Susanna Edwards (left) as Nellie, and Kimberlyn Wideman as Catherine in Natalia Kirychuk’s production of e-baby at Cedarville University, Ohio on October 26.



I’m thrilled to announce that e-baby, my play about the relationship between an infertile woman and the surrogate she hires, made its US debut at Cedarville University, Ohio, on 26 October 2018.

The play was produced and directed by Natalia Kirychuck, a theatre major a the university, as her Senior Project, featuring fellow students Susanna Edwards as Nellie and Kimberlyn Wideman as Catherine.

Admission was free with donations accepted to the Miami Valley Women’s Centre Xenia location.

In an article in the university magazine Cedars, by Lauren McGuire, Natalia said she came across the play when searching for two-women shows, and fell in love with it.

“These are some really heavy issues and I really want to bring them to light,” she told the magazine. “I just want to help people understand more about surrogacy and motherhood.

“The storyline itself is just so precious to me and so beautiful. I can’t wait for people to be able to see it and understand these issues more clearly.”


Natalia said she believed the production would “stir thought-provoking questions in the heart of the audience.

And she was right.

“It went so well,” she said after the show.  “We had a full house – we had to keep putting out more chairs and then people still had to stand!… The audience responded constantly with laughter, sniffling and sounds of agreement or disagreement.
“Afterwards, I got to talk to so many people and everyone enjoyed it. Several people who came said they were shocked this wasn’t performed in America earlier because it was such a good play. Everyone also commented on how they loved how you didn’t write it one-sided.
“I’m literally still having conversations about it. Everyone who I asked about it had thoughts on what the characters should do or what happened after the show. People had different theories, which was so cool to hear! In short – everyone loved it,” she said.
“And people said it made them think! That’s always the biggest compliment in my mind. Several young men told me they had never been faced with these issues and they now had to think through these issues. It made me so happy.”
It made me so happy, too!
Thanks so much Natalia, Susanna and Kimberlyn, your crew, advisers and mentors for bringing e-baby to its first American audience.









Licensing now available through DAVID SPICER PRODUCTIONS






Uked! is the hilarious and poignant story of Karla, a lonely and eccentric single woman who is dumped by her violin-playing boyfriend on her 50th birthday. Desperate to belong and to prove her musical worth, Karla buys a ukulele and joins a dating site – learning that love and the ukulele have a lot in common.

Unique audience engagement. Chords and lyrics displayed! Your audience can bring their ukes and play and sing-along with Karla or just sit back and enjoy the show!

Audition for your Karla and then get your Uke group members to play all her YouTube teachers and dating interests.

What you get: the script, the songbook (with APRA-approved songs*), PowerPoint with chords and lyrics for your audience to follow, marketing kit and info on how to produce the show. Plus unique Uked! merchandise for you to purchase and sell to raise funds! 

*Producers must apply for the song rights through APRA/AMCOS at a cost of $264 per season.

Produce Uked! in your community to raise money and community morale!

Expressions of interest are invited from passionate uke players, ukulele clubs, and theatre groups, sponsors and independent producers. Contact David Spicer Productions NOW!


PO Box 2280. Rose Bay North. NSW 2030.

PH: In Australia 02 9371 8458
PH: Outside Australia
+61 2 9371 8458
Fax: 02 9371 8458

Want further information about the show? Call Jane on 0408 880 185 or jane.cafarella@gmail.com


A few years ago, I happened to park outside Malvern Town Hall when I noticed a sign: Doll Fair.

Recalling the doll fairs my daughter and I attended years ago, searching for tiny items for the dolls’ house we furnished together, I paid the $5 fee to enter.

There were the familiar tables full dolls of all shapes and sizes, dressed in exquisite detail.

But there was something missing: people.

“What happened to kill the doll market?” I asked one seller, as I watched the few visitors stroll past, mostly without buying.

“Minimalism,” she said, firmly. “I’m into bears now.”

But judging by the lack of custom at the bear stall, even bears were struggling.

It’s true, I thought later. It was hard to imagine these dolls and bears finding a home in the sparse and neutral homes that are still featured on lifestyle shows and in real estate ads today.

The popularity of minimalism is understandable. It stems from our global guilt at the destruction of the planet and our desperate desire for some sort of control in the face of uncontrolled consumption. It stems from the need to counter the complexity of modern life through the creation of soothing simplicity in the retreat we call home.

But neutral pallets also neutralise people. Where are the books? Where is the music? Where is the art and the craft – homemade or otherwise? Where is the miscellaneous stuff that tells people who you are?

In the process of “de-cluttering”, we are ignoring what makes us human – the need for connection, engagement and identity through beauty, creativity and culture.

Perhaps the intention is that we may still have beautiful things – just not too many?

But intentionally or otherwise, self-proclaimed minimalists like Americans Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (theminimalists.com) lead by example, and the online tours of their homes reveal bare walls and an institutional starkness that is a reminder of how totalitarian regimes stripped people of their identities.

In his defence, Fields Millburn writes: “No, I’m not opposed to paintings on my walls, but I also don’t feel obligated to hang a frame on drywall to feel complete. I am complete, as are you, even in an empty room. “

Such shaming language ignores the complexity of our humanity. We don’t choose art or ornamentation because we are personally inadequate without it, but because it brings joy, stimulation and meaning to our lives. Our “stuff” not only completes us, it reflects us.

A café or restaurant that simply offered a table and chair and menu, with no décor or ambience, would be deemed lacking character. Why should it be different for our homes?

Beauty and culture also encourage emotional investment in our environment. Chicago Potter Theaster Gates, who has helped revive neighbourhoods through reclaiming abandoned buildings for community use, says beauty is the inspiration and motivation for community and engagement.

“In my city, Chicago, I have seen firsthand what happens when a focus on, say, housing, fails to account for our human thirst for beauty, for the sublime, the emotionally enriching, the spiritual, “ Gates says in an article titled Why Beauty Matters on Ted.com.

Possessions are also reminders of the people who made them and used them, and our shared history.

This is no more evident than in the popular Antiques Road Show, where the value of an item is always increased if there is a story attached.

In May 2016, the Roadshow visited Lyme in the UK, where a lithograph of Sarah Bernhardt that was once owned by Elton John was featured. The picture was purchased in 1988, when the singer auctioned many of the items from his married life before coming out.

As the valuer explained, “He saw it as a way of saying goodbye to the man he pretended to be: this front, this theatre.” In short, it represented a change of identity.

But our stuff doesn’t always have to be commercially valuable to be of value.

As Stephanie Land said in an article in The Straits Times on July 24 2016 titled Why the poor cannot afford to be minimalists, “My stuff was not just stuff, but a reminder that I had a foundation of support, of people who had loved me growing up: a painting I had done as a child that my mum had carefully framed and hung in our house, a set of antique Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls my ferret once chewed an eye out of when I was 15, artwork my mum had collected over the decade we lived in Alaska.”

The evangelistic language of minimalism claims that “freedom” can only be obtained from ridding ourselves of things.

But there is freedom in choosing individuality over conformity, and in recognising the difference between materialism and being stripped bare.

What do you think? Comments welcome.





Last week I went to the supermarket. On the way home, I received a text. “How was the supermarket? Rate your experience.”

I was puzzled. How did they know?

I dismissed it, and shopped on – to the baker, an antique shop, a Manchester shop, and a party shop.

Further texts followed. “How were the baker, the antique shop, the Manchester shop, and the party shop? Rate your experience.”

Then I realised. I’d used Google Maps to find the addresses of all these shops and now I was being recruited for feedback and promotion.

The same thing happened after two lots of furniture delivery and a visit from a telephone technician, and when we hired a car. “Please rate us!” they begged.

I ignored these too, but I soon received a reminder. “How did we do? Reminder to rate your recent install appointment.”

As my friend Karen said, shopping these days is like going on a school excursion – you have to come home and write an essay on it.

As the silly season is now in full swing, the number of business interactions increases – as do the requests for reviews – in a cycle of endless obligation. You are not a shopper, but a “member” –  of their marketing team.

Even the most private of activities requires a public reaction. “Please rate your experience,” a screen at the airport loo asked as I left.

And the  most humble of purchases. “Do you have a profile with us,” the shop assistant asked when I purchased some hand cream.  I paused, and  leaned in. “It is not my job to market your business,” I said, and held out my hand for the change.

But there are some times when a review is helpful. Like after a recent manicure for a family wedding.

It was busy, but I was soon ushered over to two girls sitting at a narrow table, their tools of trade  spread neatly on a grubby white towel in front of them.

I sat down, glad to rest after a busy day. Wordlessly, one of the girls picked up a cuticle nail pusher in one hand and my right hand in the other and began jamming the nail pusher into the nail bed.

“Yowzie!” I yelled, and instinctively pulled my hand away. “Could you be a bit more gentle?”

She and her colleague exchanged glances and murmured a few words as she swapped the nail jabber for a large nail file, full of the residue of other people’s DNA, and flicked it hard against the side of my nail in violent upward motions, like chalk across a blackboard.

I leaned in again. “Could you act like you give a fuck?” I said. They exchanged confused glances. “Like you care, “ I explained.

I felt bad, I really did. I reminded myself that they were probably both on some dodgy visa sending money back to their home countries to support a dozen siblings and cousins and their aged parents.

But as they each grabbed one hand and continued on fast forward, stabbing and dabbing at my nails in turn, I began to think about what I would say when I received the text asking, “How was the grubby nail spa sweat shop? Rate your experience.”

But in the end, I didn’t say anything, then or later. I just paid and left.  Maybe they were students and this was the only work they could get? Perhaps they were horribly exploited, and then treated badly by entitled old women like me? Perhaps they had a good reason not to give a fuck?

When I got home, there was a reminder to rate the delivery guy. Feeling contrite and remorseful, I decided to be a nice person and write the delivery guys a review. A glowing review. .

“They were heroes,” I wrote, my thumbs flying. “It was a 35-degree day and the sofa wouldn’t fit in the lift, so they carried it up two flights of stairs. And then it wouldn’t fit in the door, so they carried it down again and took it back.”

Soon after, I received another text. “Thanks for the great review, but we don’t deliver sofas. We deliver beds.”

Wrong heroes. That was the other delivery company.

And there in lies the truth about reviews. Not only are they annoying, they are rarely accurate, as proved by the Journal of Consumer Research in April 2106.

Research titled Navigating by the Stars, by Bart de Langhe, Philip M Fernbach and Donald R. Lichtenstein, concluded that there was a “substantial disconnect between the objective quality of information that online user ratings actually convey and the extent to which consumers trust them as indicators of objective quality”.

In other words, a one-star review for the ubiquitous and aggravating system of reviews.

So here’s some advice to the persistent review seekers. Leave us alone.

If something happens that impresses us as consumers, we’ll let you know the old-fashioned way – by coming back.


9 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Trust Online Reviews



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 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.





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.



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