The Maids

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I disappeared for a little while. It was because I was working on my novel, but it was also because I was working on two other projects that required my complete and total attention.

I recently finished production on a show titled The Maids and began work on Rent.

The Maids is an absurd show based on the life of two sisters that killed their mistress and her daughter 80 years ago.

Léa and Christine Papin were convicted of the brutal double murder of Madame Lancelin and her daughter in Le Mans, France on February 2, 1933 . The two victims were beaten so fiercely they were unrecognizable, their eyes had been plucked from her sockets. They were left on the floor where they died. The sister maids were found upstairs in their room together, naked in bed. 

They confessed to killing the women using a kitchen knife, a hammer and a pewter pot.

The sisters were tried and convicted of murder. During the trial, it was argued that Christine had been the mastermind of the murder, while Léa had been dominated to the point at which her personality had virtually disappeared. Christine was sentenced to death, but Léa was given the lighter sentence of ten years in prison.

Since the trial, the two sisters and their actions were the subject of various plays and films that base the decision to kill their Madame was a statement on class structure.

The script we used, titled The Maids, was written by Jean Genet. It’s a three woman show centering around the role-playing game the sisters, Claire and Solange, enact as they plot the murder of their mistress, simple named Madame. The play is loosely based on the story of the Papin sisters, but ultimately Madame gets away leaving the sisters to perform the final act of their game without her.

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“The Maids” as performed by Amber Revelt and Chloe Mlinarcik at Cuyahoga Community College Western Campus.

The play is what is called Theatre of the Absurd. In his book “History of  the Theatre”, Oscar Brockett says, “His [Albert Camus] influence on the theatre came in part from his essay, ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ (1943), in which his discussion of the word ‘absurd’ was to supply the name for the absurdist movement. In this essay, Camus argues that the human conditions is absurd because of the gap between people’s hope and the irrational universe into which they are born.” Somewhere out there, Dr. Rosemary Bank feels a disturbance in the force and knows one of her former students just quoted Brockett. If you’re reading this, Dr. Bank, I thank you.

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“The Maids” as performed by Clare Vavro, Amber Revelt, and Chloe Mlinarcik at Cuyahoga Community College Western Campus.

We strove to make our world as realistic as possible, without missing the fact that this was an absurd show. With real period furniture in a 3-quarter round set-up (As in the audience is seating on three sides of the stage) we provided an intimate production of this one act play. It ran 1 hr. and 20 mins long.

The dialogue in the show is remarkably difficult, and I grew increasingly prouder of the three undergraduate actresses performing this work. With lines like, “We’ve read the story of Sister Holy Cross of the Blessed Valley who poisoned twenty-seven Arabs. She waked without shoes, with her feet all stiff. She was lifted up, carried off to the crime. We’ve read the story of Princess Albanarez who caused the death of her lover and her husband. She uncorked the bottle and made a big sign of the cross over the goblet. As she stood before the corpses, she saw only death and, off in the distance, the fleet image of herself being carried by the wind. She made all the gestures of earthly despair. In the book about the Marquise de Venosa, the one who poisoned her children, we’re told that, as she approached the bed, her arms were supported by the ghost of her lover.”

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“The Maids” as performed by Chloe Mlinarcik at Cuyahoga Community College Western Campus.

The epic ending of the performance is foreshadowed by a three-page monologue by Solange where she describes funeral proceedings, “Out on your balconies to see her making her way among the shadowy penitents! It’s noon. She’s carrying a nine-pound torch. The hangman follows close behind. He’s whispering sweet nothing in her ear. Claire! The hangman’s by my side. Now take your hand off my waist. He’s trying to kiss me! Let go of me! Ah! Ah! [She laughs.] The hangman’s trifling with me.”

With the show in my wake, I look back with a bitter-sweetness. As is usually the case in theatre, we became a small family through the six weeks of rehearsals. And now, while I still see these three ladies in the hallways at Tri-C we don’t spend our evenings together. I am creating a new small family in the cast of Rent that will open in April.

There will always be another show, another production, another project on the horizon. But it is rare when a production brings a group of people together that doesn’t end with everyone hating each other. This was not one of those processes. I am honored to have been the stage manager to these three ladies. One day each one of them will spread their little wings and fly off to bigger and better theatres, but I will know that I had a small part in bringing them up right.

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“The Maids” Cast and Crew photo from Cuyahoga Community College Western Campus.

Time to Novel

I’m planning on spending the heart of today and tomorrow working on my novel, Kodiak Rising, that I’ve been writing for three years. I’m putting the finishing touches on it now. Just going through to make sure the world make sense.

So, in light of that work, the blog is going to take a backseat for the weekend.

I hope you understand, Gentle Reader. I’ll plan on being back by Monday.

Have a great, weekend!

My Most Prized Possession

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This is my stuffed dog that I have had since I was an infant. She was also my mother’s toy as a child, so she’s seen a lot of love for a very long time.

Once, after a particularly frightening stay in the hospital, I couldn’t find her anywhere in my house. I searched everywhere for her, both high and low. Panicked I started digging through bags, ransacking the house wondering what could have happened to her.

I found her in the basement in a bag of yarn. After collapsing into tears of joy I vowed never to let her disappear again.

This post has been submitted to February 2014 NaBloPoMo. NaBloPoMo is a month-long challenge to post once a day on your blog, hosted by Blogher. Each month has its own theme. February’s theme is “perspective.” This post is in response to the prompt titled “Show Me Fridays: upload an image to your blog (with or without words) of your most prized possession.”

Ezio’s Perspective

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Ezio lounged lazily on the living room floor wondering what all the commotion was from within the box nearby. He saw his sister stuffed inside only moments ago but wasn’t too concerned about the outcome. Boxes were fun!

A moment or two later the front door opened and two giants he’d never seen before entered. They hugged his person and then promptly scooped him up from his nap. The female giant was smiling at him and kissing him. This was nice! He liked people. But then, after only a few seconds he was being carried toward the door, and then everything was very bright. His fight or flight instinct awoke and he was ready to get back into the comfort of his home. But the grip on him was too strong and soon he was inside a different house. But this one was much smaller and none of his brothers or sisters were there. He was passed from the female giant to the male giant and they cooed lovingly to him.

But he wanted to run. He needed to run! He sprang deeper into the house and found another box to hide in. And just as he was starting to catch his breath the house woke up! It growled loudly and started moving. He cried out in fear. Why is the house moving? Where is it taking me?

He looked back toward the giants that stole him so abruptly from his home. The man was smiling at him and reached back to scratch his head.

Ezio did not know whether to purr or to bite. So, instead, he sat there and cried. He cried and cried and cried. But the never took him back home again. He was being kidnapped!

It felt like an eternity in this moving house before it finally came to a stop. It stopped growling and went back to sleep. And now the giants were picking him up again and carrying him somewhere. The male giant held him tightly and rushed him into a new house. When he was finally put down onto the floor he discovered there was a bowl of water with a bowl of food right next to it. And in the opposite corner was a small bathroom was placed for him. The two giants sat down in front of a closed door.

Now he understood: he wasn’t being kidnapped. He had been adopted!

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My husband, Rob, and Ezio only moments after coming to his forever home.

This post has been submitted to February 2014 NaBloPoMo. NaBloPoMo is a month-long challenge to post once a day on your blog, hosted by Blogher. Each month has its own theme. February’s theme is “perspective.” This post is in response to the prompt to describe your home through the eyes of your pet.

Phillip Seymore Hoffman, Remembered

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I’m not sure if this is going to be like the classic memorial that I post when people pass. To be honest, I’m pretty disheartened by his passing. But, with all the memorials posted out there, the open letter to him already published, and the hundreds of thousands of devastated fans, what more do I really have to offer that hasn’t already been said?

My first encounter with Phil Hoffman was in 1996 when he portrayed Dusty in Twister. I loved Dusty. His character reminded me of my cousin, John, if he were a storm chaser. Because that’s exactly how my cousin really is. He would be the “caboose”, with a speaker on the roof blaring music down the road and screaming out the window with the thrill of the chase. And when Aunt Meg’s house was destroyed, my cousin John would react just as Dusty did. With overwhelming concern, rushing into danger to get his treasured friend out of harms way. Among other things, the movie actually made me interested in storm chasing and for a time in my life I toyed with the idea of chasing storms for a living.

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Myself and my cousin John at my wedding. Photo Credit: C Cross Photography

My cousin John is probably my favorite relative of them all, aside from my parents (of course.) He’s just like me, one of the oddballs in the family. I’m pretty sure that he and I are the only ones in the family that chose a living dealing with the arts. I’m a Theatrical Technician, John is a Musician. We understand each other.

But I digress. Phil Hoffman was a formidable actor. He could play the goofball, the good guy, the bad guy, the every man. He was especially good at the villain character.

And in the end, he’ll be very missed on the silver screen. I was very excited to hear he would be playing Plutarch Heavensbee in The Hunger Games movies. His performance was exactly as I had imagined the character in my head while reading the series. I thought he was perfect. I’m also very excited to see the next two installments of the final book and how the film makers deal with the loss of this actor.

But, that’s really all I have to add on the subject. I could go on and on and on about what actually killed this actor. Addiction is a thing I understand from an outsiders perspective only. I have stories upon stories to share. So much information I learned the hard way, watching friends make the same mistake over and over again. But I, myself, I’ve never struggled with an addiction to the degree that Phil Hoffman had. I only know what I saw in a three-year span of time with a former addict that was a part of my life. I only know what it looks like to be a friend of someone slowly killing themselves. And that, my friends, is a story I’m not ready to tell.

This post has been submitted to February 2014 NaBloPoMo. NaBloPoMo is a month-long challenge to post once a day on your blog, hosted by Blogher.

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