Stephen Sachs’ BAKERSFIELD MIST – Royal Scots Club, Edinburgh

Review from The Public Reviews:

Bakersfield Mist Review from Edinburgh ImageHaving bought a canvas in a thrift store for $3 (and narrowly avoided filling it with bullet holes on a drunken bender) Maude (Hazel Eadie) now believes her ‘ugly’ painting is a hitherto unknown work by iconic modern artist Jackson Pollock. In her rundown trailer in the Californian heat, art expert Lionel (Ian Aldred) has come to view the painting and offer his professional assessment of its authenticity…

There are a few twists in the tale to keep the story moving, and the performers manage the changes in tone effectively, seeming most at ease when playing the comedy of Sachs’ text but also bringing genuine tension to some moments of high drama. Eadie and Aldred bring depth and authenticity to what could be played as clumsy archetypes of white trash and art snob, with Kara Johnston’s broadly confident direction helping bring Maude’s trash filled trailer to life.

Like Yasmina Reza’s Art and Alan Bennett’s A Question of Attribution, art is here used for an exploration of character, so don’t be surprised if by the end of the play you’ve learned more about Maude and Lionel than the canvas itself.

Stephen Sachs’ Fountain Theatre Tackles Racism in ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’

“Recent events have placed the topic of racism firmly in focus once again.  The Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles is addressing this issue with the new play ‘Citizen: An American Lyric,’ playing through Sept. 14.

“The production was adapted by Fountain Theatre’s co-artistic director Stephen Sachs from the acclaimed Claudia Rankine book of the same name”…  “Her book, ‘Citizen: An American Lyric,’ was a winner of the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry and a finalist for criticism.

“Sachs had spent more than a year looking for the right production ‘to add the Fountain Theatre’s voice to the national conversation about race,’ because he felt the company could contribute something artistically to the discussion. After reading reviews of Rankine’s book he bought it, and as he read through its pages, Sachs quickly realized that ‘her’s was the voice that I had been looking for.’

“Sachs chose to use only Rankine’s words in his script and approach the process of turning it into a play by thinking of it as a piece of music in terms of solos, duets, trios and an ensemble. The result is an examination of race and racism through vignettes and snapshots employing prose, poetry, movement, music and the visual image”…  “Sachs hopes that after seeing ‘Citizen: An American Lyric,’ audience members will question their own responses to race and racism.”

Read the full story here.

Review of Bonnie J Monte’s The Guardsman at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey


‘“What did we just see?” Whether you formulate those words as a question or exclaim them, you could not be blamed for any bewilderment, everyone’s reaction to the Saturday, July 11, performance of “The Guardsman” by The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. The Company scored a huge hit with its world premiere adaptation of Ferenc Molnár’s 1910 play, a stupefyingly perplexing, confusing and agonizing work that, perhaps until now, has wrongly been presented as romantic comedy. Artistic Director Bonnie J Monte’s printed notes aptly warn: “[I]t poses terribly disturbing questions at the same time that it provokes gales of laughter.”’

Read the full review of Bonnie J Monte’s The Guardsman here.

EllaRose Chary Featured in Curve Magazine



Article by Sheryl Kay, titled, “Story Teller: Resonating with the Community”

“She’ll tell you she’s a writer, a performer, and an activist, and while she’s mostly writing these days, EllaRose Chary has graced the stage often involved in all three pursuits.”  Ms. Chary’s stories are “rooting in the fight for social justice” and her activism is telling those stories.

Read more on EllaRose Chary from Curve Magazine here.

Interview with Barbara Hammond, Regarding WE ARE PUSSY RIOT

Researched, interviewed and edited by Sharon J. Anderson, CATF Trustee/Professional Story Listener and Creative Director

CATF:  Why Pussy Riot?

BH: Pussy Riot hit a nerve, not only in Russia but also, maybe even more so, in the West.  They are contemporary artists posing as a feminist punk band.  One of the brilliant things about Pussy Riot is that they are so outrageous and kind of “bad” at what they do – and I mean that as a compliment – no one but themselves could have thought of it. The CIA would never have orchestrated something as original as Pussy Riot.

CATF: It’s an irony that Pussy Riot is homegrown.

BH: Yes, absolutely. I was also attracted to them because they are girls. I like calling them girls. There’s something playful, even innocent, about their actions, though they are obviously very intelligent and at least two of them are mothers. “Girls” is a good word that has been taken away from us.

CATF: They’re like Pippi Longstocking or Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird?

BH: Well, I think they’re in the tradition of young women who stand out because they don’t behave like young women are told to behave.

Kathleen Hanna – one of the founders of the Riot Grrrl Movement which happened in the 90s in the northwest United States and influenced Pussy Riot – said, “Women make natural anarchists and revolutionaries because they’ve always been second-class citizens, having to claw their way out.” It’s true — we have Joan of Arc, Mary Magdalene and Malala Yousafzai . . . people respect and gravitate toward women who speak their minds.  These women often pay a heavy price for that attention (like being burnt at the stake or labeled a whore) but they are often admired and celebrated.

Women’s power in their own culture, in any human culture on earth, has a complicated history. Women can make a claim to be outsiders in their own countries, since they rarely wrote their founding documents, or fought the wars that determined borders, or won the elections that determined the nation’s shape and values.  I appreciate looking at the world from the outside. Outsider status can be a luxury.

CATF: How does a play, specifically, enlighten the story of Pussy Riot in a way a documentary or another genre can’t?

BH: Each audience member will answer this for themselves after they see this play. “Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer” was a great documentary that reports what happened in Moscow in 2012 and tells its story with video and images and quotes. In my play, I’m moving beyond the news story — I’m using the story of Pussy Riot to examine an aspect of our culture.

CATF: Are you writing a play about Pussy Riot the way Pussy Riot would?

BH: No.  Pussy Riot wouldn’t write a play — Pussy Riot’s actions are spontaneous, public and often get them arrested.

CATF: You want us to be Pussy Riot, don’t you?

BH: I want you to ask yourselves if you are or not.

CATF: But the name of your play is, “We Are Pussy Riot…. It’s not  “Are We Pussy Riot?”

BH: I would say, and I think they would say, we CAN all be Pussy Riot — and if we’re not, why aren’t we?  Are we happy with the status quo?  Do we value order and tradition more than self-expression?  They are all questions worth asking.  One of my working titles for the play was, “We Are All Pussy Riot.” Another was  “Everything is PR.”

The acronym PR is perfect for Pussy Riot. “Public Relations” is just another word for Propaganda.   Pussy Riot self-consciously made themselves undeniable, first of all, with their name. If  they had called themselves “Feminists Against Putin” we would never have heard of them. “Everything is PR” still might be the best title for this play.

CATF: Describing the lessons of Anna Akhmatova’s art, the poet Joseph Brodsky said: “The comprehension of personal drama betters one’s chances of weathering the drama of history.”  Have you comprehended the metaphysics of your personal drama?

BH: You should read my Eva Trilogy. I could not have written “We Are Pussy Riot” without having written “The Eva Trilogy.”  I heard a war correspondent I know tell a young journalist that the suffering in the world won’t make sense to you until you can access and have compassion for your own suffering. It’s understandable to run away from it. It is not something where you suddenly go, “Ah-ha! Now I understand my personal drama.”  It unfolds throughout one’s life.

CATF: The documentary “Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer” opens with this quote from Bertolt Brecht: “Art is not a mirror to reflect the world, but a hammer with which to shape it.” How does this contrast with this quote from John Updike: “Art begins with a wound. Art is an attempt to learn to live with the wound.”

BH: I would word it differently than either one and say the purpose of art is to expose the wound. You expose the wound and then it’s up to the participant in the art whether they are going to live with it or smash it. I don’t think the artist is holding the hammer. The audience decides what they want in their hands. They can have a scalpel or a hammer – or a tourniquet. My job is to expose the wound.

CATF: During the 48 seconds those members of Pussy Riot performed at the altar in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, they sang this: “Shit! Shit. It’s God’s shit!” Is shouting/singing that in a church appropriate?

BH: I don’t think they would have done it if it was appropriate — so no, it was absolutely inappropriate!

CATF: In the documentary, one of the members of Pussy Riot said that talk and compromise get you nowhere, only riot and revolution.

BH: I believe whichever member of Pussy Riot said this was referring to the totalitarian state in which she lives. Sometimes talk and compromise can get you somewhere.  Riot and revolution, too, have gotten people places.  The United States, for example, wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t had a revolution.

CATF: Flannery O’Connor, a devout Catholic, said, “I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace. Their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will work.” Is the “in-your-face” strategy of Pussy Riot a form of verbal violence?

BH: A cousin who plays piano in a chamber choir watched the Pussy Riot video and afterwards sent me an email: “I’m an atheist, but I love choral music and it killed me to listen to Pussy Riot destroy Rachmaninoff in a loud ugly punk mash-up. It killed me.” There are many legitimate reactions to what Pussy Riot did in that cathedral. Pussy Riot brought attention to the fact that the head of the Russian Orthodox Church stated that Putin is a “miracle of God” and that believer should vote for him.  I believe that the girls did not intend to hurt the feelings of believers. Maybe they didn’t care about those feelings, but the message they were sending was intended as a political statement, not a statement against the Orthodox faith.

CATF: You said once, “I used to get joy from freedom, and now I find it in intimacy.” How would members of Pussy Riot respond to this?

BH: Give them 20 years and see what they say.

CATF: You end a piece you wrote entitled “How to Stay a New York Playwright” with this: “Now close your eyes again, envision a stage, and watch someone walk on from stage left. Get that pencil and write down what she says.” My last question to you: Close your eyes, someone is walking on from stage left. What is she saying?

BH: “Why can’t it always be like this?”

Read more about WE ARE PUSSY RIOT and Barbara Hammond here!