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Writing My Blues Away....

Or something like that, anyway. I'm in madd R&D and writing mode for my upcoming production Dear Mama, part of SondheimFest. This will be my first self-produced production and is more than a little terrifying.

I've been asked a few times, and must admit it - my actions are chock-full of hubris. Entering my own piece of original writing into a festival dedicated to a Master Playwright - Steven Sondheim - seems a bit absurd. So I shall elaborate.

Dear Mama and its lead character, Ruby, have been a seed of an idea in my mind for years now. It all originates with a conversation my sister (who is also an arts professional) and I had about how strange it is that the pair of us used to watch Gypsy religiously from a rather young age. Now, for anyone who has seen it, stepping back you can understand our train of thought - Gypsy Rose Lee, famous burlesque dancer and early stripper, is the centre piece of the musical (for which Sondheim was lyricist). The show includes dance numbers by strippers, and ultimately a daughter whose mother encourages her to choose burlesque performance over not being on stage at great success.

It is easy to see the parallels between this young starlet, who began performing likely before 5 years old, and the plethora of child stars we see today. From the kids on Dance Moms who have been described as 'prosti-tots' to the frighteningly sexualized performing dolls on Toddlers and Tiaras, and the latest Disney starlet, little girls are more and more a commodity, rather than children.

Dear Mama looks at a fictional young girl who had this sort of childhood....but sees her as an adult, still starved for attention and willing to take major risks to secure the adoration of her audience.

I've been lucky enough to secure the talented and brilliant Megan Andres to dramaturg and direct the piece - we will begin working together soon! Watch for further blogs as the process continues....

Neil LaBute - fat pig

What awful people. The characters in this play are horrible, shallow, self-centered and judgemental. With the exception of Helen, who comes across as really genuine, and honestly seeking connection with someone. Jeannie and Carter specifically call to mind those terrible, juvenile, people we all have encountered at some point in our lives; so insecure in themselves that they ridicule others. And though we have some hope for Tom's ability to connect with Helen, looking beyond physical and social "rules" eventually even he fails.

I was really angry at the end of this play; at Tom for doing what he does. At Helen for sitting there taking it.

But grateful to LaBute for facing the subject. I only wish he had managed to not have his character succumb; I was left feeling hopeless for our consumer culture, that we will never break free from these false idols and obsessions with meeting certain ideals.