Gobsmacked! is a delightful, energetic mix of current and classic hit sings sung a cappella by six singers (3 male, 3 female) with a strong beat box backup. I had the opportunity to see it at Popejoy Hall in Albuquerque a few days ago with Mr Metawitches, who is a huge a cappella fan. I wasn’t sure if it was just a concert or had a story, going in. I think it was supposed to have a very loose story, but that went right past me.
It didn’t matter a bit, though. The entire cast is mega talented and enthusiastic, giving their all for the entire performance. The show was a little less than two hours long, with a twenty minute intermission. The audience doesn’t need the intermission, but the singers do. They all use their voices continuously on every song, filling in harmonies, instrumentals, and sound effects, if they aren’t singing lead. Every sound made during the show is made by the human body, and they provide a lush wall of sound.
This is the basic list of questions we ask ourselves while consuming media to help us determine if we’re seeing women being treated fairly or not. It’s not a yes or no checklist, or an easy, one sentence test, like the Bechdel test. But then, Alison Bechdel never meant for her test to become a widely used standardized instrument. This test requires some thinking about what you’re viewing. Misogyny is often subtle, and it’s pervasive. It’s easy to miss with one, casual viewing, but the message still gets into our heads and affects us.
That’s why these are guidelines, rather than a test. Some of these answers will be subjective, and reasonable people can disagree. We’re talking about art and the interpretation of art, after all. It also takes practice to start seeing things like camera angles and positioning, rather than letting it fly by. Hardly any of us can always spot gaslighting, especially when it’s being done by the writers and producers instead of the characters. These guidelines are just aspects of entertainment to keep in mind while viewing, to become more aware of what you’re seeing.
I (Metacrone) started working on this list in the late 80s, and it’s slowly grown. It’s still a work in progress, just like the entertainment industry. There are very few works that would pass every question with flying colors. Figure out how much you can live with watching, and the level that makes you take action. It’s okay to just watch and enjoy the show sometimes without feeling guilty, too. But, the more you can recognize the issues with entertainment and speak out, even if it’s only to one person, the more of an effect we all have on the entertainment industry.
Waitress * Book by Jessie Nelson * Music and Lyrics by Sara Bareilles * Directed by Diane Paulus * First National Tour at the Buell Theatre, DCPA, 12/19&20/17
Waitress is one of my favorite shows of all time. I’m telling you this up front because there’s no way that this can be an unbiased review. A company would have to butcher the show very badly for me not to enjoy it. Thankfully, the first national touring company, who began this tour in Cleveland, Ohio in October, are excellent across the board, so no worries.
Waitress is the story of a young diner waitress and master pie baker named Jenna (Desi Oakley), who discovers that she’s pregnant by her abusive husband, Earl (Nick Bailey). Her best friends and coworkers, Becky (Charity Angél Dawson) and Dawn (Lenne Klingaman) rally around her while also coping with their own romantic issues. As her pregnancy continues, Jenna becomes closer to her doctor, Dr Pomatter (Bryan Fenkart) and the diner’s elderly owner, Joe (Larry Marshall). The diner’s cook and manager, Cal (Ryan G Dunkin), provides a curmudgeonly foil to the ladies, while Ogie (Jeremy Morse), Dawn’s 5 minute date, brings some lightness to the diner.
Or, Why Do Little Girls have to Choose Between Being Good and Being Powerful?
I was never much for Disney princesses growing up. None of them ever spoke to me. I was more into characters like Simba from Lion King. I suppose, for whatever reason, I was more concerned with the personality and journey of the character than their gender. Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine, Ariel…none of them did anything for me. I don’t even remember thinking they were particularly pretty. I liked Megara from Hercules a little, but I was more about Pegasus, Hercules, and Hades in that movie. The complex characters with clear goals and inner journeys were always the ones who appealed to me. (And animals. Being an animal makes a big difference to me.)
“Warning: This show contains feminine subject matter including teenage diaries, breast feeding, tampons, shadow puppets, pantyhose, menstrual cycles, slumber parties, menopause and maxi pads.”
Yep, this show comes with a warning label. Metamaiden and I can’t seem to escape daring female theater this fall, though Girls Only is only edgy if you get squeamish during random conversations about the topics in the warning label. Since the lone guy in the audience, who was sitting next to Metamaiden, left during intermission, I guess the label is warranted. I saw the house manager whispering in his ear before he left, probably warning him about the ramped up female content in the second half.
Disney has released several professional photos from the new Frozen musical, so everyone can finally get a glimpse of some of the sets and the costumes that weren’t in the first official photo (which was the cover photo for one of our video posts).
A homeless teen lesbian, a prostituted girl, an underground abortionist, and a child porn survivor are recruited into a rapist castration plot by a mysterious woman named Gynx. Men go into hiding, and their operation makes global headlines. But when Gynx’s true motives are revealed, the group is forced to question whether they are truly on the side of justice.
We had notes that we didn’t have room for in our review of GYNX by Alicen Grey, so, in the spirit of an “outtakes” post, here are some more thoughts on the play:
In some ways, the play reminds me of Disgraced, the 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play by Ayad Akhtar about the dehumanization of Muslim men in America. Disgraced showed us that stereotyping and racism can lead to the exact dangers that the dominant culture is afraid of. Its characters were realistic people, but they were also stereotypes and symbols. GYNX uses the same method with its characters and story.
Last week, Metamaiden and I traveled to Denver to see the new Disney musical adaptation of the animated movie Frozen. It was, shall we say, a less than completely positive experience. But, I’ve written thousands of words about that already. In my last post about it, I wrote that I was going to support a feminist off-Broadway play to offset my inadvertent support of what Disney had done to Frozen. GYNX is that play.
Alicen Grey, playwright and producer of GYNX, saw my post, and offered us a recording of their opening night performance. So, Metamaiden and I sat down in Albuquerque on the afternoon of Sunday, 8/27/17, and watched this radical feminist theatre revelation while the final performance of its current run was happening in NYC. It was playing at the Hudson Guild Theater as part of the 2017 NY Summerfest. GYNX is also a Semi-Finalist in the MultiStages 2017 New Works Contest, and it’s not hard to see why.
GYNX was everything I hoped it would be, and more. I felt like Alicen had lived my life, and was seeking my revenge. The play is powerful, haunting and cathartic all at once. It’s impossible to be unaffected by it. It ends with a question that you’ll think about for a long time, if you aren’t already thinking about it.
I thought I was done writing about the Frozen live musical adaptation, but I guess I’m not. The thing is, both Metamaiden and I aren’t done thinking about it. The new song Monster, written by Oscar, h*ell, EGOT-winning songwriters, is stuck in our heads, telling us over and over that being a powerful woman is dangerous, that we should either leave and go live in solitude or, even better, kill ourselves, so that we don’t destroy our country and everything we hold dear.
And that’s only the beginning. I, personally, like most adult women, am a sexual assault survivor, which I have rarely, if ever, talked about. (Probably also like most women.) The scene where Kristoff rips Anna’s dress off and forcefully throws it off stage, while telling her how stupid she is, was very triggering for me, especially after seeing it twice.*