|Posted by Kris Bauske on November 22, 2015 at 10:45 AM||comments (2)|
This letter was written in response to an email I received this week.
November 21, 2015
Dear Anonymous Theatre Patron,
The Artistic Director at your local theatre contacted me this week with disturbing news. He has selected my play, A Good Old Fashioned Redneck Country Christmas: The Musical for his 2015 holiday show, and it seems you disapprove of the term ‘Redneck’ in the title. You disapprove so much, in fact, you convinced the Artistic Director to change the title of my play. In the spirit of Christmas, brotherhood and goodwill, I’d like address your concerns.
First and foremost, I am the creator of the play in question. I labored long and hard to get that play to the form it’s in today. As the playwright, it is my right to name my creation anything I wish. You wouldn’t find it acceptable for the delivery room nurse in the maternity ward to tell you she disapproves of the name you’ve selected for your child, would you? You have a right to name your creation anything you deem appropriate. So do I. Moreover, my publisher and I have entered into a legal and binding agreement whereby my play is ONLY ever produced using the correct title. What you convinced your local Artistic Director to do is against the law! It infringes on my rights as an author. Fortunately, the publisher in this instance is Samuel French, and they have a long history of protecting the rights of their authors.
Second, the term ‘Redneck’ is widely used in comedy the world over. Jeff Foxworthy, who made the term a mainstream staple with his tremendously popular, “You might be a redneck if…” routine, has actually sold more comedy albums than any other artist in the world. A strong indicator that there are a fair few people who don’t see anything wrong with the use of this word.
You may think that because I’m a playwright, I live in NYC and look down on ordinary, hard-working, country folk. Nothing could be further from the truth! I actually live in the south, and I was raised in one of the redneckiest parts of the good old USA – Southwest Michigan. My cousins live for the start of deer season – not just regular deer season. No, they are bow hunters, sitting for hours at a time in deer blinds high up in sturdy Oak trees. My father traveled many times to shoot deer and elk in the Rocky Mountains, and I was raised fishing for Coho and Chinook on Lake Michigan and shooting squirrels and rabbits. (An aside for those who care, I am an avid animal lover, and I no longer shoot at any living thing, but I’m pretty darn good with targets. )
Comedian Richard Pryor made liberal use of another racial term in his memorable comedy routines. He referred to himself as ‘The N Word’, and he often used the term to speak of others as he shared hilarious glimpses into his life and upbringing. And you know what? I was never offended by that word, because Richard Pryor was making a statement about his experiences, and he had a right to use that word.
We regularly see racial commentary in comedy. Jeff Dunham has made millions traveling the world with a puppet that’s supposed to be a Muslim suicide bomber – Achmed the Dead Terrorist. Comedy allows artists to make a commentary on society and where we are and where the artist feels we should be, and most of all, comedy reminds us not to take the world too seriously.
Dear Theatre Patron, I would ask you to give my comedy a fair chance – see the play and hear the message – before you start putting pressure on the Artistic Director to change the title. Unless you’re willing to write a play, get it produced, get it published, and share your work with the world, you can never know the incredible commitment and dedication of a playwright. You can never know how much of ourselves we invest in our work, and you can’t begin to understand how it pains us to hear about a negative response from a patron who’s never bothered to see the show. If you’re a true patron of the arts, trust the Artistic Director at your local theatre, and please, give the play a chance. If you want to criticize it after you’ve seen it, I’m here, and I’m listening.
|Posted by Kris Bauske on August 30, 2015 at 9:35 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted by Kris Bauske on May 3, 2015 at 2:40 PM||comments (0)|
This lovely article ran during the 2014 production of "A Good Old Fashioned Redneck Country Christmas" in Saskatchewan, Canada. Sorry I didn't find it sooner. Enjoy!
Langham theatre troupe puts a hillbilly spin on Christmas tale
By Terry Pugh Clark's
It’s Christmas Eve in the little of town of Christmas, USA, and everybody’s got problems.
With their relationships. With their workplace. With their friends. Even with their phones. Nothing’s working.
Sounds like a recipe for a Good, Old Fashioned Redneck Country Christmas. And the Langham Theatrical Company is serving up another fresh batch this weekend.
At Lou’s Diner, Barbie Jo Fox (played by Corinne Waldner) is burning apple pies. Again. And her mother is ragging on her about her bad decision to marry Dave. She’s trying to sort out her problems with the help of her employer Lou Wexler (Treena Rowat) and co-worker Darlene Fulmer (Janene Bueckert). Janene is blessed with a pathological love for Christmas carols and a voice that sounds like “someone field-dressing a cat”, to quote Barbie Jo.
For his part, Dave (Steve Balzer) has high-tailed it up to a hunting lodge on Christmas Eve (Christmas Eve!) with his buddies Bill Wexler (Martin Bembridge) and Jimmy Weaver (Erron Leafloor). They’re looking for a break - Bill from his wife Lou and Jimmy from his girlfriend Darlene.
Meantime, it’s snowing to beat sixty outside, and with each passing hour, the blizzard is just getting worse and worse.
Holed up in the cafe are a marooned truck driver named Bob and his dog Bailey (Darrell Novakovski and his dog Bailey - what a coincidence); and Mark Riley, who’s studying to be a doctor like his dad.
Suddenly, a young pregnant woman named Mary Sue Archer drops into the cafe out of the blue after getting off a passing bus. She’s got no place to stay.
When Mary Sue decides to leave the cafe and gets lost in the blizzard, Mark sets off to find her. Truth is, he’s smitten, and when he finds her, the young couple stumble upon a horse barn on the outskirts of town. She’s about to give birth.
Meanwhile, the three hunters have had no luck bagging any game. They’ve run out of food. Their truck won’t start. They have no wood for a fire and their cell phones are not working. They set out back to town on foot, and come upon the scene in the manger.
These three wise guys aren’t wise men, but they come bearing gifts in spite of themselves.
It’s clear from the beginning where this allegory tale is headed, but it’s a sleigh full of fun watching the characters and the plot weave toward the pseudo-Biblical First Christmas-tale ending.
With plenty of one-liners and sight gags, this comedy hits all the right notes. But it also has just enough pathos and touching scenes to offset the levity. Plus the set is really cool. The hunting lodge paraphernalia comes direct from Archerwill, so you know it’s the real thing.
|Posted by Kris Bauske on May 2, 2015 at 4:15 PM||comments (0)|
I was honored to be interviewed for this article on gender parity in the theatre that ran the first weekend of May 2015. Click here to read the full article.
|Posted by Kris Bauske on April 15, 2015 at 12:45 AM||comments (0)|
Last month I was privileged to be a guest of the Phoenix Theatre in Phoenix, AZ. One of my plays had been selected for their annual Hormel Festival of New Plays, and they asked me to come spend a week with them developing the play and working with their staff. How could a playwright turn down such a delectable invitation? They had me at ‘Hello’.
As my travel day drew closer, I was incredibly impressed by the efficiency and professionalism of the staff. Did I want this flight or that? Direct flights were preferable, please. (Yes, they paid for my flight to Phoenix!) Could I give them a shopping list so they could put a few food items in my furnished apartment before I arrived? Sure! Yogurt and hummus! Yum!
As someone who’s grown accustomed to paying her own way to festivals when my work is selected, this was undreamed of luxury. A pleasant staff member picked me up at the airport and transported me to my home for the week; a tidy furnished apartment in an artist’s enclave near the theater. “Don’t worry about the rental car. Get some sleep. We’ll get your car tomorrow and bring it to you. Sleep well.” With that she was gone, and I dropped into a deep and glorious sleep.
The next day, I not only got my car, but I met my fabulous cast and director. I also had my first tour of the extraordinary facility the Phoenix Theatre calls home. To say I was impressed on all counts is an understatement. The actors were first rate and full of enthusiasm. The director took time to get to know me; my reasons for writing the play and my thoughts on the approach I’d taken with this particular piece – a drawing room comedy bordering on farce.
Was it normal to write a story about elder abuse as a comedy? Probably not for everyone, but for me, yes. I’m convinced laughter opens the soul and makes us more receptive to the stories we see on stage. I’ve taken this approach in a number of plays that have been very well received. Once the director, the brilliant and talented Pasha Yamotahari, understood my reasoning, he jumped in with complete abandon. And did we laugh?!
Remember, I am an East Coaster who was visiting Phoenix, so when rehearsals started at 5:30 PM each night, it was already 8:30 to my drowsy East Coast body. Still, I never grew tired watching these fabulously talented folks work with this script. Some nights, rehearsals went so well, both the playwright (Me) and the dramatuge (My good friend, John) laughed so hard we cried. Yes, the actors had scripts in hand, and yes, there were minimal props and sets, but you couldn’t have asked for more committed participants for a staged reading at a festival.
And the audience! Wow! These folks love new plays in Phoenix, and they are a knowledgeable, helpful group. I came away with a number of terrific suggestions that are already in the latest version of the play, and I also had some nice compliments that helped shore up that fragile artist’s ego. The best one? Intermission of the first night, I walked to the bar for a drink, convinced things weren’t going nearly as well as they had in rehearsals all week. There at the end of the bar was Michael, whom I’d never met before. He looked at me with a huge smile and asked me if I didn’t LOVE it! “I love it! I didn’t expect to, but I love it!” he gushed. When I didn’t immediately respond (shock, I suppose), he looked at me confused, and asked if I wasn’t enjoying the performance. I was sure he was pulling my leg, but I went with it. “Well, actually, I wrote it.” He was absolutely shocked. “Oh, gee. Kris. We thought Kris was a man because of the spelling.” “Most people do.” “Please, can I buy you a drink? I love your play!” And from that beginning, we chatted until Intermission ended. Needless to say, I felt much better going back for the second act after such unexpected praise.
Honestly, everything about the Hormel Festival of New Plays was unexpected, but in a good way. I had a tremendous experience, and I would definitely say this new play festival is by far the finest I have attended in all my years as a playwright, and there have been many. The staff is gracious and hospitable, and they leave no detail to chance. The actors were top-notch professionals; many were Equity. The director worked hard to understand my vision and bring it to the stage, and my dramaturge was helpful and insightful without being pushy and overbearing. I often find myself missing my new friends in Phoenix and hoping for the opportunity to return.
To my fellow playwrights, I can’t encourage you enough to send your best work to the Phoenix Theatre for their 2016 Hormel Festival of New Plays when the submission window opens later this year. To artistic directors who host new play festivals, I can only say, this is the blueprint you should hope to emulate. To my friends in Phoenix, you’ve given me the incentive to work hard to create another terrific play. Why? Simple. I want to be there again next year! I can’t thank you enough for a wonderful opportunity to see one of my fledgling plays come beautifully to life, and in the end, isn’t that what every playwright hopes for?
Now, who’s going to be the first theater to produce this one-of-a-kind comedy? As soon as the contract is signed, I’ll let you know. Thank you, Phoenix Theatre! See you soon! For more information on Phoenix Theatre, check out www.phoenixtheatre.com For more information on the playwright, check out www.krisbauske.com
|Posted by Kris Bauske on November 14, 2014 at 4:25 PM||comments (0)|
I should be blushing, but I really am "charming and loquacious"!
|Posted by Kris Bauske on November 7, 2014 at 3:45 PM||comments (0)|
Spoiler Alert: You may learn more about the plot than you really want to know if you read this article, but I post it for you to decide.
|Posted by Kris Bauske on November 6, 2014 at 5:05 PM||comments (0)|
Click this link to enjoy a wonderful article from my friend Matt Palm at the Orlando Sentinel: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment/arts-and-theater/os-kris-bauske-redneck-christmas-eustis-20141104-story.html
|Posted by DataWood on May 27, 2014 at 6:30 PM||comments (0)|
Don't forget to get your tickets for the Northeast Indiana New Play Festival hosted by the Ft. Wayne Civic Theatre May 29th - June 1st. My play "Whispers to the Moon" is the big winner this year, and it receives a full production from 5/29 - 6/15. I will attend the first weekend during play festival and will be honored to join Donald Margulies, Pulitzer Prize winner for "Dinner with Friends". Mr. Margulies will lead discussions after performances Friday and Saturday evenings, and there will be a reception in his honor Friday night. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or visit www.fwcivic.org for details!
|Posted by DataWood on May 27, 2014 at 6:25 PM||comments (0)|
(This is an excerpt from the letter I sent to the board members of ICWP - International Centre for Women Playwrights after our 2014 nomination season.)
Frustration and discouragement during the nominationseason drove me to post a question on social media: Should We Question Federal Funding for Arts Entities that Do Not Make An Effort to Achieve Gender Parity? Yes, we had a record-breaking number ofnominations this year, but for every theatre that was eligible to be nominated,there were easily 50 others that did not come close to gender parity. In many instances, there were theatres with season after season that included zero plays by women.
There were a lot of comments, as you might imagine, andI have been vilified and reviled more than I care to share. Still some good came of the discussion. Here are the best of the suggestionsgenerated from the long and involved discourse which followed:
A) Contact theatre sponsors directly and ask them to offer additional funding if theatresproduce plays by at least one woman per season. (Notice, this does not say, ask the sponsor to take money away from thetheatre if it refuses. This option wasconsidered quite combative and negative. I’m willing to start nice.)
This could be a time-consuming and difficult process if we use the small, local individual approach. I suppose we could propose it to the membership and ask if they would volunteer to approach localsponsors. We could also send out arequest in the form of a press release. Perhaps some papers would run the request, and it would reach companiesthat fund local theatres. Wouldn’t it begreat if the NY Times ran a piece asking theatre patrons to sweeten the potwhen women’s plays are part of a season?
B) Create a database of women’s works, which we have, and make it available to artistic directors who want to achieve parity but don’t know where to look. We have the database, although I’d like to see volunteers fill in any and all known plays from deceased women as well as living female playwrights. This will make the database more comprehensive. We must then promote the database ~ perhaps a short article or a letter to the editor of TCG and The Dramatist? We need to explain the problem and offer our database as the solution. Perhaps we could mention the idea of sponsorsoffering additional funding to theatres which include women in the letterand/or article. (Kill two birds with one stone!)
Is the database in good technical shape?
Can it be searched by non-members?
If not, may we change that so it can be searched by non-members?
C) Consider backing the creation of a consortium of investors on Broadway specifically for the production of women’s plays. All investors would know up front that each play would be produced, written, and directed by women. Investors could bemale or female, but all productions would be completely headed by a team of women.
This one takes money and serious commitment, but I’d love to see an all-female team beat the socks off the competition!
Most people felt certain that approaching lawmakers to discuss equal opportunity laws for NEA funding would take years and lead toa lot of negative pushback. Someexpressed certainty that artistic directors would resent being told which plays to use and would not put their whole heart into doing good productions of playsby women. This is probably accurate but terribly sad. As we decompress from nomination season and move forward, I would like to see us discuss the three suggestions outlined here and see if we can move forward with an action plan after our upcoming board meeting.