getting a lot of flak lately. Yes, there are things about it which are terrible and awful, like the games, and News Feed, but I think that people are approaching Facebook with a completely wrong attitude.

Facebook is, first and foremost, a social media website. I don’t know if people don’t understand that, but the point is that if you have a Facebook, there is something about your life that you want to be made public, because in theory, anyone can see your profile; even people with whom you’re not connected in any way. If you’re on Facebook, you’re going to be found.

Which brings me to my second point. Lately, the big trend has been changing your name on Facebook to a completely different one so “employers” or “bad people” or whomever can’t find you. Such a load of crap. I have a friend who recently got a “real job” so he changed his name on Facebook from Mike Johnson (names made up for this post) to Jeremiah Maxwell. Yet, in the url for the “Jeremiah Maxwell” profile, it still says http://www.facebook.com/mike.johnson.1234! Seriously, that’s just dumb. It only confuses your actual friends, and people will still find you. If you don’t want to be found, then just don’t have a Facebook account at all. It’s that simple.

Here’s a true story that happened to a friend of mine in college. We’ll call her Lauren.

It was 2005, right around the time when Facebook really took off, and it was a very different site. People had more personal information up, such as their dorm, so you could find out who lived near you, and your class schedule, so you could connect with people you went to class for notes and such. It was also only open to students back then, and students at other schools could not see your profile, so it felt a little safer. Anyway, Lauren and I met freshman year through her roommate Meg, who was a good friend of mine. I didn’t know Lauren that well, but what happened to her quickly gained attention not only from the school but from the mainstream media. Basically, Lauren was friended by an older student, we’ll call him Seth. She felt like she’d seen him around campus, or maybe he was a friend of a friend, so she didn’t really give it much thought.

Then, strange things started happening.

She kept running into Seth all the time; outside her dorm, in the store where she worked, walking outside the buildings where she had class. For a while, they didn’t talk, but she noticed him more and more frequently. Then, one day, as she got off the bus, he was at the stop and asked her what her favorite Pink Floyd album was, since she’d listed it on her profile. The next day, he was waiting outside her dorm and he told her that he liked the new dress she was wearing in her new profile picture. When she told him that she wasn’t interested in him, he said something like “I know where you work.” That kind of did it; she got off Facebook and all social media, despite it being too late, because he already knew where she would be 95% of the time since he knew her class schedule, dorm room, and workplace. She reported it to the police, and then basically had to change her life around: she moved into a different dorm, changed her classes, changed her work schedule and then quit altogether. Pretty soon after, she gained a modicum of fame for going public with her story and being smart enough to potentially stop an incident with someone older than her who she did not want anything to do with, led talks on nearby college campuses about her experience, spoke to the media, and became a huge advocate for the anti-social media movement.

She had a legit reason for leaving social media, and she did, cold turkey. She was inconvenienced by it, but she learned and grew from the experience and a lot of other college students did too. Now that Facebook is a much bigger thing, it’s potentially more dangerous, but if you’re that concerned about someone seeing your pictures or finding you, do what Lauren did. And if you’re not being stalked, consider yourself lucky.

And that’s why you shouldn’t complain about Facebook.

7

Sytten Pretty on Syttende Mai

Happy Syttende Mai, everyone!

For those of you who don’t know, which is probably most of you, today, May 17, is Norway’s independence day, or as they say, Syttende Mai. Here in Wisconsin, we have a lot of people from Germany and Scandinavia, so in the three years I’ve lived here, I’ve become more aware of some holidays I did not have growing up, but until this year, I hadn’t a clue was Syttende Mai was.

Here’s how it happened: last week, I went to find some geocaches up in DeForest, a small town about 20 minutes north of Madison, and stopped in at Norske Nook, which is a chain of Norwegian restaurants in northern Wisconsin that opened here last year. I had a delicious salmon wrap in lefse, a Norwegian tortilla made of potatoes, butter, and magic. A table tent said that there would be specials for Syttende Mai, and it was coming up, so I made a mental note to come back.

So this morning, I woke up early and managed to get over there by 10:30. Surprisingly, it was not that busy. They had a special on Norwegian Pancakes (pancakes topped with strawberries, lingonberries, and a dash of whipped cream) for just $5.17, because of the date, and it was amazing. I love lingonberries, and they had a lingonberry double-crust pie on the menu, so I spent until almost noon sitting there with warm pie and constantly-refilled coffee, a la Kyle McLachlan in Twin Peaks.

This is the life.

Happy birthday, Norway!

4

Thanks for the Vote of Confidence, Amazon Textbook Rentals

Normally, I buy all my textbooks for class. However, I had a class this semester which required a very expensive textbook – I couldn’t even find a decently-priced used copy – so I decided to try out Amazon Textbook Rentals for the first time. It seemed kind of like an early version of Netflix, but for books: you pay to rent a book for a relatively cheap price ($24 for this one, when it retails around $60), they send it to you, and after a certain amount of time you print out a shipping label and send it back. The sending back part is free thanks to UPS.

So, I bought the textbook, used it the prerequisite number of times for the class, and then returned it a few days ago via UPS. Yesterday, I get an email saying (the bold was highlighted by me):

Dear JACOB,

Thanks for sending back your rentals. The carrier received your package on Thursday, May 12, 2016. All future late charges on these items are stopped. We will send you an email once we have processed your return (please allow up to 30 business days).

Well, gee, Amazon, thanks for the vote of confidence. Why would you talk about hypothetical future late charges when they’re nonexistent, and will never exist, because I returned the book on time? I know it’s probably just processed boilerplate, but it makes me sound a little on the “naughty child” side, as if you were expecting me to return it late, or something. I’m imagine you pacing, all ready and raring to go with late fine emails addressed to me just sitting in your draft box, waiting to be sent. Really, now. It’s like…was there an office pool, betting on whether I’d return it on time or not?

“He’s not going to return it on time, Carol, I just know this guy’s gonna lose it in his apartment or leave it at a Starbucks.”

“Oh golly gee Jim, have a little faith. Speaking of Starbucks, you wanna go out and get some?”

“No thanks, I’m in a relationship.”

“I know, lighten up Jim, that wasn’t a come-on, I just want some hot coffee.”

“So get some in the break room, and…::phone rings:: hold up, it’s Lynette, I gotta take this call.”

“Yeah whatever. See ya Jim.”

“Bye Carol.”

“::murmur:: note to self…find out where this Lynette lives and how to get rid of her…”

And that’s how Carol got fired from Amazon.

0

Flip the Script Friday: Stella Kon, Emporium And Other Plays

Originally published 2/19/16; revised 5/13/16, now with pretty pictures designed by me!

It’s been a slow week for blogging, and kind of a tough week in my life, but I managed to get myself up and out to grocery shop, grade, and go to the social dance over at Holt Commons, so it’s time I managed to get another episode of Flip The Script out. Today’s script comes from Singapore. For my final project for International Theatre for Young Audiences, I have to create a lesson plan about a children’s play from another country. After looking at the ASSITEJ website, I decided on Singapore and luckily found several plays from the country, including this book of five plays by Stella Kon. Join me if you will.

 

The Naga in the Swamp (1977 – side note: this book was published in 1977, and there is no information on original productions, so I am assuming that all five plays were written circa 1977)

naga5

Characters

  • Sri Makhota
  • The Princess (his sister)
  • The Penghulu
  • First/Second Courtiers
  • First/Second/Third/Fourth Rakyat
  • The Naga
  • Other Courtiers and Rakyat

Setting/Plot

Kingdom of Palembang, time unsure. Probably long, long ago. The Naga, which is a dragon-like creature, threatens the kingdom but is ultimately brought down by two separate strategies, a confrontation led by Sri Makhota, and an effort to drain the swamp, led by the Princess.

My Thoughts

A very short and straightforward play. It is surprising, though, how many things of note are packed in. For one thing, in a reversal of the norm, the Rakyat, or workers, speak in a lilting verse as they toil, whereas the Princess and the other characters do not. I also see the differences between male and female work ethic; Sri Makhota, the man, talks a big game, then falls asleep, but eventually helps to get the job done, whereas the Princess is proactive in mobilizing her forces to do what needs to be done.

How I’d Flip It

This would be great fun to produce for a group of children. There is the opportunity to have a dance number, potentially with a giant naga. I can also imagine the Rakyat handing out tools to the audience and inviting them to shovel, pick, and maneuver hoses to “drain the swamp.” It is a one-note piece, but it might work well in tandem with another. I like the teamwork aspects of it, and different problem-solving techniques. I do not think I’ll use this one in class, but it’s worth noting.

Asoka

naga4

QUEEN: What kind of a stupid show was that? No action! No romance! No suspense!

MINISTER (anxiously): I am so sorry, Great Lady. They promised me challenging, exciting new concepts…

QUEEN: Dullest thing I ever saw. Have them strangled immediately. As for you… (Kon, Asoka 18)

Characters

  • The Emperor Asoka
  • The Queen
  • Minister of the Palace
  • General of the Southern Army
  • Captain of the Left Hand
  • Captain of the Right Hand
  • Old Man of Kalinga
  • Singer of Kalinga
  • Five Unseen Voices
  • Court Actors (Prince, Princess, Minister, Attendant, Musician)
  • Two Martial Arts Fighters
  • People of Kalinga
  • Soldiers of the Army
  • Palace Attendants

(phew, that’s a lot of people for a tiny children’s play!)

Setting/Plot

India, 280 BCE, bordering the nation of Kalinga. The Emperor Asoka has conquered Kalinga, but is having a bitch of a time getting there because the entire population has staged a sit in on the roads. He orders his soldiers to get in by any means necessary. After they plow through people, seemingly calm and at peace on the roads, Asoka goes to investigate and discovers the glory of Buddha and the need for piece. Oh, and in the middle, there’s a scene where the queen wants to be entertained but isn’t, which is where the above quote comes from.

My Thoughts

Way too didactic. Not a whole lot of action happens onstage, mostly because it is things like battles and killings and such, but I think that the message here is considerably weak. Basically, it’s just that peace is better than war, and just general realization that war is bad. It’s not particularly evocative either.

How I’d Flip It

I don’t think Asoka would resonate with children too much. Maybe older children or teenagers. Still, there are pieces out there about war and peace that are probably more interesting. Next!

Kumba Kumba

naga3

Characters

  • Changka, the head of the tribe
  • Ellel, his wife
  • Ish, Changka’s son
  • Ink, Onk, Boh, Bah, male members of the tribe
  • A Weaver, A Potter, A Sewer, female members of the tribe
  • Lord of the Shining Sun
  • Lady of the Bright Moon

Setting/Plot

Caveman times, somewhere in a cave. The first page of lines is just the characters repeating “Kumba kumba” over and over again to one another, apparently its meaning changing each time. The rest of the play is actually kind of cute, despite being a little too Richard Scarry: Cavemen hunt animals. Cavemen decide that killing each other would be fun, until they are told that that would be a bad idea. Cavemen use weapons to invent games and musical instruments.

My Thoughts

Upon re-rereading it, it’s actually kind of cute and daresay, endearing.

How I’d Flip It

Definitely for a much younger audience, but it could be incredibly imaginative. We don’t know what people looked like in prehistoric times so anything goes.

Emporium

naga2

Characters

  • Kong
  • Manfred
  • The Impoverished One
  • The Addict
  • The Alienated One
  • Two Security Guards
  • Businessmen/Shoppers/Photographers

Setting/Plot

Ostensibly Singapore in the here-and-now. Kong, a rich mogul, announces the opening of shopping mega-mall he calls “Kong’s Towers.” His also-rich heir/son/next-in-command Manfred explores the towers and meets some less-well-off people among the shoppers, including the homeless, and begins to question his lifestyle. He loses his mind and declares himself to be an advocate for the poor, and then gets arrested because people believe that he’s not actually Manfred.

My Thoughts

Surprisingly, when I read it again, I liked it less. Initially, it was a story about the perils of consumerism and not looking out for the downtrodden. Then, I reread it, and Manfred kind of comes off as a bit of a cult leader by the end.

How I’d Flip It

I think this might be interesting to produce, especially in a materialistic place and time. It could be a colorful and fun shopping mall, in contrast with the homeless people.

In the Repair Shop

naga1

Characters

  • Din
  • Minah (Din’s mother)
  • Mat (Din’s older brother)
  • Steve
  • Chang (Steve’s father)

Setting/Plot

This play is different from the others in that it actually has a little bit more in the way of subterfuge/stakes. Basically, Din’s friend Steve shows up at Mat’s repair shop, looking for a job because his parents are dead. Then, Steve’s father Chang comes around looking for him, and it turns out that Steve lied and he just ran away, even though he tells Din how much he loves his parents, despite Chang convinced that Steve hates him, and Minah and Din having a similarly awkward relationship. It’s a pretty huggable end: Steve goes home, Minah makes one last crack about Din’s hair, and all is well.

My Thoughts

My favorite play of the five. I just think that it’s the more relatable, partially because of its universality in both values and context – in most cultures, disrespecting one’s parents and/or lying is universally frowned upon, unlike the conflict of consumerism/capitalism (Emporium), or hunting (Kumba Kumba), and unlike ancient China, ancient India, cavemen, or a mega-mall, repair shops are commonplace everywhere. It is implied that Mat’s repair shop is for appliances, but other places could have it be a repair shop for bikes, cars, or computers. Also, the names are pretty generic without being boring: Chang is the only one that is 100% local in name, whereas anyone could be Steve, Mat, Minah, and even Din (although I’m not sure if it’s Din like dinner or Dean, like James Dean – either way, it’s not a stretch in most languages).

How I’d Flip It

For some reason, I’m having visions of the Fix-It Shop from Sesame Street. I would make Steve’s “fancy shirt” something tie-dye or in a Hawaiian print or something. I just really like this play; it could be done by kids or for kids.

Works Cited

Kon, Stella. Emporium and Other Plays. Singapore: Heinemann Asia, 1977.

7

Reasons Why It’s Great to Live Alone

Here’s why it’s great to live alone.

  1. Pants are optional. Seriously, just one of the worst inventions, ever. Well, not really, I enjoy wearing them in public. but it just wouldn’t be the same having to dodge a roommate or wait until he’s gone to walk around in underwear. Sometimes clothing is even optional too. It’s rare that I do that but it does happen sometimes.
  2. It’s always my turn at the TV. I can watch The Golden Girls whenever I want, and never have to listen to the news or a sports game in the background if I don’t want to.
  3. Unlimited closet/fridge space. So many places to keep things.
  4. I put something somewhere and it’s there the next time I need it. Usually. Which reminds me, I need to clean my apartment again, because I’m beginning to forget what my carpeting looks like.