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After spending three years in The National Theatre of the Deaf performing plays by hearing authors featuring hearing characters, Willy Conley realized that he wanted to write plays with deaf, hard-of- hearing, and hearing characters created from the Deaf perspective. Vignettes of the Deaf Character and Other Plays presents the result of his desire in twelve masterful plays. “I write for the eye, always searching for live, mobile, provocative images that would fill and illuminate the entire stage space with the complexities, the pathos, and the humor involved when deaf and hearing cultures merge or collide,” writes Conley in his introduction. His plays depict a wide range of Deaf characters, including two brothers locked in a tragic rivalry familiar to families of all backgrounds; the broadly comedic Deaf Guide and hearing Techie interspersing laughs with cultural lessons in their Museum of Signs for People with Communication Disorders; Everyone searching for her Good Deeds as she faces imminent Death in an updating of the classic morality play, plus many others. These works explore a broad palette of circumstances with and without hearing characters, allowing Deaf characters to interact minus the direct influence that the dominant culture might exert. Vignettes of the Deaf Character and Other Plays presents the drama and passion of a master playwright who, through his perceptions, reveals facets of the Deaf character in all of us.
An Epic Drama
Renowned playwright Osonye Tess Onwueme's powerful new drama illuminates the effect of national and global oil politics on the lives of impoverished rural Nigerians. What Mama Said is set in the metaphorical state of Sufferland, whose people are starving and routinely exploited and terrorized by corrupt government officials and multinational oil companies—that is, until a voice erupts and moves the wounded women and youths to rise up and demand justice. Onwueme's powerful characters and vibrant, emotionally charged scenes bring to life a turbulent movement for change and challenge to tradition. Aggrieved youths and militant women—whose husbands and sons work in the refineries or have been slaughtered in the violent struggle—take center stage to "drum" their pain in this drama about revolution. Determined to finally confront the multinational forces that have long humiliated them, Sufferland villagers burn down pipelines and kidnap an oil company director. Tensions peak, and activist leaders are put on trial before a global jury that can no longer ignore the situation. What Mama Said is a moving portrayal of the battle for human rights, dignity, compensation, and the right of a nation's people to control the resources of their own land.
And Other Plays about the Deaf American Experience
“Oh, why can’t the deaf community be more like a family?” is the plaint of a character in Raymond Luczak’s title play Whispers of a Savage Sort. It also goes far in characterizing the main thread that runs through his remarkable collection of work offered in this new volume. Whispers of a Savage Sort and Other Plays about the Deaf American Experience presents a progression of plays that depict Deaf people in situations well-known by the community’s members. Written to be signing-driven, these plays feature Deaf characters from the various strata of Deaf society. Each play centers on different yet equally familiar issues. Snooty brings to life the difficulties of surviving the social pecking order in a deaf residential school. The main character’s only escape is a rich fantasy life in which he is in control. Doogle confronts its characters with the intrusion of technological communication devices parallel to the virtually forced intimacy of such a small, close community. Brought into stark focus by the specter of AIDS, Love in My Veins explores how trust, betrayal, and ultimately forgiveness can transform a Deaf couple’s love for each other in a Deaf community. The collection’s eponymous Whispers of a Savage Sort reveals the relentless damage that rumor and innuendo can do to a diverse group of Deaf individuals. The emotions, identities, and consequences created by Luczak in these dramas illuminate the Deaf American community in fascinating detail rarely seen in any medium today.
This new collection bridges two dynamic academic fields: Women’s Studies and Deaf Studies. The 14 contributors to this interdisciplinary volume apply research and methodological approaches from sociology, ethnography, literary/film studies, history, rhetoric, education, and public health to open heretofore unexplored territory. Part One: In and Out of the Community addresses female dynamics within deaf schools; Helen Keller’s identity as a deaf woman; deaf women’s role in Deaf organizations; and whether or not the inequity in education and employment opportunities for deaf women is bias against gender or disability. Part Two: (Women’s) Authority and Shaping Deafness explores the life of 19th-century teacher Marcelina Ruis Y Fernandez; the influence of single, hearing female instructors in deaf education; the extent of women’s authority over oralist educational dictates during the 1900s; and a deaf daughter’s relationship with her hearing mother in the late 20th century. Part Three: Reading Deaf Women considers two deaf sisters’ exceptional creative freedom from 1885 to 1920; the depictions of deaf or mute women in two popular films; a Deaf woman’s account of blending the public–private, deaf–hearing, and religious–secular worlds; how five Deaf female ASL teachers define “gender,” “feminism,” “sex,” and “patriarchy” in ASL and English; and 20th-century American Deaf beauty pageants that emphasize physicality while denying Deaf identity, yet also challenge mainstream notions of “the perfect body.”
Six Plays by Mercedes de Acosta
In this first publication of six plays by the flamboyantly uninhibited author, poet, and playwright Mercedes de Acosta (1893–1968), theater historian Robert A. Schanke rescues these lost theatrical writings from the dusty margins of obscurity. Often autobiographical, always rife with gender struggle, and still decidedly stageworthy, Women in Turmoil: Six Plays by Mercedes de Acosta constitutes a significant find for the canon of gay and lesbian drama.
In her 1960 autobiography Here Lies the Heart, de Acosta notes that as she was contemplating marriage to a man in 1920, she was "in a strange turmoil about world affairs, my own writing, suffrage, sex, and my inner spiritual development." The voice in these plays is that of a lesbian in turmoil, marginalized and ignored. Her same-sex desires and struggles for acceptance fueled her writings, and nowhere is that more evident than in the plays contained herein. The women characters struggle with unfulfilling marriages, divorce, unrequited sexual desire, suppressed identity, and a longing for recognition.
Of the six plays, only the first two were ever produced. Jehanne d’Arc (1922) premiered in Paris with de Acosta’s lover at the time, Eva Le Gallienne, starring and Norman Bel Geddes designing the set and lights. In 1934, de Acosta adapted it into a screenplay for Greta Garbo, then her lover, but it was never filmed. Portraying rampant anti-Semitism in a small New England town, Jacob Slovak (1923) was performed both on Broadway and in London, with the London production starring John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson.
The Mother of Christ (1924) is a long one-act play written for the internationally known actress Eleonora Duse. After Duse’s death, several other actresses including Eva Bartok, Jeanne Eagels, and Lillian Gish explored productions of the play. Igor Stravinsky wrote a score, Norman Bel Geddes designed a set, and Gladys Calthrop designed costumes. However, the play was never produced.
Her most autobiographical play, World Without End (1925), and her most sensational play, The Dark Light (1926), both unfold through plots of sibling rivalry, incest, and suicide. With overtones of Ibsen, Illusion (1928) continues the themes of de Acosta’s previous plays with her rough and seedy cast of characters, but here the playwright’s drama grows to incorporate a yearning for belonging as well as strong elements of class conflict.
What notoriety remains associated with de Acosta has less to do with her writing than with her infamous romances with the likes of Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Isadora Duncan, Alla Nazimova, Eva Le Gallienne, Tamara Karsavina, Pola Negri, and Ona Munson. Through this collection of six powerfully poignant dramas, editor Robert A. Schanke strives to correct myths about Mercedes de Acosta and to restore both her name and her literary achievements to their proper place in history.
Robert A. Schanke has authored the original biography, “That Furious Lesbian:” The Story of Mercedes de Acosta, also available from Southern Illinois University Press.
Yue Opera and Social Change in Twentieth-Century Shanghai
This ground-breaking volume documents women's influence on popular culture in twentieth-century China by examining Yue opera. A subgenre of Chinese opera, it migrated from the countryside to urban Shanghai and morphed from its traditional all-male form into an all-female one, with women cross-dressing as male characters for a largely female audience.
Volume Three/Tomo Tres: Theater/Teatro
The third and final book in a major three-volume trilingual anthology of Mexican indigenous writing.
Though she died penniless and forgotten, Zora Neale Hurston is now recognized as a major figure in African American literature. Best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, she also published numerous short stories and essays, three other novels, a memoir, and two books on black folklore. Even avid readers of Hurston's prose, however, may be surprised to know that she was also a serious and ambitious playwright throughout her career. Although several of her plays were produced during her lifetime-and some to public acclaim-they have languished in obscurity for years. Even now, most critics and historians gloss over these texts, treating them as supplementary material for understanding her novels. Yet, Hurston's dramatic works stand on their own merits and independently of her fiction.Now, eleven of these forgotten dramatic writings are being published together for the first time in this carefully edited and annotated volume. Filled with lively characters, vibrant images of rural and city life, biblical and folk tales, voodoo, and, most importantly, the blues, readers will discover a "real Negro theater" that embraces all the richness of black life.