Meet the Artist- Luisina Quarleri

Meet Luisina Quarleri, who plays Gabriela, the Argentine concert cellist around whom The Abuelas centers. Luisina is fluent in Spanish, Italian, an English and though she does not actually play the cello, someone in her family does!

Where did you grow up?
       – I was born in Argentina and lived there till I was 3, then moved to Italy and lived there till about 9, and then moved to New York. 

How did you get into theater?
        – My parents are both artists so I grew up going to the theater. I started working in plays with them at age 4 in Italy, at L’Arena di Verona. We would all go to work together and it was amazing. 

What is one of your beloved family traditions?

       – We celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, as all Argentines do, and have a big family dinner and then open presents at midnight. I could never wait until Christmas morning to open presents!

 Do you have a food/dish you are known for making really well?

       – I make a really great eggplant parmesan.
 Symphonic concerts: love or snoozefest?

       – Love! Classical music was always playing in my house growing up and I’d often go to concerts to hear my father play. 

If you came with a warning label, what would it say?

       – Must feed frequently. 

What is the best birthday present you have ever received?

       – My dad and I have the same birthday, and a few years back I cut my honeymoon short to fly to NY to surprise him on our birthday. We hadn’t spent it together in 5 years, so being with him that year was extra special. 

Do you wear your heart on your sleeve or keep your emotions hidden?

       – Definitely wear my heart on my sleeve. If something’s wrong you’ll see it on my face. I’m not good at hiding my feelings!! 

If your life were a TV show, what genre would it be?

       – Probably a dark humor dramedy from BBC. 

Do you play a musical instrument? If no, is there one you would like to play?

       – I sing, but my brother got the instrument talent gene. If I had to choose, I’d absolutely love to play the cello because that’s what my father plays and it’s such a beautiful instrument.

What words do you live by?

       – “Every passing minute is a chance to turn it all around”. It’s from the movie Vanilla Sky. It was my senior quote and I still believe it. 

What’s your go-to Starbucks order?

       – I don’t really go to Starbucks, but if I’m there I’ll get a chai latte with almond milk or a caramel macchiato if I feel like having something sweet. 

Pajamas or sleep in your clothes?

       – Both?! I have old clothes I designate as pjs.

Is a hot dog a sandwich?

       – Most definitely not. A hot dog is a hot dog. 

Do you have a green thumb or do plants have no hope under your care?

       – I wish I did! I love plants and have many in my apartment, but my husband is the one who keeps them alive. 

A Platform to Tell Their Stories

Los Angeles is a beacon of arts and culture; but, despite the wealth of theater, film, and music in our backyard, for many in this community, access to the arts remains painfully out of reach. As Antaeans, the right to creative self-expression is at the core of our values, and our arts education program, The Antaeus Odyssey Artists’ Workshop, empowers students to share their stories. 

We’ve grown our program to four campuses serving a wide range of needs and circumstances. Every week, teaching artists work with students at nearby Herbert Hoover High School; young men at the Rancho San Antonio Boys Home – a  residential center serving court-ordered teen boys; young women attending the New Village Girls Academy after dropping out of traditional high school; and people of all ages who leave gang life to get a new start at Homeboy Industries. Participants often have a history of trauma, and for many, this is the first time they’ve been granted creative freedom and a platform to tell their stories. 

The results are profound. As one 15 year-old participant shared, “I got to get closer to my peers and let out stuff I was holding in for a while. And they don’t judge you. We’re all family here.” A 17 year-old student said, “There’s a lot of support from the teachers, no matter what you write. It’s easier to talk about, when you know someone went through the same thing.” 

Our adaptive curriculum pairs Shakespeare with rap and contemporary poetry, emphasizing social and emotional learning. Through writing, speaking, and improvisation, we show students the power of working as an ensemble, and inspire them to find their voice and speak their truth.

We share this with you today as a reminder that a gift to Antaeus supports more than the extraordinary work you see on our stage. The generosity of this community has allowed us to make a difference in the lives of 200 students this year, and we urgently need your help to keep this program going. 

The time to give is now! Please consider making a gift before the end of our fiscal year on August 31 so that we can continue this vitally important work.  

 

 

Who was Bertolt Brecht?

Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht was born February 10, 1898 in Augsburg, Germany — a town of 90,000 people that is 40 miles northwest of Munich—to middle-class parents Berthold and Sophie Brecht. From youth, Brecht was notable for his confidence, intelligence, and ambition. He began medical studies at the University of Munich in 1917 in order to avoid conscription in World War I, but flaked on his medical courses and devoted his time to studying theater with Artur Kutscher, through him becoming a devout admirer of Frank Wedekind, whose expressionistic plays and ballads influenced a great deal of the young Brecht’s cabaret and coffeeshop experiments. In 1918, he wrote his first play, Baal, about an amoral Bohemian bard-balladeer who cruelly discards friends and lovers of both sexes. That same year, he began the anti-war drama Drums In the Night, which demonstrated Brecht’s disdain from a young age with war and the capitalist forces that benefited from it — partially motivated by the horrific things he saw working in a military hospital in Augsburg in 1918. Though he had a number of mistresses (some very high-profile celebrities) and children with various women, the most important woman in his life was actress Helene Wiegel, with whom he had two children, Stefan and Barbara. She was considered one of the finest German actresses of her time, and starred in Brecht’s The Mother (1932) and Mother Courage and Her Children (1940).

In 1924, Brecht moved to Berlin to work as an assistant dramaturg at Max Reinhardt’s Deutsches Theatre and established himself as a proletariat intellectual, attracting many with his charisma and passion for anti-establishment principles. In 1926, he began a fuller study of Marxism, and wrote, “When I read Marx’s Capital, I understood my plays.” Then 1927 saw Brecht beginning some of his most important collaborations, those with director Erwin Piscator and composer Kurt Weill, who would become Brecht’s primary composer for the music in his later plays. He formulated a writers’ collective that involved Elizabeth Hauptmann and Weill, and it was this group that adapted John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera into The Threepenny Opera. This was Berlin’s biggest hit production of the 1920s and catapulted Brecht to worldwide fame. His works into the early 1930s began to stimulate serious opposition from the growing Nazi-sympathizing base of German spectators, and Brecht had to flee Germany in February of 1933 in order to avoid persecution.

Brecht had multiple artistic projects in Prague, Zurich, and Paris, but eventually he and Weigel settled down in Denmark until 1939, when the outbreak of war relocated the Brecht family first to Stockholm and then to Helsinki. During this time, Brecht was incredibly despondent, and although he stayed busy with high profile collaborations and celebrity guests to his home, he felt doubtful about his role as an artist in what he called the “dark times.” Despite a growing pessimism, 1941 saw the premiere of Mother Courage and Her Children, and Brecht started writing a number of his anti-Nazi dramas that would later bring him further acclaim. However, as he came to feel that his role as a writer was diminishing in the face of Hitler’s encroaching conquests, he sought asylum in the United States, and moved the family there in July of 1941. Although Brecht struggled to adapt to his new home in many ways, it served as an inspirational laboratory for some of his most important theatrical experiments.

Though he had a fundamental opposition to Hollywood practices and aesthetic, Brecht tried to find work as a screenwriter (to little success) and he largely relied on the generosity and patronage of friends to stay financially afloat. American critics viewed Brecht as either overly-intellectual and pretentious or a Communist subversive. His early American writing saw the completion of two works that he had begun in his European exile years, The Good Person of Szechwan and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, both of which were highly inspired by his new surroundings.

His next two plays, The Caucasian Chalk Circle and The Private Life of the Master Race were, according to Brecht, subtly more targeted toward an American middle-class audience, and American critics grew to appreciate his work more when they saw him as a pacifist playwright rather than one devoted to class struggle. Brecht wouldn’t see the 1947 opening of his last “American” play, Galileo, as he began to attract unwanted attention from the House Un-American Activities Committee, who suspected him part of a larger supposed Communist infiltration of Hollywood. He outwitted the committee and escaped prosecution (unlike other prominent members of the “Hollywood 19”), but soon after boarded a plane to Paris and relocated his family to Zurich, and in 1949 permanently settled in what was now known as “East Berlin.”

In East Berlin, Brecht founded The Berliner Ensemble, and though he continued to write, his primary focus became directing and teaching the next generation of actors, writers, and dramaturges. He died on August 14, 1956 of a heart attack. Art historian Philip Glahn wrote of Brecht:

As an artist, he is usually described as developing from a happy anarchist to

a Marxist convert; he has been accused of being a staunch supporter of the

Communist party line, even of being a Stalinist. Yet the few things Brecht ever

held onto were his critical distance, his skeptical humor, and his pragmatic

commitment to observation. He always resisted the urge to fall in with

comfortable social and political mythologies, and his work was persistently

driven by the contradictions and complexities of situating himself and his

audience in an active and contingent relationship between image and reality,

mediation and experience.”

 

By Ryan McRee, Dramaturg for The Caucasian Chalk Circle

Photo courtesy of ForeignPolicy.com

Meet the Artist- Stephanie Alison Walker

Stephanie Alison Walker is the playwright of the first show of our 2019/20 Season, The Abuelas. Stephanie is an award-winning playwright whose works have been produced across the country. The Abuelas was developed right here in the Antaeus Playwrights Lab.

Get to know Stephanie- the person, the playwright, the… plant killer?

Where did you grow up?  

– Suburbs of Chicago with a few early years in London.  

How did you get into theater?

       – I worked as the Executive Assistant to the Executive Producer of a Broadway Production company in Chicago called Fox Theatricals. It was a very fancy introduction to the world of theatre as we were renovating the Cadillac Palace Theatre, developing Thoroughly Modern Millie and opening One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Gary Sinise at Steppenwolf and then Broadway. I was writing short stories and poetry at the time and decided to take a playwriting class. My first class was at Chicago Dramatists with Lisa Dillman. I was immediately hooked. 

Do you play a musical instrument? If no, is there one you would like to play?

       – I used to play the piano and would love to go back to it. Our 9-year-old started to learn the violin last year at school and it makes me wish I had learned a string instrument. I tried playing the guitar at one point, but wasn’t passionate about it and let it go. Oh- and there was a brief period where I bought a saxophone off of craigslist and took sax lessons at the Silverlake Conservatory of Music. I lived in a condo building and felt badly about torturing my neighbors. So that ended really before it started. Though, I do wish I could really wail on a sax. And I love the cello. That’s why I picked it for this play. I just love the sound and it also felt tonally like the perfect instrument for this story.

Do you have a food/dish you are known for making really well?

       – Sadly, no. I mean. I cook. Average. My 9-year-old is the sweetest and says I’m the best cook in the world. He has my heart. 

Symphonic concerts: love or snoozefest?

       – Love!

If you came with a warning label, what would it say?

       – Beware: Leo through and through.

What is one of your beloved family traditions?

       – Well, I don’t know if this counts as a tradition, per se… but being on the water. I come from a long line of boaters on my mom’s side. And we are drawn, pulled towards water. We always find a way to get there when we’re together. 

What is the best birthday present you have ever received?

       – My husband once surprised me with a trip to Vegas for my 30th. He took me to see Elton John’s show The Red Piano, I think it was called. And a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon. Nothing will ever top that. I felt so totally spoiled. 

Do you wear your heart on your sleeve or keep your emotions hidden?

       – Heart. On. My. Sleeve.

What words do you live by?

       – Tell the truth. Even when it’s painful or scary. Always. Especially.

If your life were a TV show, what genre would it be?

       – Dramedy.

What’s your go-to Starbucks order?

       – Venti drip coffee. 

Pajamas or sleep in your clothes?

       – Pajamas!

Is a hot dog a sandwich?

       – No. 

Do you have a green thumb or do plants have no hope under your care?

       – Poor plants. 

A Landmark Year for Antaeus Theatre Company

 

2018/19 has been a landmark season for Antaeus Theatre Company! As we approach the end of our fiscal year on August 31, we ask you to consider making a gift to help us continue our important work. 

Everything we do is made possible by the generosity of our community. Here are a just few highlights of what we’ve accomplished together over the last year:

  •  AWARDS   Antaeus received the most wins of any theater in this year’s LA Drama Critic’s Circle Awards, with three productions claiming a total of seven honors! The Little Foxes won for Best Ensemble, Featured Performance, Set Design, and Revival. Native Son won for Lighting and Sound Design, and Three Days in the Country won for Writing Adaptation.

 

  •  ON STAGE   This year we expanded our season to include a full calendar of four ambitious productions: The Little FoxesThe Cripple of Inishmaan, Diana of Dobson’s, and (now playing) Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle. We were also honored that Center Theatre Group mounted an encore of our 2017/18 production, Native Son, as part of their annual Block Party, celebrating the best in local theater.

 

  •  BLACK BOX   We inaugurated our secondary performance space this season with two new projects: Classic Sundays, a monthly play reading series; and LAB RESULTS, a festival of six new plays developed in the Antaeus Playwrights Lab. 

 

  •  EDUCATION & TRAINING   Antaeus is more than the award-winning work on our stage: The Academy offers unique, specialized training to professional actors throughout their careers; our Playwrights Lab works with prominent local writers to help cultivate the next generation of classic theater; The Antaeus Project provides a forum for in-depth study of the language, themes, and history of selected classical works and playwrights; and Teaching Artists in our Arts Education program share our love of theater with the wider community through regular visits to four partner sites. 

 

Antaeus is unique in the landscape of Los Angeles theater, and your support helps us create programming you won’t find anywhere else. Invest in a bright future for Antaeus by making a gift today!

Brecht, Chinese Theatre, and verfremdungseffekt

In The Caucasian Chalk Circle, there is a scene where two women each claim motherhood of a baby, and a judge must determine who is the mother. If this theme is ringing a bell, it should - it is similar to the Biblical story of King Solomon and the two mothers. For those of you who do not recall the story, here is a brief refresher: A baby is brought to King Solomon by two women, each of whom claims she is the mother of the child. King Solomon, unable to determine who is the biological mother (this is a bit before DNA testing) orders that the baby be split in two, so that each can have half a baby. One woman readily agrees, seeing the fairness of this judgment. The other woman cries in anguish for the child not to be harmed, that it’s better for the other woman to have the baby alone. King Solomon proclaims her the mother, because her unwillingness to have the child hurt proves her maternal love. 

 

Though a similar story is found in much folklore throughout the world - India, Greece, and Sumeria - the Chinese version is probably the most influential in the theatrical world. The Chinese version, translated as either The Chalk Circle or The Circle of Chalk, was written by Li Qianfu during the Yuan Dynasty (1259-1368). Influenced by his play, Stanislas Julien translated it into French (Le Cercle de Craie), Klabund into German (Der Kreiderkreis), and James Laver into English (The Circle of Chalk).

 

Bertolt Brecht’s first version of this tale was a short story. He changed it around, erasing the Chinese Imperial elements and changing how the women relate to the baby. In his theatrical version (Der Augsburger Kreiderkreis), Brecht further edited the story by moving the setting to medieval Georgia, adding the prologue in Soviet Georgia, and extending the story to play length.

 

In the case of Brecht, it is unsurprising that his piece can trace its origins back to the Chinese original. Brecht was heavily influenced by Chinese theater: another of his well-known plays is set in China - The Good Person of Szechwan. And Brecht was so impressed by what he saw in Chinese drama that he drew elements from it as he developed his theory of Epic Theatre.

 

Brecht’s theory of Epic Theatre sought to make theater more theatrical and less realistic, so as to force the audience to be aware they were watching a show and to think critically about the issues, instead of identifying emotionally and reaching a catharsis as in Aristotelian drama. He sought to engender a verfremdungseffekt, an estrangement effect, a separation between the audience and the characters on stage. Brecht noted several elements that he saw in Chinese theater which he thought could be used in Epic Theatre. For example, actors performed without the idea of a “fourth wall” separating them from the audience. Additionally, the actors used a series of symbolic gestures to externalize the character’s feelings, as opposed to naturalistic behaviors. Finally, the actors watched their own performances, keeping themselves alienated from the characters they were portraying. 

 

There is debate as to whether or not Brecht’s impressions of Chinese theatrical techniques are precise or misinterpretations. Either way, how he experienced Chinese theater had an important influence on his work. He began to incorporate narration and musical interludes in his plays, to create a separation between the actors and the characters they played. Similar to Chinese theater, Brecht wanted to eliminate the fourth wall, thereby eliminating the barrier between the actors and audience. Like in Chinese theater, the props, sets, and costumes are representational instead of exact.

 

Seeing a play by Brecht is a different experience than seeing Arthur Miller or Neil Simon. But there is no correct way to enjoy the show. Though his goal was to have the audience think critically, it is okay to connect emotionally. The musical interludes might jolt you out of the reality of the play, or you might just enjoy the songs (especially with the original music conceived by our cast.) However, if you want to honor Brecht’s intention, the best thing you can do is walk away from the show thinking critically about the issues and performance presented onstage.

Sources:

Cross- Cultural Encounters: Bertolt Brecht Meets Chinese Drama

The Chalk Circle

Shakespeare’s “Problem” Plays

To most high school students, all of Shakespeare’s plays are considered “problem” plays. However, as scholars use the term, it refers to several of Shakespeare’s plays which cannot be neatly classified.

When Shakespeare’s plays were printed in the First Folio in 1623, his plays were divided into three categories: history, tragedy, and comedy. The history plays are those which are based on different English monarchs, such as Henry V, Richard III, and King John. His tragic plays follow the classic Greek structure, focusing on protagonists with fatal flaws which lead to their downfall, such as Hamlet, Macbeth, and Othello. The comedies are the plays that end in marriage or betrothal, such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Then there are the “problem” plays. These are mainly comedies that do not tie up neatly or arrive at the marriages in murky ways. All of Shakespeare’s plays have moments of comedy and drama; in fact, that is true for almost any play. In drama, moments of comedy serve to break the tension, and comedy derives from characters dealing with trivial matters the same way as drama. The “problem” plays go beyond a blending of comedy and tragedy into areas of uncertainty. These plays deal with too many complex moral issues to be comfortably labeled “comedy,” but also lack the essential ingredients of tragedy. Measure for Measure, All’s Well That Ends Well, and Troilus and Cressida are the plays that typically fall into that category, but other plays also come under that heading: The Merchant of Venice, A Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, Timon of Athens, and The Tempest. The plays we are exploring over the next cycle of Classic Sundays, Measure for Measure, All’s Well That Ends Well, and Timon of Athens all fall into this “problem” category.

In Measure for Measure, Isabella is offered a choice: sleep with Angelo, the deputy governor, in exchange for her brother’s freedom from prison, or watch her brother be executed for a minor crime. On the other hand, there is a person in disguise, various tricks, and the play ends in betrothals. The heaviness of Isabella’s choice, matched with the typically comedic elements, and Isabella’s non-reaction to a proposal, are what make this play difficult to define.

All isn’t well in All’s Well That Ends Well. Though it ends in marriage, it comes about through trickery and bribery. Those themes are found in other Shakespeare comedies- however, in those the characters betrothed clearly like each other. Bertram’s quick turn from hatred to love is difficult to fathom.

As for Timon of Athens, it is listed as a tragedy rather than a comedy. This play does follow the tragic roadmap fairly faithfully. The problems with this play arise in authorship and publishing date. It is included in the First Folio, but there are no previous mentions of it, though the lack of act breaks suggest a publishing date prior to 1608. The varying skill level of authorship indicate that Shakespeare was not the sole author, but that he wrote it in partnership with Thomas Middleton.

Maybe because of their uneasy classification, the “problem” plays are intriguing to watch. These shows are less frequently produced, which means an audience can sit down in the theater and be surprised by each turn in the plot. These plays certainly inspire reflection and discussion, perhaps more so than something as well-known as Romeo and Juliet. How does an audience in 2019 ingest the sexual pressure in Measure for Measure or the celebrity worship in Timon of Athens?

Seeing a “problem” play can be a way of revitalizing Shakespeare. Instead of a known story that has been adapted almost ad-nauseam, one can experience Shakespeare as if he is new. Incredible for something written over 400 years ago. That does not seem like a problem at all.

 

Sources:

Shakespeare’s Problem Plays 

An Introduction to Shakespeare’s Comedy

Tragedy, Comedy, History? 

Photo Courtesy of New York Times

A Message from Our Artistic Directors

It’s a thrilling time at Antaeus and we’re eager to share some thoughts on our new season!

The plays in this season speak to questions of identity:  Who are we?  What are our values?  What matters to us as individuals, as families, as communities, and as society?  We’re eager to dig deeply into those themes, continuing to spark the kinds of vital conversations we know great theater can engender.

We are excited to be producing two plays that have been developed in the Antaeus Playwrights Lab.  Stephanie Alison Walker’s The Abuelas explores the awful repercussions of Argentina’s so-called “Dirty War” when the country was ruled by a military dictatorship (1976 to 1983).  Set in a current-day Chicago apartment, concert cellist Gabriela and her family have their lives turned upside down when two strangers arrive and expose a devastating secret.  The play explores the heart’s capacity for forgiveness, even in the face of the harshest of betrayals.  We’re excited to welcome back director Andi Chapman, who brought Native Son to such thrilling and uncompromising life.

The World Premiere of Jennifer Maisel’s Eight Nights follows the poignant journey of a World War II Jewish refugee and her family through eight decades in this heartfelt, lyrical portrait of a woman haunted by the past but resiliently moving toward the future.  As Rebecca moves through time the play explores the life that comes and goes in a single New York apartment — the families that we create and the ghosts of the past that both haunt and guide us.  Actors play multiple roles in creating this tapestry of the generations of one indomitable family.  The play will be helmed by longtime Company member Emily Chase.

We’re excited to return to Shakespeare and his brilliant “problem” play, Measure for Measure.  The issues the play addresses couldn’t be more pertinent — corruption, faith, sexual politics, and the struggle to do the right thing are themes that desperately call for exploration.  Plus the humor, wit, and intelligence of Shakespeare’s characters make this a thrilling choice for the Company.  The production will be directed by Ann Noble and Armin Shimerman.  They worked together on our revolutionary version of The Crucible (Armin as director, Ann as actor and initiator) and we’re delighted to have them together again on this timely piece.

A vibrant reading in our Library of The Time of Your Life has us eager to revive William Saroyan’s 1939 Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece.  Set in a seedy San Francisco bar and filled with a diverse and eccentric cast of desperate outsiders, it’s a true large cast ensemble play with an uplifting message of kindness and hope: “In the time of your life, live!”  And we’ve found the perfect director in Jennifer Chang — we welcome her to Antaeus!

In addition to these four full productions, the new season will find us returning to LAB RESULTS in our Black Box theater. Six new plays chosen from the Antaeus Playwrights Lab will have two readings each over the course of two weekends in January 2020.  It’s another festival you won’t want to miss!

We’re excited to continue our CLASSIC SUNDAYS reading series which has been so popular this season.  Curated by some of Antaeus’ most knowledgeable scholars (Nike Doukas, Julia Fletcher, Joel Swetow, and Gigi Bermingham) each month we’ll have a reading of a classic play in our Black Box Theater.

We think it’s going to be an amazing season — four productions, LAB RESULTS, and CLASSIC SUNDAYS.

Antaeus- Come See Us!

 

Cheers,

Bill Brochtrup & Kitty Swink

Artistic Directors

Diana- Two Different Views of Womanhood

Cicely Hamilton, playwright of Diana of Dobson’s (running now) was raised by foster parents. Her father was busy as a Captain in the Gordon Highlanders and her mother disappeared, assumed to have been committed to a mental institution. Is it because of the lack of her own mother that we do not learn about Diana’s mother in the play? We know about her father- Diana is dependent upon him, and it is due to his death that Diana is forced into the conditions we find her in. But when it comes to Diana’s mother, we know nothing.

Notwithstanding this, Diana of Dobson’s is a good choice of something to do this Mother’s Day with your mom.

In May of 1908 the first Mother’s Day celebration was held in Philadelphia, PA at a Methodist Church, leading to the holiday as we now know it. The organizer, Anna Jarvis, had conceived of the holiday as a way to honor the sacrifices mothers made for their children. She led a massive campaign to have Mother’s Day added to the national calendar by writing letters to newspapers and politicians. Her idea for the holiday was a day of personal celebration between mothers and families, along with church attendance and wearing a white carnation as a symbol.

That same year, only a few months earlier, Diana of Dobson’s premiered at the Kingsway Theatre in London. Cicely Hamilton’s play was also meant to honor women, though more to bring awareness to their living situation than to celebrate the unique nature of motherhood. The titular Diana is a free-willed, independent woman, determined to better her life.

Both Hamilton and Jarvis were women with strong views of how women were treated by society at large. Jarvis advocated for the addition of Mother’s Day as a national holiday because she thought most American holidays celebrated male achievements and that women deserved recognition as well. Hamilton is a well-known suffragist and feminist, her political views strongly evident in her plays.

Often, these two types of women – the kindly, strong mother and the free-spirited, career woman – are painted as opposites. Interestingly, though, in Roman mythology, one goddess, who shares the name of our production’s heroine, was patron to both types of women. 

That’s right, the goddess Diana, the virginal huntress, was also the goddess to whom pregnant women would pray for a healthy and easy childbirth. Why was the famously strong, single lady goddess connected with motherhood? Because of the inconsistency of mythology, there is no clear reason, though one theory is that because Diana was associated with the moon, which in turn is associated with women’s menstrual cycles, Diana became linked with childbirth. Another theory is that Diana acted as the midwife to her mother during the birth of her twin, Apollo.

For whatever reason, Diana and motherhood are connected. Yet in the modern mind, this is not how we think of Diana. The strong-willed woman who didn’t need a man is our more common association of her. It is surely this picture of Diana that Cecily Hamilton had in mind when creating her play. Her Diana proudly speaks her mind and wants a better life for herself. She is not content to be silent about the conditions in which she lives.

There is no one way to be a strong woman. Focusing on motherhood or on career, or trying to do both, depends upon the person. But this Sunday, we celebrate the strong women who are raising children and all of the sacrifices they make to ensure their children have the best lives possible. If you have the type of mother worth celebrating, bring her to the show or find another way to honor her this Mother’s Day.

 

Art Credit: Guillaume Seignac