NAME OF THESIS PROJECT:
A DollZes HoUse
Can you provide me with a brief synopsis about your play or project that you are presenting as part of your thesis?
A power-hungry King in a war-torn nation forces his royal court to perform a heavily redacted version of A Doll’s House. The King’s favorite, Tulip, stars in the show as Nora, a role she’s been preparing for her entire life. When Tulip discovers that the King has altered Ibsen’s ending to promote his own, twisted ideology, her porcelain world begins to crack. A DollZes HoUse is a play about History, hegemony, and resistance/rebellion.
Can you tell me a little bit about the origin of this play? Where did the idea come from? Did you work on it in class?
It’s hard for me to pinpoint the exact moment when the idea for this play was conceived, but I think it happened last summer; and I think it was while I was waiting on the A train at West 4th. The train was taking forever to arrive, and my headphones were broken, and I didn’t have a book, and my phone was dead, so I decided to buy a magazine. ( I am terrible at standing around waiting.) I was looking at the magazines, and the vendor said something like: “What one do you want, Sweetie, the Cosmo?” I’m sure I scowled, or rolled my eyes, or something – because (1) why is he calling me “sweetie”? And (2) I did not want the Cosmo. The Cosmo was not even on my radar. I looked over at the cover of the Cosmo. The headlines were things like “The Best Work-Out for your Boobs,” or “10 Tips to Satisfy Your Man.” And I couldn’t decide which bothered me more: the headlines, or the fact that this (male) vendor, who knows absolutely nothing about me, assumed that I would want this magazine, with headlines about boobs and satisfying my man.
I ended up buying the magazine. And I read it on the train. As I was reading, I started thinking about the standards of “beauty” to which women are held. And then I started thinking about the misogynistic attitudes that are so deeply imbedded in our culture. Obviously the magazine vendor wasn’t trying to offend me – or maybe he was, who knows – but what does it mean, his assumption that because I’m a woman I would read the Cosmopolitan magazine over the Time magazine that was right next to it? And what made him feel entitled to call me “sweetie”? Of course this was not the first time that I’d been in a situation like that. As a woman, I deal with “situations like that” almost every day – on the subway, on the sidewalk, at work, in the grocery store. Instances of misogyny, however microscopic and seemingly “harmless,” exist in the everyday lives of most women I know. And that . . . that is just . . .
This train of thought lead to an image of a woman who had been converted into a doll – a living, breathing woman turned into an actual, porcelain doll. Dolls made me think of A Doll’s House, and I spent the summer working with the metaphor of women as dolls. In the Fall, the election happened, of course, and I was confused and scared – and I still am – about what, exactly, this presidency means not only for women, but for all human beings. As I continued writing, the doll metaphor started to fit with this larger theme of anxiety and fear about what would come next; and for whatever reason, it felt like the play needed to take place in a world of violence and destruction. In November, I read a book about King Louis XIV, several books about King Louis XIV, actually. And somehow, all of these crazy ideas about dolls, and the apocalypse, and the reign of King Louis XIV, and the “Best Work-Out for my Boobs” snapped together, yielding the crazy synopsis described above.
Wow, that was a really long-winded response.
Umm . . . Sorry? Maybe it was, at least, kind of funny at certain points?
Who is your mentor? Why did you want them as your mentor?
Taylor Mac is my mentor. I wanted Taylor as my mentor because judy has a penchant for the big and theatrical, for the grotesque and ridiculous. As a writer, the style of my work is similarly inclined, and often explores themes Taylor’s work has explored/deconstructed in the past (e.g. gender norms and roles, patriarchy, identity, just to name a few). Taylor is also a multi-disciplinary maker of theatre, as am I, so asking judy to be my mentor was sort of a no-brainer. And, I mean, did you see 24-Decade History of Popular Music? Because it was amazing. You know what? I’ll just make my answer that:
Q: Who is your mentor? Why did you want them as your mentor?
A: 24-Decade History of Popular Music.
Is there a question that your play is asking, or that you were seeking to answer when you started writing this play?
Oh goodness Yes. I fear I ended up answering this question in your question about the origin of the play; but I’ll answer again. Don’t worry – I’ll do it in a clearer, more succinct way!
Questions with which this play is grappling: What does it mean to be a woman; and who decides it? To that point: What does it mean to be a man; and who decides that? History vs. history (big H vs. small h): who writes it; who controls it; how do we “know” the things we know? And lastly . . . what comes next? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about resistance, rebellion, and the power of story.
What has been most challenging about this process?
Hmmm . . . Not eating too many gummy-bears while I sit in front of my computer, furiously writing, for eight hours at a time?
No . . . I think that this play is particularly challenging for me because (1) it’s the most “political” thing I’ve ever written; it’s very much a reaction to the current administration; and (2) while the play is farcical and exists in a heightened reality, it’s still very personal to me, very close; because it’s kind of absurd and farcical sometimes, the way that women are treated.
What would you like to be doing in 10 years?
Well, ideally I will have a dog.
I will have a dog and I will be writing for both TV and theatre.
Anything else you would like to say?
No, I’ll shut up now. I think I’ve babbled enough.
Becca is a theatre-maker from Austin, Texas. She likes to create stuff – especially theatre.