On Kindness

by Analyn Revilla

Sometime today, a man calls his doctor to say he’s running a little late.  He is literally five minutes away, and that he’s already in the parking lot and he’s awfully sorry.  He’s at the lobby where there are elevators to choose from – one side leads to the West Wing while the other goes to the East Wing.

An elderly man approaches the elevators.  He is confused as to which elevator to take.  Meanwhile, the other man, already late for his appointment, realizes he’s in the wrong building.  He had transposed the building address of 2634 to 2143. The other building is another ten minutes away. Then there’s also the problem of finding parking.  The elderly man looks to the left then to the right and then at the address written on a piece of paper. He shoots a helpless expression to the other guy.

Anxious that he is already late, and his doctor had arranged for a technician to come specifically to give him an EEG test, he asks the man where he needs to go. He verifies the name in the directory listing and escorts him to the correct elevator.

Driving to building 2634, he considers calling the office again to let them know he’s running later than he said earlier.  He reconsiders. It wouldn’t make sense, because he had already said he was ‘only 5 minutes away’. That was twenty minutes ago.

When he walks into the doctor’s office, the EEG Technician named Melinda is clearly unimpressed. She is due at another location for more EEG exams after his appointment. The receptionist is uncomfortable. He attempts to ease the tension by first offering a box of See’s chocolates to her. She smiles generously with a warm ‘Thank you.’ Then he draws a second box of the same for Melinda, but her trite ‘Thank You’ and tense expression only deflates the mood.  She marches him to an examination room.

Inside, she asks him to roll up the sleeve of his left arm, and as he does this he exposes a bruised and swollen forearm. ‘Where did you get that?’, she asks him.  ‘At the Endocrinologist’s office when they tried to draw blood.’ he says.  That was less than a week ago. Her left eyebrow lifts. ‘Really.  Which one?’  Upon giving his answer she says, ‘My husband and I go to his office. He is an excellent doctor, but I never let them take my blood there.” She pauses. ‘They just don’t know how to draw blood over there.  Someone should tell them.’

Having something in common between with them, he senses a softening of her eyes and her lips. She assures him the bruising and swelling will clear up. After an hour of running tests, before he leaves, she tells him that she has a sweet tooth and the chocolates are perfect.

Crash Landing on Plot

by Kitty Felde

I’ve been thinking a lot about plot.

A writer friend recently had a zoom performance of her play, a lovely piece about the power of grief and recovery. The last scene is a reprise of the top of the play, flashed back in time, full of the ugly and raw emotion of loss. Several “critics” urged her to expunge the scene. “It isn’t needed,” said one. “Anticlimactic,” said another. What they were saying was that the script didn’t follow the classic Greek model of rising action, climax, and denouement. Or, the penis model, as I like to call it.

Instead, the writer used a circular structure for the play. Which, some argue, is a more organic way of writing for the female storyteller. Yes, you start at point A and return there, but the protagonist hasn’t necessarily “learned something” or “changed,” which are requirements for the official “circular” plot. The writer just finished the story. Period.

The writer rejected the criticism, by the way.

Sticking to the Aristotelian structure has become even more formulaic in recent decades, something I call the “Save the Cat” effect. The popular book by Blake Snyder has become a template for most movies and far too many plays. It’s gotten to a point that I can pretty much predict exactly what will happen next – something I do, by the way, that drives my husband crazy.

Until I watched Crash Landing on You.

Crash Landing on You



It’s a South Korean episodic drama about a poor little rich girl out paragliding and gets blown across the DMZ to North Korea. It’s wonderful – funny, not too scary, full of social and political commentary, but mostly a love story. It’s also incredibly well written by veteran screenwriter Park Ji-Eun.

The show is a worldwide hit. Viewers in India are reportedly learning Korean. A fan in the Phillipines has written a song about the show. Even Chicago Cubs Manager David Ross is a fan.

And here’s the thing: I could never predict what happens next. I was continuously surprised and delighted. As a writer, I kept asking myself, “how did she do that?”

It’s not just me. A playwriting pal had exactly the same reaction. Neither of us can figure out the structure of the story, yet we couldn’t stop watching. What magic is Park Ji-Eun using? And more importantly: can we steal it?

My playwright pal and I have decided to make a formal study of the series, each of us taking one episode and dissecting it, then comparing notes. We’ll likely be applying whatever structure secrets Ji-Eun uses in our next plays.

And here’s the good news: there’s rumors of a second season!

Are you a circular writer? Have you rejected Aristotle’s triangle of plot structure? Have you gotten pushback? Is there a better way to tell a story?

And can you figure out the structure in “Crash Landing on You” on Netflix?

Kitty Felde is a playwright, podcaster, and children’s mystery writer. Her second book in The Fina Mendoza Mysteries series State of the Union comes out this summer.


On Sea-Monkeys, Monologues + Producing Your Own Work

by Chelsea Sutton

I love a good monologue. My first full length play, 99 Impossible Things, was FULL of them. Too many, in fact. Far too many. I directed and produced that play in January and February of 2011, and at the time I was working at Garry Marshall’s theatre in the Valley. He read the play, and, in a few margin notes, reminded me that while monologues are great, don’t underestimate the power of a look or a gesture or silence to express everything a half page monologue can, almost always more succinctly, and sometimes in a way that words can never reach.

I’ve tried to keep that in mind when approaching each new play; though I never write a play without that ONE monologue. I have to have ONE somewhere. Maybe it’s a bad habit.

Harold and the Sea Monkey in 99 Impossible Things.

It’s now been 10 years since 99, the first thing I directed and produced and wrote in LA. The first thing that was unequivocally mine. There was nowhere for me to hide. Even though I had amazing collaborators, designers, and actors, there was no doubt that this THING you were seeing would be blamed on me.

Let’s be clear that it wasn’t a particularly good play. It was probably too long. It probably had too many characters and storylines. The monologues, as much as I still love them, were a bit on the nose. Playwright me NOW would rip it apart.

A sea monkey was a character. And it was about a group of people processing grief. 

The critics as a whole did not enjoy this play. And I got a lot of crap for being 25 and having the gall to both write AND direct a play while being a woman. I had to process the feeling of working very hard and putting my own money and all this time into something that could be so easily dismissed. But it was an exercise in gratitude. 

People were coming and watching and having thoughts about the play, after all. Writing things about it. Spending their time on it. It’s really the most a writer ever wants. I made a lot of people cry at the end of the play. Always my goal. I did have a lot of people personally tell me how much they connected to it, enjoyed it, were touched by it.  So while I didn’t get a critic’s choice in the LA Times, I got encouragement to keep going, and a lesson in the importance of and sticky art of criticism.

One of the best notes I got was from a professional psychologist, a family friend, who told me how truthful it was, to the process, to grieving specifically, and how could I already know those things?

My answer right now is that I think most of us already know these things in our bones. Some of us are forced to confront things sooner than some. And some spend their whole lives avoiding the silence that will make them have to face, well…anything uncomfortable.

In the play, the most uncomfortable character comes in the form of a Sea Monkey, who silently haunts the character of Harold, and whose silence and final lines of the play speak volumes more than many of the monologues. A Sea Monkey who represents something that was lost, something that will never return, no matter how much you want it.

This is a piece of a monologue from the play that feels most resonant right now to me: 

“There’s this spot on the wall in my kitchen – I have this awful olive green paisley wall paper from the ‘60s that was there when I moved in – and there’s this spot where the seam is, where they ran outta paper and patched it, and the design doesn’t quite match up, the little dots and twirls just end abruptly, sorta lost to the infinite void all of a sudden. That’s how things are usually – there’s no smooth exit, no gradient shading us out. So whenever I feel like I might explode, I sit on the counter and I stare at that spot in the kitchen, and I try forget.” – Harold, 99 Impossible Things

I feel like I’m living in that weird patched up wallpaper right now. And, unlike my character Harold, I’m trying not to forget.

To make sure I don’t forget, I decided to create and produce a play again on my own. Well, a kind of play. A play through the mail. A play made up of interactive fiction, audio drama, found objects, and phone calls. A “play” of disparate voices, alone, trying to find what is lost.

An image from Spite & Malice, the postal play.

I’m a little bit terrified of putting this into the world. It’s deeply personal, I’m processing things as I’m creating, and it’s a kind of thing I haven’t really created before. It doesn’t feel particularly safe. I can’t promise anything when it comes to the outcome.

But when I did 99, it was also new to me. I’d written it as a final project in college and my little theatre group and I put up our college production. That was scary, but it was a safe space. I could easily dismiss it as a thesis, as a work in progress. Producing it as a main stage show in 2011 seemed to be saying: hey all, come look, this is finished, come have thoughts.

And so, here I am again.

And yeah, there will be monologues.

Perhaps, though we need a reminder from the Great himself:

I had a reviewer friend come see 99 and wrote me an email comparing it to The Time of Your Life by Saroyan. I still have not read that play, but I offer this quote, to those who could use it. It is a cousin in sentiment to a the Mary Oliver poem “When Death Comes” by Mary Oliver, which I read at my grandmother’s funeral on December 23, 2020:

In the time of your life, live—so that in that good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches…Have no shame in being kindly and gentle but if the time comes in the time of your life to kill, kill and have no regret…In the time of your life, live—so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.” ― The Time Of Your Life

I have no concluding thought for this. This monologue has already been long enough. There is, perhaps, no conclusion to draw from the moment we’re all in except to keep creating, keep living, keep doing and being the best you can.

Dying Continents…

by Robin Byrd

Yesterday, I attended a wonderful webinar hosted by Hedgebrook, “Exit Strategies: How to End a Poem” with Chet’la Sebree, author of Mistress, Field Study. Ms. Sebree generously shared her jewels and knowledge with us. The atmosphere was inviting. Community in Hedgebrook webinars is really comforting and uplifting. To write together is nice once in a while. We learned more than “endings”. The webinars are recorded and there is always a “holding space” segment after the webinar where the participants who can stay have more time to discuss the art or any other things with the instructors. This is the part that makes the community so comforting and inspiring.

We worked on exercises using poetry that we had already written or new pieces. Below is a new piece that I started in the webinar but seems to be evolving. Poetry has been something that I have written and read all my life; something I make a point to continue to study – it never hurts to work on craft.

Dying Continents

The earth shook ferociously
Tsunamis terrorized the coastlines
Whole towns destroyed
Whole futures washed away in an instant

When things shift
There is no time to steady yourself
against the moving tectonic plates forcing new terrain
Or time to gather the energy to do more than stand

I am bound to the memory
Of the theft
Of things that cannot be restored
Or salvaged
Of organs failing
Of bleeding out damned spot

We wait for endings,
songs and measured grace
Grace to cover
Grace to continue
Did we forget
Or simply let it go

They say there is a new continent
Built on the scars
They say there is new contentment
In unchartered lands
New content
In place of what had been

by Robin Byrd 2-27-2021

Toni Morrision’s Song of Solomon Marathon Reading

Literary Partners is doing a marathon reading of Toni Morrison’s book “Song of Solomon” on YouTube. You can hear it read live if you sign up for the free event and you can also donate to Literary Partners when you register.  Tomorrow, 2/28/2021, Part Three will also be read live.  You must register to attend the live event at https://litpartners2020.org/toni-morrison/

A group of writers are reading it; it’s quite captivating and wonderful. The reading has such a flow to it.  I have binge-watched television shows but this is a whole new way to experience the reading of a book.  I am loving the difference in each reader yet the singular magnificence of Ms. Morrison’s work.

Readers: Brit Bennett, Edwidge Danticat, Hilton Als, Jacqueline Woodson, Jason Reynolds, Jennifer Egan, Jesmyn Ward, Lorrie Moore, Louise Erdrich, Margaret Atwood, Ocean Vuong, Robin Coste Lewis, Tayari Jones, Tommy Orange and Yaa Gyasi. 

Introductions by: Kevin Young, Andrea Davis Pinkney and Lisa Lucas.

A Tribute to Toni Morrison: Song of Solomon Marathon Reading
Dates and times for live reading event.

Links to portions read Live on February 26 and 27:

Part One https://youtu.be/8V_Mn3n91Hs 

Part Two https://youtu.be/Mi-0xR3TsA0 

Part Three will air live tomorrow.  Please take into consideration the time zone so you do not miss it.

Thoughts on Black Stories…

There is always discussion on the right or wrong/ness of other ethnicities writing stories outside of their ethnicity.  As writers, we all know that you have to write the stories that want to be told through you.  Not long ago, black stories were only allowed to be told through white writers as black writers were considered “less than able” to tell our own stories. A classic black story is Sounder which garnered both Golden Globe and Academy Award Nominations for the late Cicely Tyson, an extraordinary actress who lived with purpose.  Had the story not been written, she would have never had the opportunity.  The white author of Sounder admits the story came from his black school teacher.

“But one night at the great center table after he had told the story of Argus, the faithful dog of Odysseus, he told the story of Sounder, a coon dog.  It is a black man’s story, not mine.  It was not from Aesop, the Old Testament, or Homer.  It was history – his history.” – Sounder by William H. Armstrong 

The unfortunate thing was that author couldn’t seem to remember his teacher’s name to give him actual “story by” credit.  Undoubtedly, the story of Sounder was to be shared, had to be shared… And, we are grateful for this sharing. 

Serendipitously, I caught a Close/Up with the Hollywood Reporter Writers Roundtable  on YouTube hosted by Scott Feinberg with: Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7), Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman), Radha Blank (The Forty-Year-Old Version), Sam Levinson (Malcolm & Marie), and Kemp Powers (One Night in Miami*, Soul), the segment discussed some interesting insights on working through the Pandemic safely, directing their own screenplays (*One Night in Miami is directed by Regina King), the change in how the work is seen by the audience and the question of who should write what.  The writers are very candid. 

The challenges will not go away over night or over decades- it has seemed -but we must try to do our best in telling our stories and pushing to not limit ourselves or the work.  Being Black can mean, in a lot of cases, that we are mixed with other things; we have the right to write those stories too. 

As a people, we are affected by the mutation of Eugenics and how that has wounded us – from our ancestors to ourselves and to our sons and daughters. Sterilization / castration without consent is something that still happens.

“Then he grabbed stuff, this and that and that and this and this and that and that and those – Scissors.  He inserted them and CLIPPED!! Babies, I thought of babies.  I looked him in the eye, this white man who was raping me with stuff made of steal.  He looked at me.    An expression.    A small detectable grin. ‘Oops!’ he said.” – Oops! by Robin Byrd

Some of these stories are hard to tell; we wonder why it’s still happening. Fighting for equality promised to us by law is exhausting…

“but bein alive & bein a woman & bein colored is a metaphysical dilemma/ i havent conquered yet/ do you see the point my spirit is too ancient to understand the separation of soul & gender/” – For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange

We have the right to tell the truths of our people and to write about how we are surviving more things than being shot in the streets, in our homes… We have the right to be awake without apology…

We also have the right to walk in love without that being mistaken as a pass for more abuse…

More books to read:

Just As I Am by Cicely Tyson

Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts.

Reading/Viewing List for Black History Month

by Robin Byrd

I have rewritten this Blog article several times.  For now, I will leave it at what are you reading and viewing this Black History Month?

Here are my lists:

Reading

Caste The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Pushout The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique W. Morris

The Book of Jasher

The Books of Enoch

The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni 1968 – 1998 by Nikki Giovanni

Viewing

Malcolm & Marie (Zendaya and John David Washington) by Sam Levinson

Looking forward to seeing

The United States Vs. Billie Holiday (starring Andra Day) by Suzan-Lori Parks

Rip Away This Mask

By Cynthia Wands

ANTIGONE

I wonder how the pandemic is going to affect how we experience being an audience again?

Even with the vaccines in place, and appropriate social distancing, what will the sound of someone coughing – long, difficult, raspy coughing – how will that sound effect an audience, a performance, a performer? What if some of the audience members continue to wear masks, and some don’t? What if we’re actually sitting right next to someone, in front of someone, in back of someone?

How will we see one another when we no longer wear masks in public? I know right now I’m resigned to this weird world of not seeing anyone’s nose or mouth or chin when we meet in public. It’s all eyes and eyebrows. Are they smiling? Am I smiling? Do I look like a worried hamster? I try to articulate, and choose words with a lot of force, but it’s seems like an underwater world of muffled talk.

Years ago, many years ago, I was in a production of ANTIGONE, where we all wore masks that might have looked like a great idea in the design phase of the production. The masks covered everything on our face, except our chin. This was not a great idea.

Here is a picture of me, strangely positioned as I look towards the heavens. I can’t remember how I got up from this posture. I do remember thinking during the run of this production, “At least I’ll never have to wear a mask in public again.”

Masks, not like what we’re wearing today, in ANTIGONE

The masks made you feel like you were a chess piece moved around on an ancient Greek chess board. Wearing the mask, you could only see straight ahead, with no peripheral vision. And the structure of the mask placed a lot of pressure on your nose and cheekbones, so everyone had a distinctly nasal voice. Plus you couldn’t open your mouth very wide.

Even standing right next to another actor, you could have a hard time understanding what they were saying.

“Wolf sinks tweed suffers – something something – pink weave suffered nuff for the cursive edible purse.”

Yes. That is what it sounded like. And the text itself was straight forward:

“You would think that we had already suffered enough for the curse on Oedipus.”

That’s what masks can do to you with Greek tragedy.

So here we are years later, and we are wearing masks in public. They aren’t as bad as the ANTIGONE masks.

Another ANTIGONE

I look forward to the day when we won’t have to wear masks because of this pandemic. I want to be able to appreciate the days when we can laugh, and sing and cry and shout in public because we can.

I wonder how that will inform our writing, how free we’ll be to write characters that have faces that are uncovered and voices unrestrained. I look forward to what other women will write about in the days ahead. I’ll see you in the future.

Writing for Invisible Characters : And I mean women of a certain age

by Cynthia Wands

My scripts includes writing about women of a certain age. And depending on who is looking at these characters, this certain age could be middle aged. (You just need to determine the death date so the character lives exactly in the middle of their life span.) (Okay, I’m kidding.) This certain age could also be post menopausal, so this female character could resemble a screaming banshee, hysterical about night sweats and lost youth. This certain age could also be allocated to a dreaded certain descriptor: a crone.

Yes. Other words to indicate a woman of a certain (older) age might also include: hellcat, trot, witch, shrew, harpy, virago (isn’t that a car?), beldam, biddy and matriarch.

What I see is a real hunger and appreciation for old women. What we call old. And there’s an interesting phenomenon where some older women are seen as valuable and accomplished. And confident and experienced with something to offer.

The fabulous Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey

And a personal favorite:

Judi Dench, not afraid of looking her age

Now, granted, these are deliberate and stunning examples of a celebrity willing to be portrayed as women of a certain age. Mostly these celebrities have been photographed and filmed as ideal versions of their age and station in life.

Judi Dench appearing as the character “M” in a James Bond Film

But to my point, we don’t often get to witness older women in leading roles in our film and stage work, in our arts, and in our leadership. We don’t get to see them because they are seen as being invisible.

Here is a fascinating article by Vanessa Williamson:

by Vanessa Williamson

‘The Dig’ – Hiding Sutton Hoo’s women.

With my archaeologist hat on I review the new film The Dig.

I eagerly awaited the release of the film The Dig, on Netflix, set against the story of the Sutton Hoo Excavation. I watched on the first day it was released. It washed over me with a humble beauty, gentleness, and quiet. A stark contrast to the pace, violence, and noise permeating film & TV. Now several days later I feel compelled as an archaeologist to speak out after reading a piece on FB and Twitter by Paul Blinkhorn. The eminent British Anglo-Saxon archaeologist drew his followers attention to the true story of the Sutton Hoo photographer. The storyline of the photos forms a strong literary theme in the film. What I learnt today is, it is in fact fiction. Blinkhorn reveals the photographer was not a man, but two women, Mercie Lack ARPS and Barbara Wagstaff ARPS. After the war, they both successfully submit for membership to the Royal Photographers Society as Associate Members, using their photo essays of the excavation at Sutton Hoo. From 1948 they provided ongoing contributions to research projects with additional prints of their photographs for publication by the Sutton Hoo research projects. Their photographs now form part of the British Museum Sutton Hoo archive. 

I eagerly awaited the release of the film The Dig, on Netflix, set against the story of the Sutton Hoo Excavation. I watched on the first day it was released. It washed over me with a humble beauty, gentleness, and quiet. A stark contrast to the pace, violence, and noise permeating film & TV. Now several days later I feel compelled as an archaeologist to speak out after reading a piece on FB and Twitter by Paul Blinkhorn. The eminent British Anglo-Saxon archaeologist drew his followers attention to the true story of the Sutton Hoo photographer. The storyline of the photos forms a strong literary theme in the film. What I learnt today is, it is in fact fiction. Blinkhorn reveals the photographer was not a man, but two women, Mercie Lack ARPS and Barbara Wagstaff ARPS. After the war, they both successfully submit for membership to the Royal Photographers Society as Associate Members, using their photo essays of the excavation at Sutton Hoo. From 1948 they provided ongoing contributions to research projects with additional prints of their photographs for publication by the Sutton Hoo research projects. Their photographs now form part of the British Museum Sutton Hoo archive. 

I eagerly awaited the release of the film The Dig, on Netflix, set against the story of the Sutton Hoo Excavation. I watched on the first day it was released. It washed over me with a humble beauty, gentleness, and quiet. A stark contrast to the pace, violence, and noise permeating film & TV. Now several days later I feel compelled as an archaeologist to speak out after reading a piece on FB and Twitter by Paul Blinkhorn. The eminent British Anglo-Saxon archaeologist drew his followers attention to the true story of the Sutton Hoo photographer. The storyline of the photos forms a strong literary theme in the film. What I learnt today is, it is in fact fiction. Blinkhorn reveals the photographer was not a man, but two women, Mercie Lack ARPS and Barbara Wagstaff ARPS. After the war, they both successfully submit for membership to the Royal Photographers Society as Associate Members, using their photo essays of the excavation at Sutton Hoo. From 1948 they provided ongoing contributions to research projects with additional prints of their photographs for publication by the Sutton Hoo research projects. Their photographs now form part of the British Museum Sutton Hoo archive. 

Miss Lack and Wagstaff photographed in 1938 as they recorded the Sutton Hoo ship excavation. 

Mercie Lack & BarbaraWagstaff’s work in documenting the excavation was vitally important. The archive of 447 photographs taken on Leica cameras, 72 Agfa 35mm colour slides and film of Basil Brown excavating captured on a 16mm cine-camera, today forms a critical component of the excavation record. Their work at Sutton Hoo included some of the first colour images in British archaeology. What happened to their story in the film? An important part of my enjoyment of British TV and films has been the balance of gender and diverse inclusive ensemble casts. This film is a standout for stripping the female and some male characters of their character & achievements.

The films fictional account is based on the novel ‘The Dig’ by John Preston, yet I argue the filmmaker’s decision to follow a storyline to re gender two women to a male is problematic and flawed. It throws a troubling light in 2021 on the overt sexism that I see permeating the female roles in the film. Lack and Wagstaff were important members of the archaeological ensemble closely associated with the excavation. I can’t imagine what could possibly motivate a screenwriter or author to turn two women into a male character. My immediate conclusion was middle-aged ordinary women with cameras are not good enough for a feature film in 2021. Age, gender, and sex appeal of a romance are more important to this film’s maker. What the hell is wrong with middle-aged women I protest out loud, as I now surprisingly find myself in that category. Or god forbid there would be too many women in the film! The argument the plotline of the photographer is true to the novel is a valid, adaption of novels to film is just about always made by filmmakers and in this instance, the failure to swap empty fiction for the real story has undermined the integrity of the film. 

My immediate impression after watching the film was to question why the three female leads were presented as a vulnerable, passive, with a dull ongoing focus on their fictional problems, not their achievements. I had a bad taste of the filmmaker misogyny, outdated even in 1938. The women as we met them in the film are Dorothy May Brown (Centre) presented as neglected lonely wife; this was not so, Mrs Edith Pretty (right) spends the film fighting Illness. She was a fascinating well-educated woman, who travelled the world and visited her own fathers Abbey archaeological excavations. The Peggie Piggott, (left) we meet is naive, inexperienced, and in every way a slip of a girl. In fact, she was a highly qualified and experienced field Archaeologist. The absence of character development of the women sent me straight to the internet to learn more about them

What I discovered shocked me. The women’s true drive, skills, and successes were not only ignored but deliberately covered up. Wasted opportunities in scene after scene focused on vulnerability, weakness, in empty scenes, where were their triumphs? After all the triumph for all concerned is the central theme of this story. Peggie Piggott when she arrived on site had a 1934 diploma (equivalent to a degree, which women were excluded from at the time) from the University of Cambridge and a 1936 Institute of Archaeology postgraduate diploma. She had been Archaeology project leader and lead archaeologist on an excavation of an Iron Age barrow. The real fantastic lives of the women are revealed in an expose article by the National Trust on the Sutton Hoo web site- ‘The True Story’ behind the ‘The Dig’. The National Trust I see were highly motivated to have ready, by the day the film was released, corrections with a suite of bios for the people misrepresented in the film. 

My other frustration was wasted screen time on the novel’s subplot of archaeologists Stuart Piggott’sfictional preference for a fellow male chum over his new wife! A back story, echoing the film the Imitation Game in which the plotline was a fact. The dominance of screen time allocated to this relationship and Edith Pretty’s illness resulted in dull screen time, and neglect of ‘The Dig’s- archaeology, the finds, excavation, British archaeology politics. The film was called The Dig! The film marketing established an expectation as a story of the greatest archaeological find in Britain in 20thc. The expectation is everything in marketing and hitting the right note is important to audience satisfaction. Audiences have been naturally confused in thinking the film followed history and the true-life experiences of the individuals portrayed. Yet the novel was followed create a romantic storyline. So unlike film the ‘The Imitation Game’ which tells a true story of its characters in the film. The Dig replaced fact with fiction and has done a great disservice to the individuals portrayed. The true story of the Sutton Hoo excavation and its team is fantastic, the vision and drive of Edith Pretty, and Basil Brown a wonderful inspiration achieved in spite of the 1930s British academic establishment. 

The film The Dig has many merits; beautiful cinematography, great sets and locations, talented cast. Where it disappoints is the poor choices of plot resulting in the weak screenplay, standout misogynist treatment of all female characters, and poor storyline editing. It was the story of the ‘The Dig’ that suffered, a missed opportunity by the producers who failed to understand the significance of women’s stories, the recent history, and the importance of the Sutton Hoo archaeology. Audiences have a nice film, rather than a film classic of the future. 

https://www.lhoteldeherce.fr/post/the-dig-hiding-sutton-hoo-s-women?fbclid=IwAR1IBpDsM5Jt_A4Ah_UBCLaPR6R6nlIwP69JxbKQ1kO6PLL9Cy5W1ZCogT8

An interesting article about missed opportunities for seeing our accomplished, older, fascinating female characters on film. We don’t see enough of older women in our stories.

I’m looking to write and to read and to witness the stories that include and focus on older women. Along with those other members of society as well.

I also want to see their faces.

Becoming Multilingual

By Rasika Mathur

I hear loud screaming and banging. It’s 3:30am.

All my life, for as long as I can remember, my mother has been a yeller. She would yell to discipline me. She would yell to remind me, like, “Turn on the Puja light!” Or “Flush the toilet once for poop, and a second time for the toilet paper!” She would yell when she didn’t understand. “I tried Face ID but it won’t recognize my CHIN! Stupid phone!” And she would yell when I needed tenderness.

“Mummy, are you mad that I’m not married yet?”

“No…but is there something WRONG??!”

This yelling has gotten worse over time. As her spine changes. As her dependence grows. As she loses her once youthful looks lasting up through age 73 (!) to the stress of taking care of my dad, who has rapidly, during the time of quarantine, entered Stage 4 Parkinson’s.

So at these wee hours, she is probably yelling because she’s in a panic about any of the several ghosts in her mind, and doubly upset that my dad cannot console her the way he likely tried to in the past, and probably failed.

Acceptance. I have to accept people for who they are. Ok, fine. I accept.

But, see, for me, there’s always a glimmer of hope that people can change, that they can come around. That’s probably my downfall.

And that’s probably the reason I kept up the good fight for 2 months as I spent the winter with them, while they downsized their lives. I would lecture, give good sermon, educate, and model proper communication techniques. I would diagnose her with one of several rigid mental disorders, not allowing her to break out of her patterns of self-loathing and criticism. I would ignore, and work to increase my own power to withstand her rage attacks. I even tried matching….and that only left me completely depleted, with a throbbing eye headache (is that a thing?), pounding heart, boiling blood and an extremely short fuse, and how many of us can scratch the creative itch from that place? In an effort to be the good daughter, I went to places I never thought I would have to be called on to go when a parent is elderly and unable to control their temper. One of those places was to a Residence Inn, so I could protect both of us from each other!

But needless to say, it has been an extremely challenging time, as I come to acceptance, not just of them, but of myself, and just how different we are.

My parents would be leaving for my sister’s house once again in just a few days and I was aware of that. Before, it was like a countdown that would bring me relief. “11 more days, Rasika. And you can feel like yourself again.” “8 days, just 8 more days of this, let’s crank up the Pet Shop Boys to drown out the noise, maybe even remind everyone of the good ol’ days.” (What have I done to deserve this?) And with 5 days to go, I suddenly found myself thinking , “Oh. I don’t know if this is the last time I’ll EVER see them.”

So I became smarter about picking my battles. I would pick and choose when were worthy times to sit with them so they could feel me nearby, and when my mere presence would trigger another yelling episode. (I really also wanted my dad to have some peace and quiet. Of course, he’s so used to the yelling, he would muster his own yelling tirade to tell me to shut up! I get it, they have to be a United Front. Big eye roll, there.) I was getting adept at holding boundaries to protect myself. Not being naive enough to walk into a fight and asking my mom to simply text me her requests. Learning when it was better to just drop any resentment built up from the day and start a whole new loving interaction from scratch. And finding that I loved watching them when they would putter around doing things quietly, like my mom with her nightly dishwashing ritual around midnight. My dad staring at the TV, doing his exercises.

Still got it! My Pops and my Mummy.

***

I know my Love Language is Words of Affirmation and Quality Time and Touch. And I know now that theirs is Acts of Service and Gifts. TOTAL OPPOSITES. So only in that last week, did I start to make their breakfasts as Service and stop expecting compliments or thanks afterwards. It should make me feel good to do, for myself. Period. And it was hard at first, because whenever they would make my favorite dishes growing up, I would let them know it. Ok, I’m sure there were days I didn’t but, it’s how we can even the score of love, allow the other to feel it, too. It’s weird when you’re facing the same emotional immaturity or limitation from a parent. Maybe it’s Karma.

One of the last tasks my Mom and I got to do together on this trip was figure out which heirlooms from her “KEEP” pile she wanted to leave me. Like, ok, we’re doing this now. Stepping into the big girl bloomers here. She was looking through these boxes that have been long set aside and they were labeled with yellowed stickie notes, “For (Insert Family Member here).” Like for my nephew’s wife, when he gets married! I mean, they would think ahead like that, for something still a decade and a half from now! And I counted that there were 5 things for me, 5 little stickie notes that said my name, along with little drawings of hearts like on my birthday cards growing up. And the items that she showed me, have a lot of value. But, I, being SO different, actually didn’t see value in those things. I placed value…on the stickie notes! That’s how much words mean to me! Isn’t that sick? And adorable, but seriously, no wonder my relationship to money is so … complicated. 

What they wanted to give, in lieu of emotional support and encouragement – which I had been craving – is probably stuff I’ll end up pawning off. But I would frame the stickie notes! Because they contain the THOUGHT energy. The Thought of Me. I was THOUGHT of by them. They thought of me. Her sweet handwriting.

During this time, my mom said, “I used to go with your grandmother to the storehouse, and I used to love going with her to look through all boxes, and this set used to belong to her. It’s passed down from her to me to you.” Ok, so that one meant a lot to me. Because my grandmother’s ENERGY and my mother’s little girl HAPPINESS was in it. From THAT ONE interaction, I GOT it. I exploded open and actually got their Love Language. I get it. They always loved me. It was through the form of beautiful roofs over my head, consistent education, great dental care, elegant clothing, and the delicious favorite foods made — all the things I’d scoff at in my early therapy sessions, “Well sure, they provided for me, snark snark snark.”

I started to tear up. And that moment of vulnerability, I realized, is where I always turned away from my mom. I didn’t want her to see what made me weak, because it left me open to the harshness. But while my Inner Child wanted to protect myself, adult Rasika had long been starving to be known by her. 

So I seized the opportunity. Since she was more hunched over now, I put my face lower than hers and looked up and said, “Look, I’m crying. I’m very moved by how you love me through these gifts.” And our eyes connected, mine glistening. And she scolded in that voice of hers, “HANH! Mummy has always loved you and this is how you’ll be loved!” Very strict! That ol’ Military love! And then it was quiet. And then, I seized the next opportunity. Gently, I responded, “Yes, and my love language is words. The right words make me feel loved. The wrong words make me feel unloved.” And then I left it at that, I didn’t want to lecture her in a small room with little ventilation. So, what I said got to land on her, and I let the rest be.

***

A few days later, I made a really great breakfast using some leftover food we had from her birthday feast. I’d perfected my omelette to resembling actual circles, fortified them with some tasty Tex-Mex meats and sprinkled some fallen petals from the flowers across the plate for decor… I made myself proud! As per usual, I made the food, cleaned up and made myself scarce, going upstairs to begin my own daily routines. I heard my mother calling my name. I had on my headphones. Totally ignoring. Don’t wanna hear any criticism. Then my mom yelled louder, “Rasu! Rasu! I just want to thank you for the beautiful breakfast. The presentation was just lovely.” 

SHE COMPLIMENTED ME! SHE MADE AN EFFORT TO SAY LOVING WORDS! SHE SAID THEM! SHE DIDN’T YELL THEM, SHE JUST SAID THEM IN A LOUD VOICE SO SHE COULD BE HEARD. And I could have been bitter now that I’d gotten what I’d wanted but I was open! And I said, “Really?! You liked it?” And this amazing back and forth ensued. And she didn’t compliment it once, she didn’t compliment it twice, she complimented it three times over the course of the day!

The last few days became precious to me. But it’s the days after they’ve left that have really opened my eyes. As I shred the years of bills paid, mortgages dedicatedly covered, medical bills and routines carefully adhered to, notes upon notes of their blood pressure readings and lists of their guests and food menus for parties, addresses where my sister and I lived throughout the years, so much of their life and what was important to them is being SHOWN to me, and I am so so privileged to witness it. I GET it and I am FED by it. I’m NOURISHED by understanding how considered I was by both of them all of these years in their way. 

So yeah, there is still hope for them. And I’m glad there’s hope for me, too.

***

Rasika Mathur is a Comedy Writer + Inspiring Storyteller, Chakra Healing Facilitator and Yoga Teacher, and hosts The FunnYoginI Show, an uplifting and irreverent podcast from Rukus Avenue Radio, that you can access from Apple iTunes podcasts or Spotify. She is Dog Mom to Zephyr and needs to go turn on the Puja light now.