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In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, it was strange to find myself sitting in Singapore’s MasterCard Theatre last Friday night, watching nine uniformly beautiful girls, uniformly dressed in nothing but black busbies, collars and G-strings, moving with military precision as the tiny fringe of blonde tassels that covered their pubic areas swayed to reveal uniformly neat black landing strips.

Strange and disturbing.

A parade of denuded nudes with their doll-like faces and tiny pert breasts, thrusting their bottoms out and lip-synching to Oops, I Did It Again, Toxic and You Turn Me On for the titillation of its champagne-drinking audience.

Harvey Weinstein would have loved it.

The tickets had been a gift. Naively, we thought it would be a “dark cabaret”, like Amanda Palmer’s Dresden Dolls – bold, funny and perhaps even empowering, like the 2010 movie Burlesque movie starring Cher and Christina Aguilera.

But from the first moment, as the Crazy Horse girls performed God Save Our Bareskin, a parody of the British Changing of the Guard, it was clear that this parade of Barbie dolls was about as empowered as The Stepford Wives

“This is what happens when girls don’t get an education,” I whispered to my husband.

Sadly, this isn’t true. According to a 2011 article in The Telegraph about the 60th anniversary of the Crazy Horse cabaret, the girls are mostly classically trained dancers, who willingly undergo the transformation from individual to avatar.

 

 

 

crazy-horse-cabaret-paris-11pm-show-88454-1_w600

The cabaret,  which founder, Alain Bernardin labelled the “temple of chic”, originally began as an American-style saloon, named after the Native American warrior chief Crazy Horse.

According to The Telegraph, it closed in 1953, but Bernardin had an epiphany soon after when he saw Midnight Frolics, a film about the Los Angeles burlesque scene. His club re-opened a few months later featuring a Haitian dancer who stripped down to a G-string.

It was a huge success. “I understood the body of a woman would make my fortune,’ Bernardin said later.

Bernandin set an exacting physical standard for the dancers, who had to be between five foot five and five foot eight, with no more than 11 inches between the nipples and nine inches between navel and pubis.

Wigs and custom-made stilettos ensured they were all the same height, and they were given new names. (On the night we attended, credits included names like Bamby (sic) and Candy.)

Bernadin also tightly controlled their activities and sacked them if they failed the weekly weigh-ins.

The Telegraph quotes his daughter, Sophie: “Somehow they belong to you if you protect them. My father said it’s like joining a religion. You are a nun; it’s like a convent. You do what you are told.”

Sadly, what passed as “the temple of chic” in the ’50s now appears as beauty and symmetry without personality or humanity.

After the third number, the out-dated routines seemed as uniform and bland as the girls – who were about as sexy as bunch of naked Barbies in a toy box.

Between sets, one girl, wearing stickers in the shape of lips stuck to her nipples and a red swan’s down mini-crinoline to show her bare bottom and G-string, simpered across the stage lip-synching to Doobie Doobie Doo, throwing out kisses and lip-shaped stickers and mouthing “I love you” to selected audience members, who mostly laughed or squirmed.

And while the show is not intended to be crude, in one number the girls wore fake horsetails – not the pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey type, but the type where the tail is bound at the base, like a racehorse, to make it thrust out from the body like a giant dildo.

The ennui from the audience was obvious in the tepid applause, which only warmed up when the one man in the outfit appeared: Mr Fantastic, an ordinary-looking bloke who injected some humour by parodying his lack of physical attributes and then surprising us with his contortions. It was a huge relief, and thus earned a disproportionate response.

Unlike the girls, Mr Fantastic appeared as an individual, with quirks and failings. In his second act, he dropped his bowler hat twice, but as a man he was allowed to fail and be imperfect and even won a round of applause for it.

These denuded nudes with their doll-like faces, stripped of clothes and identity sent a strange and disturbing message: we are here for your titillation alone. We are nobody, we are nothing; we don’t even have real names. We are not real people.

As long as women are still objectified like this for entertainment, it is easy to see how they may be objectified in real life.

As the past few weeks of Weinstein revelations have shown, such objectification inevitably leads to abuse, particularly when accompanied by power.

This makes shows like Crazy Horse even more sad and alarming, not because of what they show, but because the girls are dehumanised.

And when people are dehumanised it is easier to treat them inhumanely.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/8905148/Blue-velvet-Pariss-Crazy-Horse-cabaret-laid-bare.html

Thanks so much to Sydney theatre blogger Kevin Jackson of Kevin Jackson’s Theatre Blog, for including the Sydney production of my play e-baby in his list of “Best New Australian Writing” seen in Sydney in 2016, (produced by The Ensemble Theatre and directed by Nadia Tass).

I am very chuffed and l honoured to be included with six other wonderful writers, including Patricia Cornelius (Savages – Eternity Theatre) and Leah Purcell (The Drover’s Wife – Belvoir).

e-baby went on to be produced by The Tasmanian Theatre Company in March 2017, to critical acclaim, directed by Anne Cordiner and Julie Waddington for Tasmanian’s Ten Days on the Island International Arts Festival.

For production inquiries, please email jane.cafarella@gmail.com

You can see Kevin’s list here:

http://www.kjtheatrediary.com/…/12/looking-back-on-2016.html

 

Below, Gabrielle Scawthorn, as Nellie, and Danielle Carter as Catherine, in the Sydney production of e-baby at The Ensemble Theatre, directed by Nadia Tass, with set design by Tobhiyah Stone Feller.

gabrielle-scawthorn-and-danielle-carter-in-e-baby-photo-by-clare-hawley-27-1

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

 

STARVATION IN YEMEN

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.

BREATHARIAN COUPLE

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:

 

http://www.worldhunger.org/2015-world-hunger-and-poverty-facts-and-statistics/f

https://www.freedomfromhunger.org/world-hunger-facts

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2135324/Woman-starves-death-spiritual-journey-trying-live-sunlight-alone.html

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:

http://shop.stagescripts.com/categories/plays/full-length/drama/e-baby.html

 

 

 

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:

http://shop.stagescripts.com/

 

e-bebek-turkish-translation-by-hakan-gur

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.
http://tendays.org.au/event/e-baby/

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!

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)

A FIRST BORN SON – Bill

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

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