Shame, Blame and What Almost Became a Def Leppard Play

14231787_10209977296810336_1027723112982667808_oGuest Post by The Seduction Theory playwright Sherry MacDonald

Hysteria. Red line. Yellow submarine. For last year’s FemFest Bake-Off competition my fellow playwrights and I were given eight hours to incorporate these three ingredients into a scene. Upon hearing the word ‘hysteria’ I became very excited (no pun intended) and quickly delved into online research fueled by the prospect of writing a scene set in Freud’s time about his theories for treating the ‘disease’ then known as hysteria. Great!

seduction-theory

Vancouver playwright, Sherry MacDonald

The problem that immediately became apparent to me was this: While there were all kinds of possibilities for folding ‘red line’ into the mix, what was I going to do with ‘yellow submarine’?

Yes, there were submarines during Freud’s time, but ‘yellow submarine’ is an unavoidably iconic term that would necessarily place the scene in an era post Beatlemania. I briefly toyed with riffing on the term, abandoning Freud, along with John, Paul et al, to set the scene in a place called The Yellow Submarine Sandwich Shop whereby a couple of rock star wannabes rehearse a karaoke version of Def Leppard’s Hysteria. Funny? Maybe. It could be fun . . .

But what if I won? I’d have to spend a year writing a play that revolves around a 1980s ‘hair band’ karaoke contest. No, back to Freud and his theories.

Fortunately for me, I went with my original gut feeling. The writing of the one act play The Seduction Theory which is being produced by Sarasvàti  at this year’s FemFest, has been a rewarding and challenging ride for me as a playwright. The necessity of having to deal with ‘yellow submarine’ actually turned out to be a blessing. Through my original ‘Wiki-mania’ research for the Bake-Off, madly keying in terms like ‘Freud’, ‘hysteria’ and eventually ‘seduction theory’, I came across an entry having to do with girls’ training schools —a then term for reformatories—in Canada and the U.S. during the middle part of the last century. Bingo! Or should I say, Ringo!

Setting the Bake-Off scene in the 60s allowed for that all important third ingredient. And because I now was setting the play in a girls’ reformatory school, I had my first two characters, Cass and Rebecca, girls whom in the process of writing their story I have come to love.

Expanding the Bake-Off scene to a one-act, I set the play back ten years to the mid-50s, a time before social movements began to take hold in North America, an era that saw the beginning of the consumer society, a ripe breeding ground for Freud’s theories to thrive. It was a time not too distant from our own, but distant enough to help frame atrocities committed at the fictional Westview Training School, as a product of ‘the times’.

Unfortunately, this restriction of time and place, ultimately is faulty. For while some of what Cass and Rebecca endure at Westview would not take place today (at least not in North America), the central theme of The Seduction Theory, subverting the female voice through victim blaming, is very much alive and well in 2016. One only has to glance at the latest headlines for verification. The play then is an examination of the current state of affairs for women and girls.

I recently received, courtesy of Theatre BC, a public reading of the script in its present form, which sparked a heated debate. “Would a learned man such as Dr. Branford, ‘the baddie’ in the play, really say the things he does?” “How much has changed since then?” “Has anything changed?” Witnessing firsthand the passion audience members displayed during this exchange, told me I just might be on to something.

Writing a play that explores topical issues that have the potential for impassioned discourse is extremely satisfying to me. And it’s all thanks to the Sarasvàti Bake-Off initiative. I may have been right in choosing Freud over Def Leppard after all. Then again, emotional debate over hair extensions and spandex pants could also be interesting.

 

Catch the world premiere of The Seduction Theory at FemFest 2016, September 17 – 24, 2016 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. For tickets visit femfest.ca or call 205-586-2336.

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1 Comment

  1. looking forward to seeing Seduction Theory


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