Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: Ridiculously Easy, Theatrically Inspired Halloween Costumes

Marissa Skudlarek has some costume tips for Halloween procrastinators.

Without quite being able to articulate why, I’ve always thought there was something a little odd about dressing up for Halloween as a character from a play. Maybe it’s because I feel like the people who are most likely to do that are actors themselves, and as such, dressing up as a theatrical character represents a weird blurring of their personal and professional lives. Like, rather than playing this role in a staged production, they’ve decided to play it for Halloween.

Maybe, too, it’s because there are fewer iconic theater costumes than film costumes. Because theater encourages multiple interpretations of classic plays, the iconography associated with what classic characters wear is more diffuse. There’ve been productions of Antigone where she wears a chiton and productions where she wears jeans.

Nevertheless, Halloween is approaching and for anyone who’s still deciding on a costume, I thought I’d offer some suggestions for Ridiculously Easy, Theatrically Inspired Halloween Costumes.

I feel like every dude in S.F. has this outfit. David Tennant as Hamlet (photo by Robbie Jack/Corbis).

I feel like every dude in S.F. has this outfit (sans skull). David Tennant as Hamlet (photo by Robbie Jack/Corbis).

Hamlet. Hamlet may be one of the most challenging roles in theater, but it is seriously the world’s easiest Halloween costume. Here’s how you dress up as Hamlet:

  1. Wear a long-sleeved black shirt and black pants.
  2. Go to a store that sells Halloween decorations and buy a plastic skull.
  3. Carry the skull around and look melancholy.

Is that not the easiest thing in the world? (And if you’re worried about choosing a costume that requires you to look glum and melancholy, remember that Hamlet also “puts an antic disposition on,” which sounds like a good excuse if you want to go crazy on the dance floor.) I will also point out that Hamlet is a unisex costume – women have been playing Hamlet for hundreds of years. And, if you’re used to thinking of Hamlet as a slim fellow and you’re worried you may not have the physique to dress as him, check out this article arguing that Shakespeare may have intended an overweight Hamlet.

The Soothsayer and Caesar (Thomasina Clarke & Raphael Nash Thompson) in the 2006 St. Louis Shakespeare Festival production. Photo by J. David Levy.

The Soothsayer and Caesar (Thomasina Clarke & Raphael Nash Thompson) in the 2006 St. Louis Shakespeare Festival production. Photo by J. David Levy.

Julius Caesar & Soothsayer. You know what’s a ridiculously easy costume? A bedsheet toga. You know how you can jazz up your bedsheet toga so that it doesn’t look like such a lazy cliché? Get a Halloween blood-makeup kit and paint stab wounds on your arms and torso, and you’re Julius Caesar! If you can, go with a friend who accessorizes his/her toga with fortuneteller-style scarves and jewelry, to portray the Soothsayer. This is my idea of a cute couples’ costume, and I’m not sure I want to know what that says about me.

elizabeth-taylors-style-cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof-6

Brick’s blue bathrobe is an easy Halloween costume for a lazy dude, too. Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

Stanley Kowalski / Maggie the Cat. If you want a sexy costume this Halloween, no characters from 20th-century theater are hotter than these two. For Stanley: wear Levis and a torn, sweaty undershirt, and stand in the rain yelling “STELLA!” For Maggie: wear a white ‘50s slip (available at any vintage store); carry a tumbler of whiskey; pose in doorways.

Stanley knows how to party. Marlon Brando in

I realize that suggesting you dress up as Stanley Kowalski is tantamount to suggesting that you dress up as a Sexy Rapist, and yet, I’m doing it anyway. Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

The hitch: These costumes are so simple that they really only work if you’re as hot as the young Marlon Brando or Elizabeth Taylor.

Natalie Dessay as Violetta and Matthew Polenzani as Alfredo in

The amazing Natalie Dessay as Violetta and Matthew Polenzani as Alfredo in “La Traviata” at the Met.
Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

The Lady of the Camellias. Maybe this is cheating, because this character originated in a novel, not a play. But I think the play, sometimes known in the English-speaking world as Camille, has become more famous than the novel, so I’m including it. And lest you say “But in order to be Camille, don’t I have to find a hoop skirt and a corset and do my hair in corkscrew curls? That’s not easy!” I will point out that the French title of the play translates as The Lady with the Camellias. That’s all you need. A lady, and (silk) camellias. (And probably some other clothing too; I don’t want these suggestions to get anyone arrested for public indecency.) Traditional productions of Camille and the opera that’s based on it, La Traviata, do require hoop skirts and corsets, but there’ve been modern productions with updated costumes – in the Metropolitan Opera’s current production, the heroine wears a red cocktail dress with a white camellia tucked at her bosom. If you’ve got a sexy red dress in your own closet, go to the craft store, get some faux camellias, put them in your hair or your cleavage, and voila.

Charles Ludlam: the most famous Camille of the late 20th century.

Charles Ludlam: the most famous Camille of the late 20th century.

This can be a unisex costume, too! Charles Ludlam, founder of the “Theater of the Ridiculous,” became famous for playing Camille in a low-cut dress that revealed his hairy chest.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. She won’t be dressing up as a theatrical character this Halloween, but she will be wearing the platinum wig that she originally wore in The Desk Set this summer — does that count? For more: visit marissabidilla.blogspot.com or Twitter @MarissaSkud.

Theater Around The Bay: The Audition and Casting Process (Stuart Bousel, Lana Russell)

Peter Hsieh brings us Part One of a two part interview series taking a director’s eye view of the casting and audition process.

Auditions. Casting. Been there, done that.

Auditions. Casting. Been there, done that.

Before I started seriously writing plays, I was an actor and the thing that baffled me the most, gave me the most palpitations were auditions. Part of what made me so nervous about them was that I didn’t really grow up doing theater and didn’t really have any friends in theater or any connections within a theater community. I also hadn’t the slightest idea about what the casting process was like from the director’s and producer’s stand point and in my ignorance and insecurity, attributed being successfully cast as to having connections, having an impressive resume stretching back twelve years to your stage debut as one of the kids in Children of Eden to your critically acclaimed performance as Romeo in last summer’s production of Romeo and Juliet, or being incredibly talented/having years of training. A few years later I found myself on the other side of the table, as a locally produced, playwright/director with whom people saw potential in and as a result got to take part in auditions and casting for some of my plays and became more familiar with this process that years ago was such a terrifying mystery to me.

Nowadays I rarely take part in auditions but I still have great respect for all the work that goes into auditions and castings from both sides of the table . As I’m writing this article, a lot of plays are being cast or already have been cast, from college productions (a lot of the UC’s have just had theirs cast I believe), to a few upcoming festivals like the San Francisco Olympians Festival, and I find myself thinking back to a younger version of myself worrying about auditions and how much better it would have been if I knew more about the process or if I had a few director friends I could talk to. In this article I talk to two very awesome directors, who go to auditions and are involved in the casting process, directors that I look up to and whose work I deeply admire: Stuart Bousel, the Director of New Work Development at Custom Made Theatre Company, the Executive Director of San Francisco Theater Pub, and the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Olympians Festival, really, a man who needs no introduction in these parts (and on this blog), and who you’ve (if you do theater in San Francisco) probably auditioned for and my friend Lana Russell, a New York based freelance director and the artistic director of Story People Theater Group, whom I met (and auditioned in front of) at UC Irvine where we both matriculated. In addition to talking about the audition and casting process, Stuart and Lana, both involved in producing new works, also addresses what it’s like to work on new plays and how what it is like to cast a new play.

So to the actor who got nervous before their audition, or are thinking about auditioning, to anyone who has ever wondered about the casting process and what transpires after you leave that stage (or room, or wherever your audition takes place), to myself years back when I was auditioning for the first time as a college freshmen who decided to take a shot at theater, this one is for you.

Tell us about your experience with new works. What do you enjoy about them? Why is it important to support that avenue of theatre?

Bousel: I’m a playwright, so I create new work, so of course I think it’s important, but as a director and as an audience member I’m just really into stories- old ones, and new, so an interest in new work development stems from a desire to constantly be creating and listening to, seeing, new stories. Surprise is, to me, one of the key elements of good theater- revelation too- and while I think both of those things can be present in older works, obviously the potential is greater in new work, and it’s important to support new work for the same reasons it’s important to support learning new things or making new friends: it helps us grow as human beings, and we should never stop growing.

Lana Russell. Her workshop production of Gibraltar at UCI was one of the best plays I saw there. I saw A LOT of good plays there.

Lana Russell. Her workshop production of Gibraltar at UCI was one of the best plays I saw there. I saw A LOT of good plays there.

Russell: For me, there is nothing more exciting than getting to be a part of telling a story that has never been told in exactly that way ever before. A playwright creates this raw, beautiful, terrifying thing that has the power and potential to develop into a story so full of life it cannot help but be told. When a new work gets dropped into your hands as a director I truly believe that no matter what is on the page, there is this thrilling possibility of what it could become. Offering support to the playwright in early stages by giving them the space to hear their work aloud, in front of a supportive and inquisitive audience is immensely important. Plays aren’t written to sit in twenty drafts on a google drive, they are being written for people to hear, see, react to and empathize with.

While I’ve always had a passion for new plays, the work really began after moving to New York in 2010. I had the opportunity and great pleasure to work for Primary Stages as their literary assistant for almost three years. So in addition to building a freelance directing career I was reading a bajillion scripts, seeing readings all over the city and assisting in Primary Stages Dorothy Strelsin New American writers group. A literary position was a great fit for me and it allowed me to learn about the wealth of writers constantly putting their work out there in New York and regionally. The writer’s group would meet once a week while the playwrights (all RIDICULOUSLY AMAZING writers) brought in new pages of the play they were working on which would then have a reading at the end of the term. Primary Stages offers such a generous home to their writers and an opportunity for audiences to come and see a work that is brand spanking new. I offered dramaturgical advice and hopefully emotional support in addition to administrative tasks for the group, their reading series and our annual writers retreat in Bennington College. I also have held literary internships and producing fellowships at LCT3 at Lincoln Center and Naked Angels, both companies dedicated to the development and production of new and exciting works.

What are some of the challenges of casting new works, especially for a festival or evening of multiple plays?

Russell: The festival especially had its challenges because instead of producing one new play, there were seven each with its own writer, director and cast. For me, casting for a new play is actually easier than one that has a range of previous productions. It can be more difficult because no previous type has been set for who plays this role but that is what I find most creatively stimulating. For an actor this is a huge opportunity to lend your voice and help create the persona of a brand new character. Readings are also great opportunities to try certain casting ideas and actors out. It sounds silly to say but scheduling is another major challenge. Since so many readings of new plays are unpaid and based on the generous volunteering of time from the actors, casting can get down to the wire and it becomes a game of commitments and getting people in the right place at the right time. Actors, the quicker you respond to an email, the quicker we can cast you.

Stuart Bousel. I owe at least three of my plays being produced to him. For Reals.

Stuart Bousel. I owe at least three of my plays being produced to him. For Reals.

Bousel: The big challenge with casting new work is that many actors are really no different from producers, directors, or audiences, and are just partial to what is familiar, perhaps even slightly distrusting of new work. Ask an actor what roles they want to play and they all have a list, which is understandable, they’ve grown up reading and seeing shows they want to be a part of themselves, but I wish I heard more actors say, “A role that hasn’t been written yet” or “A role I don’t know”. The right actors get super excited when they come across something they haven’t gotten to do before and nobody else has either, and they recognize it as the opportunity it is: to really be part of the creation of that character, because they absolutely will be, all roles are influenced by the actor who originates them. But it definitely takes a creative, smart actor who is willing to do that, and many artists, like many audiences, play it safe when push comes to shove, or can just have a hard time seeing how an opportunity they didn’t anticipate is still an opportunity.

There are a lot of people for and against pre-casting. There are a lot of practical reasons it is done (i.e. Writer/ Director had a specific actor in mind), but a lot of people bring up the arguments against it as well. What are your thoughts on pre-casting, and as producer/directors what would you say to Directors and actors in regards to this?

Bousel: I think it really depends on the role and the production. As a playwright, I have written roles for certain actors and I’ve never regretted that. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s almost always an interesting result. That said, all roles should be able to be played by someone other than the person they were originally written for (assuming they were) so obviously pre-casting is going to postpone that test at least until a second production. Generally speaking, I think it’s okay though for a director to go into a production with some sense of what they want, so long as they remain open to having their mind changed. And so long as they haven’t promised a role to an actor ahead of time. Telling someone they have a role and then taking it away for purely “I found someone I like more” reasons is not at all classy and yes, I’ve done it, and so I’m speaking from experience when I say you just end up feeling like a giant douche bag when you do that- and it’s cause you are. Go into auditions with all the ideas in the world- but save the promises until you’re ready to make a real offer.

Russell: I don’t think there is a director out there (especially one who is also producing) who when planning to do a play doesn’t have some ideas in their head about who could play at least the major roles. In larger institutions, especially on Broadway, star names are many times attached first before the choosing of the actual play, or the play is only produced if there can be at least 1-2 “names” on board. I don’t love this but sadly it is necessary to help with financial instability. Most directors I know have a circle of actors in the back of their minds but I at least always ask other trusted director colleges for recommendations. Sometimes I do an “invited audition” based on recommendations only when something needs to be cast quickly. Yet, the hopeful artist in me also believes in the possibility of finding that right person amidst the crowd when least expecting it. The best thing actors can do to embrace the amount of pre-casting that does occur is to work with and get your name involved with as any circles of art makers as possible. Make it so that when considering a play, your work and reputation for the caliber of work that you do is something producers and directors cannot ignore. More often than not I cast someone based on recommendation or a show I saw them in as opposed to just a cold audition. Also, a good website with a range of material is SO helpful.

What are some things actors do that make you want to cast them, conversely what are some of the things they do that make you not want to cast them?

Russell: The best thing an actor can do is make a choice. Any choice. A bold choice. A choice that you have thought deeply about. This means really knowing the play you have pulled the audition piece from. Also, I love actors who are able to show me who they are in an audition. It sounds so cliché but be yourself, have fun, and have pride and confidence in who you are. The people behind the casting table (at least in my opinion) are not “above you” they aren’t to be feared or make you feel less than. The casting director, director, producer etc. need someone to fill a role the same way that you need a gig. Lastly, be flexible. Be open. And be kind to everyone involved in any creative process. That is what I look for. I don’t want to cast any actor with an ego, someone who is inflexible and cannot play or make adjustments, and as I said before someone who doesn’t make a passionate choice in one direction even if it is the “wrong” direction.

Bousel: I like working with smart people who have a solid sense of who they are, know their boundaries, and are able to politely communicate them, but are also willing to take risks, try something before they shoot it down, collaborate, and contribute to the conversation while we craft a piece together. They need to know we’re in it together- and that “we” means them too. Actors who turn me off are ones who only want to go by the book, so to speak, and say “no” instead of “okay, let’s try it and see”. Actors who are not team players, who think they are above anything or anyone involved in my production, from their fellow actors to the box office people, are also not welcome on my shows. They are always, always, always backstage poison and the damage they cause is never worth whatever talent they possess. I will take a solid, if not “incredible” actor who is friendly, on time, and game, over an exquisite asshole any day. Love your ensemble, not your diva, is my slogan.

Cate Blanchett is smart and makes bold choices. I’m pretty sure of that.

Cate Blanchett is smart and makes bold choices. I’m pretty sure of that.

Monologue you’d be okay never hearing again.

Bousel: None, really, but advice I’d give after seeing hundreds of auditions: never do a song from RENT or TICK TICK BOOM, and never do a monologue where your character is crazy, ranting, or telling a story that isn’t about them.

Russell: Any monologue that is vastly age inappropriate, or any monologue where you play an actor doing a play or even worse a monologue about an audition. Also, I’d love to put a ban to monologue books. Those speeches get overused and as an actor it helps you so much to have an entire play as a tool to understanding your character. A monologue on its own can be way too general.

Some higher power has made you Supreme Overlord of Theatre. Cast your favorite play with any cast you want. I’d do Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love” starring Jessica Chastain as May, Sam Rockwell as Eddie, and Jeff Bridges as the Old Man.

Russell: Peter, do you know Sam Rockwell is in Fool for Love on Broadway right now! Your wish is the theater’s command. OH MAN this is tough. I would have to cross time periods and eras. A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, has been and always will be my favorite play. I would keep Marlon Brando as Stanley, though in when she was age appropriate Meryl Streep, (great minds think alike) Jessica Chastain as Stella and again if we could jump to times in their life when they were age appropriate I’ve always wanted a young Robin Williams to take on Mitch.

OMG! My wish is theater’s command. Swag.

OMG! My wish is theater’s command. Swag.

Bousel: I can’t really answer this because I’m about to direct my favorite play, SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION, for the first time in 2016, and I’ve just cast it and I love and am really excited about my cast. So… there you go. I suppose if we’re just playing the Hollywood game, I would really love to see Cate Blanchette and Tilda Swinton cast as rival sister queens in a fantasy epic. I don’t know why this hasn’t happened yet.

Lana, you have a new theater group through which you recently produced a festival of new plays, tell us about it.

RUSSELL: I have a theater company (in development) called Story People Theatre Group. Story People Theatre Group seeks to create bold, imaginative art inspired by the diverse stories of the people around us. We are focused on documenting stories and forming a conversation between an artist and their community. Story People produces the summer Rooftop Readings program where new plays are presented in outdoor spaces (if it’s in Brooklyn where we are located chances are the space is a roof) and following the reading, discussion and intermingle of artists conversation wine and snacks takes place. Additionally, this year we held our first annual “Strangers” New works festival of short plays. This was an open submission process where writers were given the prompt “Strangers”. All seven pieces were presented with simple staging or in a more traditional reading format for the first time in front of enthusiastic audiences. I was thrilled by the range of diverse and unique voices we produced (some of which I directed) and the hope is that these plays continue to have further lives.

Supreme Overlord of Theatre.

Supreme Overlord of Theatre.

The really exciting thing about this particular festival is that the plays are incredibly new, performed or read for the first time in front of an audience and openly embrace that they are in the first stage of a developmental process. There is no pressure for perfection, just an opportunity to listen, craft, think and question. Story People will continue its programming next summer 2016 with a soon to be announced full length play, devising workshop and the usual summer programming of Rooftop Readings and hopefully another “Strangers” style festival. Story People is always in search of new collaborators so if you consider yourself an artist or storyteller of any kind please get in touch!

Sadly a website is in development and is not up yet so please get a hold of us at storypeopletheatregroup@gmail.com or Lana at lanarosalind@gmail.com.

Tune in Next Week for Part Two where I ask the same questions to more awesome directors/producers.

Stuart Bousel is the Director of New Work Development at Custom Made Theatre Company, the Executive Director of San Francisco Theater Pub, and the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Olympians Festival, which opens on November 5th this year (www.sfolympians.com). He is also a playwright, and his play Pastorella is currently nominated for OUTSTANDING WORLD PREMIERE at this year’s TBA Awards, while his play Gone Dark is set to open at Otherworld Theatre Company in Chicago on Halloween.

Lana Russell is a New York based freelance director and the artistic director of Story People Theater Group. Selected credits include: The Offer by Bella Poynton (Sam French OOB Festival Finalist) Cloud Tectonics by Jose Rivera, (New School for Drama), The Coming World by Christopher Shinn (Under St. Marks), Pizza Man by Darlene Craviotto (Red Room Theater) and Gibraltar by Octavio Solis (Nixon Theater). Assistant directing: The Model Apartment and Poor Behavior (Evan Cabnet, Primary Stages.) Lana is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab and pursuing an MFA in Directing at The New School for Drama, 2017.

Peter Hsieh is a playwright from San Jose, California. Recent credits include his play Interstate at the Detroit Fringe Festival and T. Schreiber Studio, Argus at the San Francisco Olympians Festival, and Maybe at Brooklyn College as part of GI60 2015. Additionally, his works have been produced and developed by Hollywood Fringe Festival, Piney Fork Press, Douglas Morrisson Theatre, NYU Performing Arts Club, Nylon Fusion Collective, Actor’s Company, Brooklyn College, North Park Playwright’s Festival, Viaduct Theatre, SPROUT, San Francisco Theatre Pub, World Premiere Weekend, City Light’s Theater Company, GI60, San Jose Rep’s Emerging Artist Lab, West Valley College, and Fringe of Marin. Peter is a graduate from the University of California, Irvine.

Working Title: Broadcast This!!

This week features Will Leschber’s fall preview…but not the kind you were expecting You want Theatre? Well, go see this movie!

This is the time to look ahead. It’s Fall preview, so lets jump in while it’s cold. The theatre offerings coming down the autumnal road are plentiful. For a beautiful cross section taste of what’s coming, I’d recommend checking out (or rereading) Claire Rice’s recent post “Get the Fuck off the Couch“. BUT if you are looking for related entertainment in a different vein read on. Film Festivals and live theatre broadcasts may be the change of pace you are looking for.

Film festivals are a unique way to merge intimate audience engagement and the distance of film. Often these films have creators in attendance which can add a live spark to a viewing experience. So you want to keep it local (ish) and experience something more distinct than the multiplex fall fare…check these out.

Latino Film Festival

Sept 19-27th

The Cine+Mas SF Latino Film Festival showcases the work of emerging and established filmmakers from the US, Latin America, Spain and Portugal. It is a celebration of the latest work coming out of 20+ countries.

Mill Valley Film Festival

Oct 3-13

The festival site self-describes in this way, “Each year the festival welcomes more than 200 filmmakers, representing more than 50 countries. Screening sections include World Cinema; US Cinema; Valley of the Docs; Children’s FilmFest; a daily shorts program; and Active Cinema, MVFF’s activist films initiative. Festival guests also enjoy Tributes, Spotlights and Galas throughout.”

Known as a filmmakers’ festival, the Mill Valley Film Festival offers a high profile, prestigious and star-studded environment perfect for celebrating the best in independent and world cinema. Screen International named Mill Valley one of its top 10 US film festivals.”

mill_valley_film_festival copy

Sacramento Horror Film Festival

October 10th-12th

It may be less local than we’d like, but if you are looking for something to infuse seasonal scares into your spine, the Sacramento Horror Film Festival maybe be your trick or treat. The film site boasts, “The SHFF screens more films over fewer days than any other horror film festival thus providing a greater chance for exposure for the horror filmmaker. We have a profound dedication to the horror genre. The festival screens all things horror including features, shorts, documentaries, music videos, trailers, and animations.”

If sitting in a darkened movie theater for days on end isn’t your jam, perhaps National Theatre Live is the ticket. For those unaware, National Theatre Live is the National Theatre’s groundbreaking project to broadcast the best of British theatre live from the London stage to cinemas across the UK and around the world. Upcoming shows include: The Young Vic’s highly acclaimed production of the Tennessee Williams masterpiece, A Streetcar Named Desire, with Gillian Anderson, Ben Foster and Vanessa Kirby; A new potent version Euripides’ powerful tragedy, Medea; A live broadcast from London’s West End of David Hare’s Skylight directed by Stephen Daldry and featuring Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan; and last but not least National Theatre Live’s broadcast of Frankenstein returns to cinemas this fall. Audience demand has been unprecedented for this broadcast. Directed by Academy Award®-winner Danny Boyle, Frankenstein features Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternating roles as Victor Frankenstein and his creation.

frankenstein copy

A Streetcar Named Desire
Captured Live:
Century 9 San Francisco Center- September 16th
AMC Bay Street 16-September 16th
Encore Performance:
Sundance Kabuki- October 13th & 18th

Medea
Encore performance:
Sundance Kabuki Theatre: October 6th & 11th.

Skylight
Sundance Kabuki- October 25th, 27th

Frankenstein
Encore Performance:
Rialto Cinema Cerrito, October 15th, 20th, 27th 29th

The National Theatre Live website lists additional productions and additional participating movie theatres.

Sources

O’Niell, Nikki. Mill Valley Film Festival. N.d. Photograph. http://www.mvff.com/Web. 19 Aug 2014.

Claire Rice’s Enemy’s List: Rape the Play

Claire Rice has had enough rape, thank you.

I’ve been trying all day to think about a funny way to say I’m tired of seeing rape on stage. But it’s just not coming to me.

The subject came about because the production year for me has been full of rape. The first play I directed was Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them by Christopher Durang, which I quickly followed up with You’re Going To Bleed by Melissa Fall. Both plays feature rape. In Torture the main character is drugged and violated. In Bleed the teen character has sex with her acting teacher (rape via abuse of power). Just recently I participated in the San Francisco Olympians Festival where the theme was the Trojan War. I’m sure there was a woman in that war who got out un-raped, but I can’t think of who just off the top of my head. I worked hard in my adaptation of Cassandra’s story to keep the sex consensual. It wasn’t easy. And I can tell you after sitting through 11 of the 12 nights of the San Francisco Olympian’s festival that it was difficult to impossible for many of the writers to avoid.

The point is: I’m done. I want 2014 to be a relatively rape-free year. So far, all of the projects I’ve been hired to do don’t have rape. I’m also not writing in any rape scenes into my plays. Lastly, I’m taking Law & Order: SVU out of my Netflix queue. Hooray! So, that takes care of my end. Now there’s just everyone else.

The problem is, rape storylines sneak up on you.

A friend and I walked out of a theatre this year and, over yogurt, decided that the play we had just seen, while well-acted and well written and beautifully produced, was really very “rapie.” The play focused on four young women and, as far as we could tell, all of them had been raped at least once by the end of the play. No man physically walked on stage, but if they were mentioned, they probably raped someone. Every man was an enemy, every woman was a victim. It was overwhelming, bleak, and unnecessary. Can’t a person have trauma without it being rape? Are there no other dramatic devises at all?

I just want to watch a year of plays without rape. Just one year. Is that too much to ask?

How Can I Tell There Might Be Rape In A Play?

I am at any type of festival where there are more than three plays.

There is only one woman in the whole cast and she’s an “outsider.”

There are only two women in the whole cast and one of them is way younger.

It’s an all women cast and they are talking about their pasts.

There is one woman and one man and they are working out their history.

There are two men and they are talking about their history.

There are a bunch of men and they are all talking about their history.

The play is about war and there is any number of women in it.

The play is by an edgy, emerging playwright.

There is a “dark secret.”

It is a “psychological thriller.”

It’s a “modern horror.”

It’s a “gothic horror.”

It’s a “dark musical.”

It’s a sex farce.

I want to emphasize that it’s not that I feel like rape as a topic isn’t an important one. Eve Enlser’s Vagina Monologues is an important work that discuses rape, specifically rape used as a tool in war. A Streetcar Named Desire wouldn’t be the same without Stanley raping Blanch. I’m not saying that the act shouldn’t be in storylines or anything like that. This isn’t an expression of the validity of a storyline that focuses exclusively on rape. This isn’t an argument that rape doesn’t exist as much as it does on stage. This isn’t even about how at some point a play crosses the line from having/discussing rape to being an actual rape fantasy. It’s not a protest against how women are portrayed in theatre (yet).

It’s just…ugh…so much rape. Too much rape. For me. I need a pallet cleanser.

So, just for fun this year: consensual sex.

I mean, that’s doable, right? Right?