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December 2015 Newsletter

24 Dec 2015 8:54 PM | Mona Curtis

This month's issue is on the topic of women and humor and features ICWP president Karen Jenyes and vice president Lucia Verona.

December Spotlight: Lucia Verona, ICWP Vice President

by Suzanne Richardson

Q: Do you have a favorite genre you like to write?

A: Yes, I love writing comedy, all my plays are comedies.

Lucia Verona is a Romanian playwright, novelist, short story writer, translator and ICWP vice president.  Since 2011, she has been part of a team with the aim of translating all of Shakespeare's works and it was for this endeavor that she won the Romanian Writer's Union highest literary honor in August of this year.   

"Translating Shakespeare is an award in itself."  Lucia Verona

Question: When did you start playwrighting?

Answer: In 1976 or 1977, I don't remember exactly.  I wrote my first three plays together with my husband, H. Salem, who was a playwright and a fiction writer. Two of them were performed, one in Bucharest as a musical comedy, the other in another town. We also wrote sketches, monologues and short plays for radio and television. My first play written alone was in 1989; it was translated to French and had a public reading in the theatre Essaion in Paris in 1990. Now I have lots of plays, some performed on stage, others had public readings. Almost all were published. 

I also write fiction, novels and short stories. Since 2010 I been writing mystery fiction as well. 

In addition to writing, I am also a translator, from English, French and Hungarian to Romanian. I translate novels, poetry and, of course, plays. A few years ago I became part of a team with the aim to translate all Shakespeare's work. I have already translated six plays and am working on the seventh. 

Q: When you write, do you focus on developing characters first, or the plot?

A: That depends on what I want to say and how. Sometimes the plot is more important, sometimes one character "asks" for further developing. I found that characters have a way of developing themselves, almost without my help, and they can alter the initial plot. Most of the time they are right.

Q: What is your writing process like? Do you have any rituals?

A: No rituals. I think a lot - all the time - about the play or novel I want to write. I research if necessary, then I only need two or three days without pressures of any kind (no bills to pay, no friends to meet, no invitations to the theatre), then I can start. After the first pages, I usually (but not always) write the ending to be sure not to lose my way. However, sometimes I have to change the ending.

I write usually at night and in the morning. I write better when I am on holiday because I am freed from any cares. I think the best place to write is on airplanes. There the only problem is that smoking is not allowed. 

Q: How did you learn about ICWP?

A: I was browsing the Internet for some resources, saw the ICWP website and I thought it could be interesting to be a part of an international organization. So I wrote. It was Mags who answered and offered me a service membership. This happened in 2006, if I remember correctly.

Q: How did you get involved in the Bucharest Writers' Association?

A: I have been a member of the Romanian Writers Union since December 1989.  I coordinated the Bucharest playwrights' branch for about ten years, organizing also the Dramatists' Club every month; now there is somebody else, but I am still on the board. 

Q: Where do you pull most of your inspiration from when creating characters? Do your past studies of music and opera have a large influence on your writing?

A: I am not sure. Certainly from life, though some of my best characters are entirely invented. Also, I have a few real life characters in some of my books. I cannot speak about a large influence of my musical studies on my writing, but my best-known character in fiction is a famous opera singer, a coloratura soprano who plays detective in her spare time. She appeared first in a play, then in two novels and a lot of short stories. Whether it means the influence of studies or something else I cannot say and, in my opinion, it is not important. It is only the result that counts.

Q: Do you have a favorite genre you like to write? (Comedy, drama, fantasy, etc.)

A: Yes, I love writing comedy, all my plays are comedies. But sometimes in the end there is drama, too, or even death.

Q: What would you say was your most rewarding moment as a playwright or writer in general?

A: I have many such moments - awards, performances, reviews of my books, directing a play, meeting my readers, and reading in schools. I would say though, the moment I am most proud of happened on August 31, this year: Together with my fellow translators, I got the Romanian Writers Union Award for my translations of Shakespeare, the highest literary award. Or really, it might be my best moment as a writer has been this period since 2011, when I started translating Shakespeare, which is fabulous. Translating Shakespeare is an award in itself. 

Q: What advice would you give to a young woman just starting out as a playwright? 

A: It is difficult to give advice. I would say to a beginner playwright - woman or man: Go and see as many plays as you can. Also, and maybe more important, read all the plays you can find, starting with Aeschylus and Sophocles to the present-day authors. Don't forget what Chekhov said: If you see a shotgun in the first scene, it must shoot before the end of the play.

To young women playwrights I would add: competition is harder for a woman, don't give up!

Welcome New Members

 Antonia Brancati, Rome, Italy

Theatre runs in my family: my mother was famed actress Anna Proclemer and my father was the great novelist and playwright Vitaliano Brancati.

After living and working for years on and around the stage, in 1991 I become a Literary Agent for the theatre, representing in Italy, just to name one, Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter.

In 1993 my first Play Preoccupazione per Lalla (They All Worry about Lalla) was staged with a good success at Teatro Politecnico in Rome. Since then, I have never stopped working as an agent, a translator and a playwright.

My plays have been often published both in volumes and on theatrical reviews.

In 2012 she is one of the founder of CeNDIC (National Centre of Italian Contemporary Playwrights)

A Dangerous Passion is the first Play I wrote contemporarily in Italian and English, while following a seminar held by Donald Freed.

Representative Play: PAST IMPERFECT (AKA I Would Prefer Not To)

M. Darlene Carson

M. Darlene Carson is the founder and visionary of Words to Life Drama Ministry (WTLDM). The theater company has a mission to evangelize the community for Christ through thought provoking, entertaining and inspirational plays. In each production, we seek to effectively inject biblically based messages in a way that reaches the heart of people and preserves the integrity of biblical text, messages and the Body of Christ.

WTLDM has been presenting live theatre for over 20 years. Though we are a community drama troupe, we strive for excellence and professionalism in all that we do. We promote and nourish community spirit, providing mutual support and encouragement to individuals, other ministries and cultural arts groups.

The curtain rose on WTLD Ministry's first production in 1986 and its original and produced dramas include: Ain't No Half-Step'n; Those Sorry Sain'ts; The Promise; A Wing and A Prayer; Shut Up In The Church; Saints and and Ain’ts; Love Knots; Love Knots, Too!; That’s Life!; and Preacher, Preacher!

Stephanie Lenore Kuehn

Articles of Interest
by Patricia Morin

Are Women Funny?  Yes We Are.  And That's Not Funny.

An article in the November, 2015, The Atlantic magazine, “The Plight of the Funny Female” by Olga Khazan explores several aspect of women and humor. An interesting experiment by Laura Milkes at the University of California San Diego brings to light another instance of how women see themselves in comparison to men. 

Men make so many joke-attempts, in fact, they are assumed to be funnier—even when they’re not. After they had finished captioning, the students in Mickes’s study filled out a questionnaire about how funny they thought others would find their captions, and also whether they thought men or women were the funnier sex in general. Male participants said that, on a scale from one to five, their cartoons were an average of 2.3 in funniness. The women gave themselves a 1.5. Even worse, 89 percent of the women and 94 percent of men responded that men, in general, are funnier.

In a follow-up experiment, Mickes asked a new set of participants to read the captions generated by the first group and guess the gender of the writer. Both men and women misattributed the funnier captions to male writers.    

To read more:

ICWP tackled that same question in their 2014 contest, “Are Women Funny?”  Jacqueline Goldfinger and Jennifer MacMillion co-wrote the play “Enter Bogart” for young actors, especially for girls. “No one is perfect and none of them "fit in" yet everyone is exuberantly marching to the beat of their own drum. So much of “Enter Bogart” is about embracing who you are, even if you love science, or old pop culture references, or wear headgear, or like to sing everything you say instead of speaking--it's all good if it's who you are and you're not hurting anyone else.” 

 ICWP President Karen Jeynes was recently in New York to attend the Emmy Awards as head writer for Puppet Nation ZA.  Puppet Nation is a satirical comedy caricaturizing politicians and other celebs and was nominated in the Comedy category.

ICWP interviewer asked the question: What makes you laugh?

Jenn: I like smart, character-driven comedy. I grew up watching a lot of I Love Lucy and the Carol Burnett Show … I also think earnestness is refreshingly funny, (too many people are too jaded these days!), and larger than life characters. My wobbly special needs cat makes me laugh. People that don't take themselves too seriously make me laugh. Underdogs of all kinds have huge comedic potential (hint: we're all underdogs!). Comedy is the stuff of life, and its all around, so I'm always laughing.

The theme of “underdogs”, “not taking themselves too seriously”, and “larger than life characters that are still grounded in something identifiable” are qualities that Puppet Nation ZA, a comedy South African TV show, imbues, and for which our President, Karen Jeynes, is lead writer. The show was nominated for an Emmy in the “humor” category this year.

Puppet NationZA is satirical puppet show first produced in 2008 by Both Worlds, a Cape Town, a South African production company. The show is a daily and weekly satirical news program in the form of a mock puppet television newscast and features on both the web and TV. ZANEWS features key local and international political figures and celebrities. “Make humor and not war,” is its motto. You can see some of the shows here:

Karen has a “passion for personal relationships, a fascination with chaos theory, and a penchant for the comedy in everyday life. Her work includes: Vaslav, Everybody Else (is fucking perfect), The Happy Factory, I’ll Have What She’s Having, sky too big, Getting There, The Best or Nothing, and Laying Blame, as well as several short plays and monologues in the ICWP Singular Voices. I have asked to interview her by asking some questions relevant to her work and humor, as a TV puppet-show writer and playwright.

Yours for innovative, engaging, and equitable theater,

Mona Curtis
Newsletter Editor

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