I grew up on Disney. Whether they were fairies, royalty, pirates or animal sidekicks, I was a fan. But I always struggled with my love of the Disney Princess. I wrote several essays on the female position in Disney films, including the role of the absent mother, the constant search for 'happily ever after' and lack of character development.
I grew up during the time where Ariel and Belle reigned. So my generation felt as if we had "better princesses" as role models. But at the same time, both of these characters' stories revolved around romance and discovering their happily ever after. Then I decided to dig deeper into each Disney princess. As my god-daughter was growing up, and watched Cinderella for her first time, she didn't notice the desire for the ball or handsome prince. Instead she saw kindness and courage. One of my best friends then confided that she always looks to Snow White when she's struggling because she was the example of hope through despairing times. So maybe I was just looking from one-sided point of view? Plus, that was the time we were living in and the view of the woman.
Then we enter the 2010s and we are introduced to Brave. In this Pixar/Disney film, although Merida doesn't have a romantic entaglement, she is pushed to choose her husband to rule rather than rule on her own. And then Frozen came into our world. In this film we have our first Disney royalty that doesn't desire romance, but rather self-acceptance in the character of Elsa. However, in the movie we still see another woman being developed around her love for a man and romance. So I still viewed this as unfortunate, that even at this time we have to choose between being a career woman or part of a relationship.
However, this past fall Disney has broken their Disney Princess routine with Moana. In a breath-taking film we meet a three-dimensional character driven by her passion, love of family and self-exploration. Moana is the daughter of the chief and desires to explore beyond the reef. However it is forbidden by her parents and Moana seems to accept her role in leading her people via-landlock. But when her island starts to crumble and die, she follows her inner desire to take to the sea, no matter the consequences. She is following her own passion while at the same time working to better the greater good. THIS is where we are as women.
Yes, we can have love. Yes, we can have romance. But we are more than that. We are not defined by a single person or relationship in our life, but rather by all of them and how we respond to the hardships we face on our own path. And I applaud Disney for at last bringing this to the screen and into our main stream culture.
-- Erin Carr
Here's what I knew about Star Wars: Rogue One when I walked into the Riverview cinema Friday night: "It's the story of how the Rebel Alliance gets the plans for the Death Star that Princess Leia sends to Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope." As someone who has seen most the Star Wars movies, and enjoys them for the fun, thrilling, cultural touchstones they are, that was good enough for me.
True to Star Wars form, Rogue One delivered on the action, thrills and nifty space gadgets and weapons. More to my pleasure, it picked up where last year's Star Wars: The Force Awakens left off (sort of, because The Force Awakens is actually set decades after the action of Rogue One) with the presence of a strong female lead character. In this case, it's Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, who I have to admit is one of the actresses whose name I know but couldn't pick out of a lineup to save my life. Jyn is the daughter of Galen Erso, the Death Star's lead architect, albeit one with a conscience - he designs the Death Star with that one small but fatal flaw which always makes me think of this scene from Family Guy.
Jyn is conscripted by the Rebel Alliance to help track down her father, whom she hasn't seen since she was a child, She and a rag-tag, RACIALLY DIVERSE band of Rebels, Imperial defectors, and two mercenaries (whose presence on this mission is interesting but never really justified to my satisfaction) set off across the Galaxy to obtain the Death Star plans so that a dude who's currently shooting womp rats and drinking blue milk on Tatooine can eventually destroy it. Like any good hero, Jyn is somewhat reluctant at first, but comes around to the importance of what she must do. She trades barbs with K-2SO, a reprogammed Imperial droid who gets the film's best lines, and is voiced by the guy who played Pastor Veal on Arrested Development. She's good with a blaster. She is devastated when her father dies. She is angry when she finds out that fellow Rebel Cassian Andor was actually sent on the mission to kill her father, but eventually forgives him so that they can get those Death Star plans. She does not moon over Cassian, or any of the other men she's surrounded by in the Millennium Falcon 2.0, or whatever the ship they're flying on is called, nor do they moon over her. She is a bad bitch who has to get shit done to save the Galaxy, and she does not have time to try and hook up with any of you dudes, thank you very much. When she does need assistance from Cassian, it's not because she's a damsel in distress, but because sometimes, when you're fighting the evil Galactic Empire, it's just better to have backup, regardless of your gender.
And when the Death Star plans are finally in Princess Leia's hands (thanks, technology!) and everything has gone to shit because the Empire is still evil and the Death Star is operational enough to nuke cities if not planets...Jyn and Cassian still do not kiss. Sure, there are a few moments of heavy breathing and lingering looks when you think they might, but...nope. No romance here, folks, just camaraderie, trust and friendship built over the course of an exceedingly dangerous mission, and that's how it's going to remain until they meet their fiery end on a Scarif beach. The irony, of course, is that, to me at least, impending untimely annihilation is the best excuse for a completely gratuitious random make-out session. What have you got to lose? I can think of a million worse ways to shuffle off the mortal coil than in the comforting embrace of a warm body, pregnancy or disease isn't a concern, and you don't have to have that awkward "So, what are we now?" conversation the next morning.
But I see what you're doing, Rogue One, and I respect it. It's undeniably refreshing to watch a movie about strong, determined women and men working together to accomplish a dangerous, important goal without anyone trying to bone anyone else. I know Rogue One is a standalone film, and we won't see these characters again, but there are more Star Wars movies coming down the pike, and it would be great if they continue to follow in Rogue One's footsteps. A new hope, indeed.
-Kristen M. Scatton
On Sunday night, me, Carly, and four local actors gathered to do a read-thru of Jimmy Gorski is Dead, our March show, which I wrote. Eep!
Ok, so it wasn't the official beginning. The actors who read were friends who graciously volunteered their time and talents (and were rewarded with drinks, because Carly is nice like that). Erin will be performing one of the roles in the show, but unfortunately couldn't fly in from Cincinnati for just one night, and the rest of the roles won't be cast until early January. The point of this read-thru was for me to hear the latest draft out loud, and get feedback so I can do any necessary revising to the script before we officially begin rehearsals in February.
Now, I don't have children, but I imagine that hearing your play read out loud for the first time is sort of like sending your kid to school on the first day of kindergarten. You spend so much time nurturing this little creation. You forgo sleep, food, showering, a social life for it. No matter how frustrating it gets, no matter how much it kicks and screams and pees in your face, you ultimately love the crap out of it, and want everyone to love the crap out of it too. So you print it out and clip it together all nice, hand it off to people you trust, and hope they don't beat the ever-loving shit out of it on the playground.
Luckily, that did not happen Sunday night. The readig went really well, and the feedback I got was really valuable, and will ultimately make the play better. There will be rewrites (there are always rewrites), but that's why we do this. Hearing other people's insights and questions made me think of things I hadn't thought of before, or see things from a new perspective. And while taking that feedback and incorporating it into the script can be challenging (I guess that's the equivalent of a teacher telling a parent that their kid isn't perfect. "What do you mean? Little Tommy's an ANGEL!") I know that ultimately it will make for a much stronger play, which is what it's all about.
Npw, back to my quill and inkwell in my garrett with my flickering candle!
-Kristen M. Scatton
Last weekend marked the closing of the show Good Kids: Playing With Music, which was directed by myself and part of ReVamp's Education outreach. This performance was co-produced by Cincinnati Actor's Studio & Academy, a process-based high school training program in Cincinnati, Ohio where I teach movement and physical acting techniques. This production was based on the play by Naomi Iizuka. The play itself is influenced by the Steubenville High School rape case in 2012, where a group of high school students, including football players, sexually assaulted an incapacitated girl and documented the acts on social media.
“Something happened to Chloe after that party last Saturday night. Something she says she can't remember. Something everybody is talking about. Set in a contemporary Midwestern high school, inundated with social media, smartphones and YouTube – "Good Kids: Playing with Music" explores a sexual encounter gone wrong and its very public aftermath. Who's telling the truth? Whose version of the story do you believe? And what does that say about you? With the addition of pop music throughout this script, this devised musical challenges the audience to examine what creates these toxic attitudes we have today surrounding gender roles, female sexuality and sexual assault.”
As I looked into each moment of this play, a theme that kept coming up was the influence of pop culture. The world we surround ourselves with has power over us. The music, the movies, the commercials. So I decided to explore pop music, produced after 2000, to explore what songs add to the desire to stand up for your community and fight for one another versus songs that divide, isolate and insult. Songs include “Blurred Lines,” “Brave,” and “Who You Are,” to name a few. There were about eleven songs overall added into the script, and with only a piano to accompany the vocals, the audience was able to listen to each song's lyrics. This way they could start to comprehend what exactly we are supporting when we start to bob our head along without thinking.
Between toxic masculinity, women acting against one another, influence of social media, ignorance of entitlement, lack of responsibility and the surrounding pop culture, we begin to see how each and every one of us needs to take charge. After each show we had a talk back with the executive director of the Center for Family Solutions to discuss 'how can we come together as a community to fight against sexual assault?' After all, it is on us to stand up for the victims and create a world where all people can feel safe, protected and welcomed. It's through honest education and positive communication that we can create actual good kids in the world.
It was invigorating to be part of such a powerful discussion and production. It was also inspiring to have the students come in each night and share their own story and how this show had been influencing them. For instance, one of the guys in the cast is a junior at an all-boys jesuit high school and he told me that earlier in the week one of his friends had sent his a graphic video. He told me that not only did he ask his friend not to send it to him, but asked him to stop sending it around to anyone. And also looked into consent where the video, and people involved, were concerned. He said he was nervous to speak out to his friend, but he had learned that was the best way to help others.
Each of the students started to see that sexual assault and rape is not just done by a stranger in an alleyway, but something that affects most people at some point in their life. Not only did they start to understand this, they each started to speak up against assault. This is why we do what we do. We create theatre that can promote conversation and change surrounding social issues. And if we can influence the younger generation while we do it, then we can guarantee a better world that the one with which we started.
-- Erin Carr
It's hard to believe it's already been two weeks since we closed 12 Chairs, the first show of ReVamp's 2016-17 season. Eleven days, twelve performances, six directors, fourteen actors, five visual artists, two double-headers, more late nights at Quig's than were necessary - what a whirlwind! Coordinating six different director/cast teams was a major logistical undertaking, but seeing wildly different but equally brilliant and engaging different takes on John O'Hara's play made it all worth it. Our supremely talented directors and actors knocked it out of the park. If you missed it, or want to relive the experience, check out Henrik Eger's Phindie interview with our directors about their unique visions for the piece.
What made this production a particularly poignant experience was that we ran in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election. On November 9, I, like so many, was a human blob of sadness, anger, fear, disappointment, and emotional exhaustion. But as they say, the show must go on, and as that evening's cast and director, and the other artists who came out for opening arrived at Plays & Players, I felt my spirits lift for the first time all day. And it made me realize that what we, and all performing and visual artists do, is now more important than ever. Fun fact: thirty female artists worked on this production of 12 Chairs. Many of us were strangers when the process began. But with hard work, cooperation and creativity, we brought this story to life. And that's what we have to continue to do, not just in the theater (although that's a great place to start), but in the wider world as well. Work together. Listen to each other. Be kind to each other. Get creative in the face of challenges. Give opportunities to everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, etc. Because that's how change, in all its many forms, will continue to happen.
With that in mind, we're already looking ahead to our next production, the short-play festival Brief (Political) Encounters, a one-night-only show on February 5, 2017 at Plays & Players. We're still accepting submissions, so if you're feeling feelings about the election or current political climate, turn them into art! Submission guidelines are here.
Til next time, friends!
-Kristen M. Scatton