A coming-of age story about the search for identity

During the Q & A for my play e-baby in Melbourne on International Women’s Day 2015, the question raised by the panel and the audience was: “But what about the child?”

This was a deliberate omission in e-baby, which is about the relationship between an intended parent and the surrogate she hires in the US.

But I always thought it was a question worth exploring, so for the past six months I’ve been working on a new play –  a companion piece to e-baby – appropriately named d-baby.

d-baby is the story of a 17-year-old-girl who discovers she is donor conceived and sets out to search for her donor. Like e-baby, it is a comedy-drama, but a stand-alone piece, not a sequel.

d-baby is a mythic tale about the universal search for identity that draws parallels between how the Gods in Greek mythology played with the lives of humans, and how the technology enabled by the medical community plays with the lives of humans today.

Set in present-day Boston, Massachusetts, it is about coming of age in an era where for many people it is increasingly complex and difficult to answer the basic human question: who am I?

As with e-baby, d-baby presents both sides of the debate through the different perspectives of the characters.

Both plays are set in the United States, as the commercial gamete-trading industry and the resulting religious and ethical dilemmas provide greater potential for dramatic conflict –and a cautionary tale for what might happen in other countries if commercial donor-conception is legalised.

A play featuring fictional characters but based on real events also allows the issue to be presented and discussed without having to expose and distress real people.

I chose to write a play rather than an essay or a journalistic article because the issue can be more fully explored in a play, which allows the audience to empathise with the characters and become emotionally involved in the story.

Theatre also has the power to transform an audience through a shared experience. Ultimately, d-baby seeks to entertain as well as shine a light on a largely unseen world.

The play currently is in development and has the support of a director and has also attracted the interest and support of some in the donor-conceived community both in Australia and the United States,  but is looking for a producer, with the aim of a 2018/19 production.

For more information or production inquiries, please email me at jane.cafarella@gmail.com



No doubt you saw the story in The Sun in the UK a few days ago about the Californian couple who live on fresh air?

A ‘BREATHARIAN’ mum-and-dad of two have barely eaten for nine years as they live off ‘the universe’s energy’.

The Sun reported that “Husband and wife Akahi Ricardo and Camila Castello believe that humans can be sustained solely by the energy of the universe”.

But not quite.

The article went on to say that the couple and their children, aged five and two, “have barely eaten more than a piece of fruit or some vegie broth three times a week since 2008”.

So the energy of the universe – and a bit of fruit and soup.


Breatharians, Camila Castello and Akahi Ricardo and their children, pictured above, who claim to have barely eaten for nine years. (The Sun, UK)

They feel so much better and can stop wasting money on food and spend it on travel instead, the report said.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And millions of people in the rest of the world die of hunger-related causes each year simply because they don’t know how to access the energy of the universe – or don’t have access to fruit and soup three times a week.

No doubt you dismissed this story as the obvious bullshit that it was – just part of the epidemic of fake news – obvious because not one of the couple’s claims were challenged by the reporter.

The only questions came from readers’ comments.

One reader justly chastised the article for the harm it would do teenagers already suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia.

Another quipped that we should take this type of “news” with a pinch of salt.

But there is one aspect of this story that deserves our attention and it is not the ludicrous and harmful content – but the journalism, or lack of it.

As a former journalist of 35 years and journalism trainer for more than 10 years, I am appalled that such stories even make it to newspapers like The Sun.

There is a story here, but it is not this one.

The real story is how the media can justify the promotion of such dangerous ignorance.

Real journalism means challenging questionable claims – whether they come from the President of the United States or people claiming to live on fresh air.

It means getting not just getting two sides of the story, but all sides of the story.

It means not just writing clearly, but thinking clearly.

It means turning information into knowledge.

When I was teaching journalism, some of the key questions my cadets were asked to consider when writing stories were  “What does it mean for my readers?” And “Is there another side?”

The tragic other side to this story is the millions in the developing world who die of hunger-related causes every year, many of them children (see below), while the rest of the world gorges itself on recreational food.

The sad truth is that this story is just another example of the growing trend to reject science and embrace ignorance in the quest for special status in a world where being noticed has become just as necessary as food and water.

I’m disappointed that despite the great improvements in the education of journalists since I was a cadet, and the many journalists today risking their lives and careers to discover and write the truth,  such fakery still passes for news.

Disappointed, but not surprised.

I remember a similar situation when I was teaching journalism to local newspaper cadets and a “ghost hunter” came to town. Our unquestioning young reporters gleefully gave this charlatan front-page coverage on the grounds that it was “a good story”, a bit of fun and entertainment for readers.

It might have been entertainment but it wasn’t news and the charlatan ghost-hunter was making a fortune from the scam – a scam that the newspaper risked its own credibility to promote.

Real news would have been a story questioning what service this guy was actually providing and how many people he had ripped off in the process – and why the better educated we are, the more gullible we seem to become.

But those stories require time, investigation and resources.

In these days of click bait, stories like this, that attract ridicule, outrage, confusion and incredulity, are the ones that are retweeted and shared as people try to make sense of them or send them to their friends as jokes.

But it is no joke when real damage is done – not only in the tragic deaths that have occurred since the promotion of Breatharianism – one in Australia and one in Switzerland –  but the damage to the credibility of journalism and journalists, and to the real plight of people who suffer hunger-related diseases and death, not because there is a worldwide shortage of food but because of the gross shortage of understanding, empathy and political goodwill.

For the facts on world hunger:





Stagescripts Ltd is an independent publisher and rights-holder for the works of mostly contemporary writers and composers of musical theatre and drama, serving adventurous producers – Company statement.

I am delighted to announce that the independent United Kingdom publisher Stagescripts has published e-baby and now handles licensing for the UK, US and Europe. (Australian licensing rights are handled by me.)

Here is the link:





e-baby Tassie set pic

Katie Roberts (left) as Nellie, and Jane Longhurst (right) as Catherine in the recent Tasmanian Theatre Company production of e-baby, directed by Anne Cordiner and Julie Waddington. Set by Matilda Woodroofe.

Stagescripts Ltd is small family-run business based in West Sussex and headed by managing director David Waters.

David first came across the play at the rehearsed reading at the So and So Arts Club in London in July 2015, directed by Pamela Shermann and featuring Kat Rogers as Catherine and Becky Hands-Wicks as Nellie.  First steps to add it to the Stagescripts catalogue were taken soon after.

Stagescripts signed its first titles into a catalogue in 1998 and four years later as ‘Plays and Musicals’, began to expand a new catalogue.  The name Stagescripts Ltd was registered in 2007.

Chris Grady, professional theatre consultant and the former Head of International Licencing at Cameron Mackintosh Ltd was an early advisor and is now a Board member.

Caroline Underwood joined the Board in 2012. Before joining Alan Brodie Representation Caroline worked for many years in the licensing department at Warner Chappell, and is currently the Chair of Mercury Musical Development.

Stagescripts will also be publishing and licensing my one-act play Supersnout.

I am very grateful to David and his team for their support and excited be part of the Stagescripts catalogue.

Check out the full Stagescripts catalogue here:




I am thrilled to announce that my play e-baby has been translated into Turkish by Dr Hakan Gur, a freelance translator who works as an English teacher at Clausthal University of Technology in Germany.

The play will now be submitted by Turkish actor and director Levent Ulgen to the General Directorate of State Theatres for any interested theatre companies or directors to pick up.

Born in 1961, Dr Gur is a Turkish citizen currently living in Germany. He worked as an English and Turkish teacher for a private institute, a private university, and finally a state university before retiring in 2009 and moving to Germany with his wife.

He has translated 51 books and four plays (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard, I Am Not Rappaport by Herb Gartner, Happy Birthday, Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut – now e-baby by Jane Cafarella)  from English into Turkish.

After reading reviews of the play, Dr Gur contacted me in December asking for permission to translate it, so I was very excited to see the translated version arrive by email yesterday – e-bebek!

I am very grateful for Dr Gur’s interest in the play and for his work translating it. I must admit this was somewhat of a surprise. (Any Turkish actors out there who are interested, please let me know!)

e-baby is the story of Catherine, an infertile woman living in London, and Nellie, the surrogate she hires in the US. It is a story about love, loss, obsession and entitlement that shines a light a world where new life can start with an online ad. With one in six couples grappling with infertility, e-baby is truly a story of our times.

Don’t miss the the English version of e-baby in Hobart March 20-April 1

Meanwhile, if you want to catch the latest English version of e-baby get down to beautiful Hobart to see the Tasmanian Theatre Company’s production, which opens on March 20, starring award-winning actors Jane Longhurst (Catherine) and Katie Robertson (Nellie).

e-baby is directed by Anne Cordiner and Julie Waddington and is  being produced by TTC as its contribution to Tasmania’s Ten Days on the Island International Arts Festival.

Looking for a new school musical for your talented music and drama students?

Sick of doing the same old stuff, like Grease and High School Musical?

Cram! is a new musical for anyone who has gone through/ or is going through the agonies of SAT, ACT, GCSE, IB, HSC or VCE.  Whatever you call the final year of high school in your country, it’s a year full of drama that is definitely worth singing and dancing about.


Cram! is about the things that suck in Year 12 (study and parental pressure) and the things that are cool (friends and love and dreaming big) and finding your place in an uncertain world.

Book, lyrics (and some music) by JANE CAFARELLA. Music (and some lyrics) by LACHLAN DAVIDSON.

Musical arrangements and production by TJ TAYLOR, with dramaturgy by CHRISTIE EVANGELISTO

The story:

Rosie, a nerdy perfectionist, is dreaming big. Like lots of kids these days what she really wants is to be famous. She wants to be a singer, but not just any singer – an opera singer. It’s horribly uncool, but she can’t help it.

That’s Plan A. But for her mother Kathy, there is only Plan B – get an Arts degree and a real job.

Rosie’s BFF Gabe just wants to dance on Broadway, her friend T’Lor just wants to pass, Bill is too scared to say what he really wants, Sebastian knows he’ll ace it, as usual, and Dash is making a study of the new guy, Sam.

English teacher Mr Mac is doing everything to help.  Year 12 Coordinator Mrs Brown (aka Brown Owl) is doing everything to ensure everyone upholds the school’s fine reputation – and her own.

Rosie soon discovers that being a prima donna isn’t what it’s cracked up to be and that life is about finding your own voice.

But as the final exams loom, all have all have just one pressing goal – CRAM!

The music:

A mix of musical theatre-style, jazz and rap – still in development. Minimum requirement: piano, drums, guitar.

Listen here:

WANNA BE – Opening number – full cast

A FINE REPUTATION – Mrs Beatrice Brown (aka Brown Owl)


LATER – Sam and Ensemble

CRAM – Full cast

Many thanks to Lachlan Davidson, Prudence Finlay, Wern Mack, Benedict Jazenco-Taylor, Matt Davies, Estelle Mannins and Myra Davidson. 

Trial our show!

We’re looking for a school that is willing to work with us to trial the show and develop it further, working towards our first full production.

Don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity for music and drama teachers and talented young performers.

CRAM! is a fun show about finding your place and voice in an uncertain world.

It’s about the kids who ace it and the kids who don’t – and the lessons they learn along the way. 

Register your interest now ! Write to  jane.cafarella@gmail.com


e-baby is an utterly beautiful play … delicious and satisfying.  When an audience is effortlessly made to think, laugh and cry, a slice of the human experience is shared …  – Upstaged 



e-baby will make its Hobart premiere next March as Tasmanian Theatre Company’s contribution to the Ten Days on the Island international arts festival.

e-baby Hobart will star two award-winning Tasmanian actresses – Jane Longhurst as Catherine and Katie Robertson as Nellie – and will be directed by Anne Cordiner and Julie Waddington.

The play will be performed at the Patrick Street Theatre, 137 Patrick St, Hobart (a pop-up venue for the festival).

If you missed the Melbourne or Sydney seasons (2015 and 2016), this is your chance to catch e-baby in Hobart, along with a fantastic line up of other events. Why not book a festival holiday?

The Hobart season follows a highly successful Sydney season at the Ensemble Theatre in October 2016, directed by Nadia Tass and starring Danielle Carter and Gabrielle Scawthorn, and the world premiere at Melbourne’s Chapel Off Chapel in March 2015, with direction and dramaturgy by Anna McCrossin-Owen, and starring Carolyn Bock and Sarah Ranken.

 e-baby is about the relationship between an infertile woman and the surrogate she hires. It’s a play about love, obsession and entitlement, told with compassion and humour.

It is the story of Nellie, 28, a mother of two living in the surrogacy friendly state of Massachusetts,  who sets out to give the “gift of life” to an infertile couple, and  Catherine, 45, an Australian expat living in London, who has everything – a husband, a career and an international life. Everything except a child.

As they share the highs and lows of pregnancy, we get to know two very different women, both of whom have underestimated the emotional impact of the path they have chosen.

Funny, touching and important, e-baby is a play about modern themes and dilemmas, which leaves audiences debating the issues long after they leave the theatre.

Ten Days on the Island was established by the Tasmanian Government in 2001 to develop and deliver a statewide cultural festival of national significance that provides opportunities for Tasmanian artists and companies to present their works to a wider audience, provides opportunities for the Tasmanian community to be exposed to national and international artists and companies of the highest quality, and assists in providing the state of Tasmania with a legacy of expert professional arts infrastructure.

The biennial festival celebrates Tasmania’s island culture and offers a platform on which to profile and promote Tasmania’s innovative, creative and resourceful character and unique cultural identity.

Ten Days on the Island brings international recognition for Tasmania and demonstrates how the arts can positively influence a community’s perception of itself and the image it projects to the world.

Book now!



(Warning: spoilers)


What planet was Charlie Kaufman on when he wrote Anomalisa? Planet sexist?

Perhaps you’ve seen it? It’s been out a while and received many accolades and awards.

“The most human movie of the year…” said Matt Patches from Esquire magazine. “Anomalisa changed my life,” began the effusive review by Drew McWeeny at HitFlix.

Not everyone agreed. There was some backlash, as the main character has an adulteress affair with not even a “Will I?” or “Won’t I?”

But that’s not why I found this film shocking.

No doubt its many fans will disagree, but perhaps they’d like to see it through my eyes?

Michael Stone, an emotionally disconnected and taciturn middle-aged man goes to the Fregoli Hotel in Cincinnati to speak at a customer service conference about his book. The Fregoli is named after a psychiatric disorder where the sufferer thinks everyone else in the world is the same except him.

As a symptom of this, everyone he meets speaks with the same male voice (voiced by Tom Noonan), even Bella, his jilted girlfriend of a decade ago – whom we first meet as an accusing  voice in his head (“Fuck you! Fuck! Fuck!”)

“I’m premenstrual”…

At the hotel, his wife Donna calls and tells him she is premenstrual. They have a perfunctory conversation. This is followed by more accusations from Bella, the bitch in his head, which prompts the lonely and guilty Michael to give her a call to see how she’s doing after all these years.

And fat…

Bella is stunned, sceptical, shaken and apologetic at his suggestion that they meet for a drink. She has just come out of a “stupid relationship with a psycho” and doesn’t want to burden him: “I’m not sure you want to be the victim to my current emotional imbalance tonight.”  (Maybe she’s pre-menstrual too?)

Michael tells her there’s something wrong with him, but Bella still agrees to meet. Just in case he’s disappointed, she apologises for the fact that she’s gained some weight and now has a fake tooth: “Just so you don’t look at me like freaked out or anything.” Presumably Michael has aged too, but who cares? He’s a man.

“Do I look bad?”

Bella orders the same drink as Michael and apologises for her job (designing pamphlets), then asks for reassurance about her looks: “Do I look bad? I look bad, don’t I?” He obliges: “You look good”.

Bella tells him that she was so messed up when he left her all those years ago, she didn’t get out of bed for a year. But all he wants to know is whether the relationship changed her. This freaks her out, so he invites her up to his room for a drink, which freaks her out more, so she leaves.

He goes back upstairs and takes a shower and hears the voice of a woman passing his door. What an anomaly! A woman’s voice! He goes looking for her, knocking on doors claiming he is looking for his friend.

He is a greeted by the woman in question (Lisa, voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh) who immediately recognises him as the famous Michael Stone – and apologises for her looks: “Oh, do I look awful? I was just taking my make-up off. Don’t look at me!”

Her roommate, Emily, joins her. She is equally bowled over. “You can look at me!” she says coquettishly.

They have come to Cincinnati just to hear him speak and are overwhelmed by his presence, especially Lisa, who continues to want to avoid his Godly gaze: “Oh God, please don’t look at me.”

“I’m so dumb”

But she can’t take her eyes off him.  “We think you’re super brilliant,” she gushes.  “You’re so smart, I’m not sure I should even say words in front of you, because you’ll see how dumb I am.” Emily tells her to shut up. Four times in the scene.

These “lovely customer service ladies” can’t really afford such a swish hotel. “We’re only customer service reps, so you can imagine our salaries.” But now, in the presence of the great Michael, they agree that the expense is totally worth it.

They are beside themselves with glee at his invitation to have a drink with them. As they drink apple mojitos, they tell him about their interests: hiking, biking, reading, going to the movies and playing Scrabble, strip poker and the Jew’s harp.

After the drink, Lisa, can’t resist pressing all the buttons in the lift, like a child. “Is it stupid to like to press buttons?” she asks. This totally presses Michael’s buttons, and, apologising to Emily for not choosing her, he invites Lisa up to his room. (Woo! Woo!)

Lisa can’t believe her luck. “Are you sure you don’t mean, Emily? Everyone always likes Emily better?”

It turns out Lisa has a scar on her neck, which explains her self-deprecating manner. “People don’t like to look at me much.” Michael offers to kiss it.  (Awww!! But hang on, what about his wife and kid?)

Once again, Lisa can’t believe her luck. Is he sure he wants to be with her? After all, she’s ugly and dumb: “I mean, I’m not smart like Emily. And I’m ugly. You’re a really smart guy. You should like Emily. I don’t even understand a lot of words in your book. I sat there with a dictionary. I try to learn. But I’m never going to be smart. And I’m ugly.”

But these are just the sorts of qualities that turn Michael on – along with her voice. He wants her to keep talking. It doesn’t matter what she’s saying, it’s just her voice. She’s extraordinary. He doesn’t know why. He asks her to sing. She sings Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

And grateful…

They have sex, with him taking the lead and her apologising, after all it’s been eight years (she’s ugly, remember) and shy and the last guy was only with her because he knew he’d “have a shot”. “Which he did.” She comes with grateful gasps – in the missionary position (naturally).

Later, he has a bad dream – the world is against him and won’t let him be with Lisa. He lashes out in his sleep, accidentally hitting Lisa, who is appreciative: “Oh, it’s okay. I kind of liked it. It’s kind of intimate.”

Their whole relationship is such a blast that Michael decides it should be forever. His wife and son no longer exist, he tells Lisa, who immediately agrees to be with him: “Oh, gosh, okay. Yeah, let’s do it.” Presumably, anything’s better than Scrabble, strip poker and a boring job.

But at breakfast, Michael discovers that Lisa is hopelessly flawed after all, starting with her annoying habit of clicking her fork against her teeth. Naturally, she is apologetic: “Oh, sorry. People have told me that before. I know, it’s a stupid unconscious habit.”

And controlling…

Lisa wonders about the effect of a divorce on Michael’s son, Henry, to which Michael answers: “You’re being a little controlling, don’t you think?” For this, he receives more apologies: “I don’t mean to. I’m sorry.”

He’s a big man, so he forgives her, but will she please not talk with food hanging out of her mouth? “Oh, sorry,” Lisa says. “I’m a pig. Sorry.”

This, apparently, is just the relationship Lisa has been looking for: “I’m so happy, Michael. I’ve waited for someone like you my whole life.”

Michael gives his speech at the conference – a garbled mess of confessional comments about his psychological state, the state of the world and boring and obvious tips on customer service – and then goes home to his wife with a strange Japanese toy her bought at a sex shop (mistaken for a toy shop) for his son, and which, as his wife points out, emits semen. Perhaps Miss Japan will be the next ideal mate?

But hey, it was great..

Lisa writes him a lovely goodbye note. She doesn’t understand why he left but she accepts it and is grateful for the great time she had, and the cute nickname he gave her: Anomalisa

The film ends with Lisa’s wistful lament about longing for the voice of that special someone, while surrounded by the idle chatter of people who don’t get you.

And so real!

I am depressed.

I get it, Charlie. Michael’s having a nervous breakdown. He’s desperate for connection. Lisa lacks confidence and is desperate for connection. It’s about the futility of life, how we all wander the world in search of a soul mate – only to be disappointed by the flawed reality of our fellow human beings. Yada, yada, yada.

But does Lisa have to be quite so flawed?

Perhaps Lisa is a deliberately ridiculous male fantasy as a contrast to the banal reality of Michael’s squeezed-out relationship with his wife? I hope so.

I just wish that the celebrated Charlie Kaufman, whose movies are watched by millions, hadn’t perpetuated a whole bunch of stereotypes about women in the process.

What’s even more depressing is that none of the reviewers thought Lisa was anything other than delightfully real.

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