Monday, December 13, 2010

Tennessee Williams-Making the South Dirtier Since 1938

My semester is almost over (praise be to Lord Xenu) and despite having some painfully boring and just plain awful assignments I did have one that I actually didn't mind...writing a paper about my one of my favorite playwrights Tennessee Williams for my TA 471 class which is The History of Theatre from 1950-present. I have always been a huge fan of Williams' works (I love that trashy Southern stuff). Unfortunately, I have never been in a Tennessee Williams play despite constantly begging my theatre teacher at Somerset Community College for years. Last week I did perform a Maggie monologue from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for my final performance in my acting class. I was actually successful considering I really can't do drama.Could they have picked any hotter people than this? Don't think so.

One of America’s most beloved playwrights, Tennessee Williams is best known for his disturbing and paradoxical interpretation of the American South. Williams helped bring harsh realism to the stage of world theatre and succeeded in creating some of the most adored and critically acclaimed plays in theatre history. His plays also introduced some of the most memorable and tragic characters ever performed onstage. Not only did Tennessee Williams bring contentious issues to the forefront of theatre, he gave the rest of the world a deeper insight into the American South which before had been looked upon with shame and regret due to its sordid history. The film versions of his plays A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof are both considered milestone achieves in American cinema and revolutionary in the struggle with film censorship. Williams is also responsible for his enhancement and contributions to the sub-genre of Southern Gothic literature (my favorite genre). Williams is also known for the autobiographical influence on his works. According to Williams’ close friend and famed theatrical and film director Elia Kazan "Everything in his life is in his plays, and everything in his plays is in his life." It takes a lot of balls to write about your own life and admit it so one up, Tennessee! His life was pretty tragic. His father was an alcoholic and his mother and sister suffered from mental illness. Like his parents, Williams’ would later suffer from mental illness, alcohol and barbiturate addiction, and some issues with gambling. He later admitted to have written some of his plays while under the influence of alcohol and drugs. This makes me want to watch Streetcar drunk now. Before he was a successful playwright Williams' wrote screenplays for MGM. He submitted The Glass Menagerie to MGM in 1943 and it was rejected (a FAIL which later turned into a huge WIN). Williams' less popular works are overshadowed by his three big plays Streetcar, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Glass Menagerie. I have read a little of his lesser-known works and they are good but do not live up to his more popular works. One of my favorite Tennessee Williams work is the 1956 film Baby Doll based on his play Twenty-Seven Wagons Full of Cotton. The film was also directed by Elia Kazan. The film tells the scandalous story of a nineteen year-old girl named Baby Doll and her middle-aged cotton farmer husband, Archie. The couple has yet to consummate their marriage due to the fact that Baby Doll promised her now deceased father that she would remain a virgin until her twentieth birthday which happens to be two days away from the start of the film. The title character sleeps in a crib-like bed separate from her husband who peeps at her through a small hole in the walls between their separate rooms. The forbidden issues of the films including sexual repression, voyeurism, and juvenile seduction shocked both audiences. The Legion rated the film a “C” or condemned and many theatres were required by the Legion of Decency film censorship committee to cancel showings of the film. Time Magazine noted the film as being “Just possibly the dirtiest American-made motion picture that has ever been legally exhibited". It's one of those movies that after you watch it you need to take a shower. It's still creepy as hell today.

The film Baby Doll was not the first time that the Tennessee Williams/ Elia Kazan team had trouble with the Hollywood censorship laws of the day. In 1951, the graphic subject matter of A Streetcar Named Desire was so shocking to many in the Hollywood community that it almost was never produced, which was mainly because studio heads feared a film that controversial would be a box-office failure. Karl Malden, Kim Hunter, Marlon Brando, and Jessica Tandy starred in the Broadway production which opened in 1947. Warner Brothers agreed to make the movie as long as they had a star to carry the film. Enter Vivien Leigh. Exit Jessica Tandy (who was pissed!) Get over it Tandy, you lived to be at least 1,000. If you Google Jessica Tandy the phrase "Is Jessica Tandy still alive" shows up. I swear.


Tennessee Williams’ agreed to re-write his play to accommodate the censorship issues. This was mandatory to get the film produced but many audience members, critics, and several of the actors in the film complained that the screenplay was too difficult to understand due to the cut and re-imagined scenes (Agreed!). While this film was important to the fight against censorship in film, it was also the first film to popularize the use of Method Acting (which is COMPLETE BULLSHIT) and launched Marlon Brando’s career. The Method technique was used by Brando, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden. While Vivien Leigh was from the old school show-up-and-do-your-fucking-lines school of acting (as am I). Despite the backlash of the film, A Streetcar Named Desire is a classic film that showcases some of the finest acting ever put on film and is considered one of the greatest play adaptations ever.

The Brady Bunch Williams style.

Williams’ often focused on was homosexuality. At the time his work was published and being performed, the mention of homosexuality in American theatre was almost unheard of. As a homosexual male and a writer, Williams’ felt that it was his assumed responsibility to create positive images of homosexuals for the theatre-going public. Williams’ has created some of the great male roles of the twentieth-century but it is his female characters that have generated the most attention and caused much of the controversy with his work. . Williams’ relationships with the women in his life mainly his sister, Rose and his Aunt Belle who was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois proved to be vital to his writing. Early on in his career, Williams’ was criticized for the female characters he created. Many theatre critics felt that they were idealistic and according to Williams’ in a 1975 interview “All my relationships with women are very, very important to me. The most stupid thing said about my writing is that my heroines are disguised transvestites. Absolutely and totally none of them are anything but women”. (A Blanche drag queen? I think so!)

That being said, many thought that Williams’ supposed incapacity to write women was based on his homosexuality. Williams’ was extremely open about the fact that he based almost all of his plays on his own life. He is quoted as saying "It's true my heroines often speak for me”. Audiences and critics alike were concerned that he was writing his plays to target a specific audience. In this case being the gay community. This proved false when his plays became international Pulitzer Prize winning successes. No one was more aware of this than Williams’ himself who said “I do not have a faggot, a homosexual, or a gay, audience. I write for an audience”. You tell 'em!

Tennessee Williams will forever be remembered for his unleashing his daring and provocative work on the world when it was needed the most. When Tennessee Williams died on February 25, 1983 at age 71 in New York City by mistakenly swallowing a bottle cap, the world lost one of its greatest inhabitants. His work is still being read in English classes and performed in acting classes and stages all over the world. By simply reading his work one can tell that Williams was extremely passionate about his writing and truly loved his occupation. Known for his sinister stories, when Williams’ memoirs were published he originally wanted to entitle the book “Flee, Flee This Sad Hotel.” Instead he changed is mind when he realized “my life is as much a merry tavern as a sad hotel. My God, I've gotten a lot of laughs out of life”

Monday, November 22, 2010

Big Bone Lick State Park...the gift that keeps on giving

If you have ever driven through the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area you have most likely laughed at the sign for Big Bone Lick State Park and who can blame you? It has to be funniest double entendre interstate sign in the entire USA.

Not only do the locals make fun of this landmark, I have also seen it mocked online too. My teacher brought it up in class today and I was one of my only people who got the joke (I am just fun like that). It's an interesting place and vital to some geological discoveries (it's pretty much like the East Coast version of the La Brea Tar Pits). Not to mention t-shirt worthy.
Here is a little bit about Big Bone Lick from the Kentucky Parks website:

"Recreated grasslands, wetlands and wooded savannas lie along the trail leading to a "bog" diorama. Shown going into or struggling inside the marsh bog are a woolly mammoth, a mastodon, a giant sloth, bison, various skeletal remains, and scavengers feeding on the carcasses. Visitors approach the diorama on a boardwalk that rises above the floor of the marsh, enabling them to "look history in the eye." An amphitheater upslope from the diorama can be used as an outdoor classroom. The diorama and the Discovery Trail are sited to provide the physically challenged visitors with the opportunity to experience the varied grassland, wetland and savanna environments and the bog diorama."

It is a coincidence that Big Bone Lick State Park is located at 3380 Beaver Rd?
I hope not!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fashion...Friend or Foe?

I hate to sound like someone's stuck up grandmother but with the exception of a few things I am not a fan of the majority of the current fashions today. Before all the fashionistas close the tab on this entry, I don't hate them all. I like fashion, cute clothes, and I like when other people tell me my clothes are cute. Let me explain....
For those who aren't a stick figure it's difficult to pull of skinny jeans and baby doll shirts (or something similar to those)which is all I seem to ever really find when I attempt to go shopping. If you can rock those then more power to you sister! You are fabulous and have hundreds of girls jealous of you! Well done!
For those of us who end up looking like a pregnant puffy Cheeto when wearing those items of clothing, shopping is more like the first 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan than a nice stroll through the mall. By that I mean you have to fight to find the clothes you can pull off. I would describe myself as a chubby hourglass with former middle school cheerleader thighs which quite frankly sucks like an algae eater in a dirty fish tank. Seriously I could have the flu, a stomach virus, be on Dexatrim, not eat for a month, continue to work out 405 and never loose a pound. So I pretty much begrudgingly learned to accept this fact, wear Spanx and make up for my shortcomings in the body department with witty repartee. Moving on...
Recently I discovered that the majority of my pants had holes in them and since I have about a shot glass-sized amount of decency and shame left and vagina thermals are not exactly a practical option I decided it was time for some new pants. I went to a few places and was bombarded with skinny jean after skinny jean after skinny jean. I did end up buying two pairs one of which is only for work (I have to wear black pants and I was desperately needing some) and other I only wear with boots which block the as I call it "skinny jean boat feet syndrome". Everyday I look forward for the calendar to change and the weather to warm up so I can turn those sons of bitches into cut-offs or carpi pants. Ole!

My tastes have changed over the years when it comes to clothes. I used to be more into bold patterns and honestly just tacky stuff. Now as I approach what I call "being a real grown-up" I tend to learn towards basic, solid colors and bold accessories.
On any given day you will find me wearing any of the following items of clothing:
  • Something leopard print (it's classic yet funky don't judge!)
  • Fake pearl earrings (the Spanish know me as La Cheapa)
  • A University of Kentucky t-shirt or hoodie (it's the easiest thing to find for me and I look good in the color and I can wear them to work)
  • Something that vintage or something that looks vintage
  • Anything shiny (I excel at attracting gays and plan to do it until I am wearing bedazzled track suits which might be any day now!)
To sum all of this up wear what you like, what makes you happy and what makes you look good. It's not about being hip, cool, groovy, or whatever the kids are saying these days. Just be yourself, have fun, and don't buy what you can't afford (hit up the second-hands, outlets, and sales so much as possible, ladies. It will save you money and you will find some one-of-a-kind, classic pieces).
But the real issue here is why don't people look like this anymore......

'Nuff said!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Halloween Blog#3-Girls are scary

One thing that I have picked up on in recent years especially when I worked at Blockbuster is that girls love slasher/horror movies. One would think that movies about a usually male psycho chopping up naked girls would appeal to weird, horny boys. Well, you thought wrong my friend! Many girls love it too. Not all girls fit my female slasher lover criteria but if you do this what you are....
  • Aged 13-45
  • Attractive
  • Usually in a committed relationship
Almost every day when I worked at Blockbuster I would have girls come in and ask me for horror movie recommendations while their boyfriends and husbands groaned and walked towards the comedy,action and soft-core porn. I enjoyed helping these gore hound girls. It was fun and I always liked talking to people about different movies. I also would love when they would return the movie and tell me they loved it. I felt like I was doing a public service and helping people get their money's worth of entertainment.
The question is why are so many girls attracted to horror movies? I thought I was the only one who had noticed this until my boyfriend and I watched a documentary called Going To Pieces:The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film where some the point was brought up. According to the documentary (and me) girls enjoy these films because most of the time a female is the hero. Look back at movies like Rear Window where Grace Kelly is hell bent to solve the mystery of the missing neighbor all while looking fabulous and saving the day. (I have a theory that Grace Kelly was the prototype for the last surviving smart girls in horror movies).

In every horror movie now there is that last remaining girl who either gets away, kills the bad guy or is left to come back for the sequel such as Nancy aka Heather Langenkamp in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies who finally gets rid of Freddy even though I love him and want him to kill all those stupid teenagers.

Then you have the heroines who do some serious ass kicking such as in 1980s I Spit on Your Grave which was the first female revenge movies and has some of the most disgusting scenes ever put on celluloid. It's a good cautionary tale and allowed girls to seek justice on those who did them wrong. Note to girls:this is not a good date movie. Watch this one alone or with your friends. I was actually told by a guy I dated in high school to watch this one alone. YIKES!

While there are the girls who save the day there are also some great horror female villains even though they are very hard to come by. Girls cheer on the heroines but we also love a good nasty, female villain. Society frowns upon women being bad which is why we are so drawn to them such as The Bride of Frankenstein. Even though we only see her for about 5 minutes in the actual Bride of Frankenstein film she is the most popular Classic Universal monster. Why? Because she a monster with boobs. What's not to love?
Elsa Lanchester as The Bride of Frankenstein Pictures, Images and Photos
Some other great female villains include that awful Japanese girl in Audition, Glenn Close as the infamous Alex Forrester in Fatal Attraction, Sherri Moon as Baby in Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses, and Shawnee Smith as Amanda in the Saw movies.
Another reason why I think girls are drawn to these movies is that they teach us that bad girls and whores die first. If you are a girl who has sex in a horror movie you will die! I think there is a fascination with wanting to see girls that remind us of the ones we hated in high school get hacked up. Also consider the fact that us girls bleed for five days every month gives us a higher tolerance for blood. Sorry to be gross but it's true. If men had periods they would all kill themselves. Like I said, girls are scary!
Happy Halloween!