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Tag Archives: Carolyn Gage

I’m only typing right now because I promised my friend Carolyn I would match her daily blogging day for day for five days.  Busy times.  Tonight we audition a lot of actors for Venus Theatre.  One is a crowned beauty queen.  This is a most exciting evening and encounter because the playwright meets the director tonight too.  Our playwright this time is Robin Rice Lichtig and she and her husband Joe came into town yesterday.  I hung out with them last night and we got to know one another.  Then I saw them hiking the river this morning.  Delightful people.  Delightful time.  After telling my fish story last night Robin was now pitching a play about doing a play about a fish and how the villian (me) has to be stopped before she destroys the world.  It cracked me up.

I’ve slowly been thinking about all of the living playwrights I’ve had the great honor to work with.  They are the most incredible people.  And Robin, as well at PH Lin who we produced in March did their masters studies with Milan Stitt.  As did our final playwright of the year Andrea Lepcio.

Venus had read a play of Robin’s years back called, “Embracing the Undertoad” at an art gallery in DC as part of the wRighting Woman Reading Series.  Robin also knows works from their infancies by other playwrights that I happened to produce full out in the Venus space.  Works by Vanda, and Carolyn Gage, and so on and so forth.  I guess that we are drawn to one another eventually and that there truly is an artistic family out there.  This goes back to my dear friend Carolyn for whom I tap these keys.  I first read a play of Carolyn’s as part of a war protest in front of the White House in 2002.  It was called, “The Rules of the Playground”.  I went on to read more of her plays publicly and then to produce “The Anastasia Trials in the Court of Women” and “Ugly Ducklings”.

The first time I saw Carolyn she was performing her Joan piece at UVA.  Another playwrighting friend named Julianne Homokay was dramturging at a regional theatre at the time and she said I needed to see this Carolyn.  So we met and we watched.

Carolyn is brave.  And, she doesn’t apologize.  And, her heart is tremendous.  She is truly a sister to me and I would do anything for her.  The moment I saw her play Joan was the beginning of a growing relationship with a woman I would later come to know not only as a dear friend, artistic sister, great writer, brilliant performer, founder of three separate theatres, but she will go down in my own record book as the best read human being I’ve ever met.  When it comes to biographies of women in general and lesbians in particular, I believe it is impossible to meet a more well read person.

So, dear Carolyn I bow to you and say…KEEP CREATING!!!!

Okay. So I was talking with a playwrighting friend and we decided to blog every day this week. Where to begin?

photo by C. Stanley Photography

Venus Theatre closed “In the Goldfish Bowl” two weeks ago. It was an incredible process. The actors were amazing and the play told a great story. It was written by Kay Rhoads and it took place on a Texas death row unit. Four women. World Premiere.

It was one of those processes that faced a new challenge each week. Illnesses, actor drop out, and so on and so forth. But, the amazing thing was watching these actors pull together and tell the story.

Our Stage Manager John was running both boards and so, for the first time, I was able to not watch over every show. In fact, I watched the first couple of performances and then the final performance. I found it to be very moving.

We did throw a fish on stage though. This met with great controversy. I was accused of traumatizing and abusing animals. A gossip ring was launched in ignorant circles, acupuncturists wanted to beat me up, and so on and so forth. Eventually, we posted a notice in the lobby explaining that we never used the same fish twice and that we never killed a fish on stage. Also, that they were rescues out of a feeder tank, and that they were set free in the wild every week.

Well, even this met with great questioning. When you set them free, will they be safe there? This raises the question of accountability. Am I responsible for overseeing the food chain?

Here’s the thing. They were bred to be feeder fish. Overcrowded in a feeder tank in pet stores all over the place. Usually filled with disease in advance and definitely overstressed. Then, dumped into a tank with a predator to await their own demise. Sound familiar?

Stats show that every day three women are killed by their domestic partner and 600 are assaulted. Just last week four women were rescued from being trafficked as sex slaves 5 miles from the theatre. The point of “In the Goldfish Bowl” was to show the helplessness of woman trapped in the bowl and also as the fish out of water trying desperately to survive a terminal situation.

In doing this show, I did save some fish that otherwise would have never seen nature again. Also, almost all of our fight choreography time went to the fish. How to throw it without damaging it at all.

I don’t miss having to oversee a tank full of fish with no stomachs and treat them with fish-zoloft. But, I would like to think that everyone who had a criticism was either Kosher or vegan and did not wear any makeup tested on animals.  I also hope they were equally concerned for the animals that went into the bologna onstage. Do we really live in an out-of-sight/out-of-mind culture to such a degree?

I do appreciate the concern for the animals. But, the hardest part was looking at how little worry went out for the women.

I read a story about a Senior Petstore owner in the UK that was put under house arrest for selling a goldfish to a minor and not taking a bird to the vet early enough. Anyone see the disparity here? Real women are wiped out daily. So, I wonder why it’s so easy to care for a feeder fish and so difficult to care about women.

Why is it so easy to blame me for being cruel to animals, even though I’ve rescued them from the time I was a little girl, and so difficult to look at the human story and feel compassion. REALLY FEEL IT.  Am I fingerpointing here? We vowed not to do that in this 5 day challenge. But, I guess I’m still in venting mode.

Maybe the problem with telling the stories of women in theatre – the reason it remains a constant battle- has to do with the ability (or lack thereof) to care about them as human beings in our culture.

I want to understand.