A Letter from the Editor,
It has been my privilege to be your newsletter editor for the past four years. There are a few small changes for 2017. First of all, the newsletter is in a new place on the website. It is in the News section and is available to the public, not just ICWP members. For 2017, I want Internationalism to be the newsletter theme. I plan to highlight a different country or region each month, starting with my own experience in China. I encourage you to nominate playwrights for the spotlight, especially those from developing countries. Also new for 2017, we will have a Meet the Board column, starting next month with our president, Sophia Romma. The February issue will give some important information about the 50/50 Applause Award. January Spotlight: Mona Curtis
Mona is a self-taught artist and playwright. She is also an ESOL teacher living and working in Xinzheng, Henan Province, People’s Republic of China.
I have lived in very remote areas, first in New Plymouth, Idaho and now in Henan Province in The People’s Republic of China. And it’s hard to say which is more remote. ICWP and its listsev has been my lifeblood artistically. I had my first production this summer at age 58 thanks to submission opportunities that arrive in my mailbox and insights from other playwrights.
I came late into playwriting. I wrote my first play when I was 40 and had my first production at 58. And I am completely self-taught, something that is both good and bad. The good thing about it is that I’m free to have very original ideas about theater so much so that some of the things I write are completely unproduciable.
But only now, after my first production, do I really think of myself as a playwright. It’s a new and somewhat frightening avenue that has opened up in my life.
As newsletter editor, I want the 2017 newsletter theme to be Internationalism so I will tell you a little about my life in China as an English teacher. Although I live in China, I don’t speak Chinese so I’m really in no position to talk about theater in China. However I do teach at a university and know a lot of bilingual Chinese teachers and students. Last week I asked my students if they had ever been to a play and only one of 270 students had. I have several Chinese friends who are teachers and university graduates and none of them have ever been to a play either. China loves spectacles and they have some incredible performances in dance, both modern and traditional, martial arts, magic shows and puppetry, but not much in the line of what they call “modern realistic theatre.” All that being said, I’m sure there is theater in China and I will continue to look for it and keep you posted on the listserv.
A few years ago, I hired a Chinese student to help me look for theaters for the 50/50 award. I explained to her that live theater was often a critique of society. She said that sometimes there were some very short plays like the ones I described in Spring Festival Gala. The Spring Festival Gala is a live televised 2-hour (at least) program that almost the entire 1 billion Chinese watch each year.
So as for the question of free speech in China, I can only tell you what I know from my little perch. I feel very safe in China and I don’t see a lot of fear among my students either. Asia is a more resigned culture than the West. They’re not up in arms about real or imagined injustices at the drop of a hat. And they’re more respectful of traditions. China has made great strides in the last 30 years. Just as they have planted 1 million trees a year for the past 30 years, they are working hard to bring infrastructure and education to their 1.37 billion citizens. There’s certainly a long way to go, but I think the average Chinese believes that being optimistic and working toward a goal is more effective than confrontation.
As for families, we recently watched a movie about police officers in the United States. The focus of this movie was that most crimes are committed by people who come from fatherless homes. This is a big problem in the United States, but it is not a big problem in China. Almost all families are very supportive and the children, for the most part, want to honor their parents by obeying them. This is not to say that there are not problems with this attitude. When I talk with my students, I estimate that a full third of them do not like the major that was chosen for them by their family. On the other hand, I think a lot of young people in the United States would be much better off if they had some healthy respect for their parents and listened to what their families had to say. That is the value of diversity and cross cultural understanding. When we are so immersed in our own culture, it becomes invisible to us and other ways of understanding the world upset our values and force us to expand our thinking.
As for the status of women, first of all, it is not good. Secondly, like all things in China, it’s changing fast. Boys are more valued than girls even in the professional classes. One of my good Chinese friends, a college graduate and headmistress of a school, put it this way. “Until I have a boy, my mother has a headache.” Women who have at least one son are free to leave off childbearing. If they only have a daughter, they feel compelled to have more children until they have a boy. However there are many individuals and organizations in China whose sole purpose is to foster leadership among women and the landscape is changing.
Actually, I love living and working in China. The picture that you see is me with a Regong artist I met in Qinghai Province this October. And I just got back from a 2-hour massage that cost me 10 USD. The people are here friendly, optimistic and tech savvy. Most people purchase everything, including soda from a vending machine, from their phones. (I don’t. I still haven’t figured it out.) And I love the prices. A pot of acrylic paint that would cost 10 USD in the United States is 50 cents here.
Creating the newsletter from China is sometimes challenging when the Internet is not reliable. Everyone assumes China’s Internet would be amazingly fast. And maybe it is in Beijing or Shanghai. But I live in Henan, one of the poorest provinces in China, and it can go off for days at a time. That being said, I am able to successfully edit the newsletter. It just takes a little more patience.
And why do I do what I do? Quite by accident, I was nominated to the Board a few years after joining ICWP. Becoming a part of the board conversation made me aware that communication was one of the greatest needs of the organization so I suggested the newsletter. I encourage you to join in the conversation in our general meeting or in the listserve and look for a small job to do. Maybe you’ll get lucky like me and find your niche.
Welcome New Members
Courtney Fraces Fallon, USA
My mother went into labor shortly after 5AM on Friday, June 8th, 1984. Four short hours later I flew out of the birth canal like it was a water slide, with such force there was an explosion of birthing fluid that soaked my mother. Plenty of time to rinse off the mucus plug and other birthing goo and warm up with a nap in an incubator before hitting happy hour. I hit the ground running but decided to wait several decades until the time was right to blow your mind with my brilliance. NOW IS THE TIME! Be on the lookout for my work... it'll be looking out for you.
Stacey Katz, USA
I am a playwright and poet. My ten-minute play, Your Secret Beauty was produced as part of the SHORT PLAYS BY DIVAS at DivaFest, April 2, 9 and 10th, 2016 in Indianapolis. Big Hunger, a ten-minute play, was featured in the Indy Fringe and Indiana Writers Center Short Play Festival, April 17th and 18th, 2015 in Indianapolis. A one-act version of Big Hunger is in the works as is my first young adult novel.
Margo MacDonald, CANADA
Margo MacDonald is a Canadian multi-award winning actor, playwright, and theatre creator who has been making theatre for over 25 years. In 2010, she wrote and performed in the smash hit, Shadows, (about theatre maverick Eva Le Gallienne) which won the Ottawa Fringe (Canada) Outstanding Overall, Best of Fest, and Fan Favourite awards that year. It went on to the undercurrents: theatre below the mainstream festival at the Great Canadian Theatre Company (where the show’s tickets sold out a week before it opened), and has since played to rave reviews at Videofag in Toronto, Canada (curated by Jordan Tannahill and William Ellis), and the Tea House Theatre in London, England. She is the co-creator (with Richard Gelinas) of Much Ado About Feckin’ Pirates! which played at the Toronto Festival of Clowns mainstage, undercurrents festival, and SpringWorks. Her first solo show, The Elephant Girls, premiered at the 2015 Ottawa Fringe. There it sold out 100%, won Best of Fest, Critics’ Pick for Best Show, and Outstanding Overall, and was held-over for two additional performances (which also sold out). It then went on to receive three Prix Rideau Awards (Ottawa professional theatre awards) for Outstanding New Work, Outstanding Performance, and Outstanding Direction. It also sold out its entire run at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival (Canada). This show is currently touring internationally, and has recently returned from a highly successful run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. She is currently co-writing a play about punk rock (The Persistent Stain), another about a 17th-century, French, bisexual, cross-dressing, female, sword-fighter, opera singer, and duelist (Maupin), and yet another about Radclyffe Hall and Noel Coward holding séances (Rap Once For Yes).
Gabriela Sosa, PANAMA
Hail from Panama - as in the Isthmus.
First play I wrote was a musical: Don Panzote en la víspera del año 2000
Currently working on a one-woman-show that is an adaptation of my novel Love in the Time of Taksim
Now Playing & Coming Soon
I f you have a play or a reading between February 1 – February 28, please email Amy (
before January 15 and it will be featured in the NOW PLAYING column of the February newsletter. Any play or reading in March will appear in the COMING SOON column.