Tag Archives: Review

REVIEW: Movie Magic Screenwriter

I used to use Final Draft for all my screen/stage/teleplays, but after a new computer and an outdated version, I decided to check out Movie Magic Screenwriter (MMS) and I love it. The prices are roughly the same, and both offer serious discounts, so software costs are no longer the dealbreaker. MMS is a slightly older build than Final Draft 9, which has the better GUI, but MMS is simple enough to work with, at first use, and it has no trouble keeping up with me.

It’s got all the formatting squared away for you. WRITE. (Save often!)

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REVIEW: Trinity’s “Dreams of Antigone”

Trinity Repertory Company, Providence Rhode Island (2008)

antigone4STORYTELLING UTILITY

At first glance upon stepping into the theatre, one could possibly believe that they were about to witness an off day performance.  The set appeared cluttered with building materials, such as scaffolding and buckets.  My first impression was one of curiosity:  was the show going to start late, so that stage hands could tidy up?  But alas, the story began.  The actors filtered out on to the stage and within moments, those building materials were magically transformed into props, a catalyst for a common theme of utility throughout the presentation; one that would capitalize on the economical use of stage, theatre, and props expected of quality repertory performance.

The scaffolding, at one time doubling as the ceiling of a kitchen and later effectively (and artistically) used as a vehicle to convey battle, was likely used at some point to dress the set.  This minimalist use, while cutting the cost of production, took away the glitter of “the prop” to further assist the viewer in focusing on the weight of the presentation.  The costumes, not set to period, and not exactly “our own,” were simple enough for the audience to show that a “dress is a dress” and a “uniform is a uniform,” so that this performance was not necessarily “our time,” but “anytime.”  The use of colors helped to differentiate flashback/dream scenes from “the reality”.  The striking uses of black and white in the officers uniforms, made it simple enough to know you were witnessing something that had passed, and that those in white were conspicuously absent from that reality.  You could almost immediately surmise that these men are the dead that which this story revolves around.

The characters were people we could empathize with:  Antigone’s distress over the loss of loved ones and her commitment to do what she sees as morally right; and Creon’s dilemma as a person in a position of power that has to live with the consequence of a hasty executive decision.  All of this is presented in language, mannerisms, and attitudes familiar to the audience.  These were no longer the ancient Greeks, but friends and neighbors; real people.  The “chorus” has been turned into the voice of the “crowd”.  Really, as it has always been, but now adapted and modernized in an artful way that carries the tradition to a fresh set of eyes and ears; representing the “crowd” in our current dictionary definition understanding of it.

Though it would be beneficial, isn’t necessary to have read the original story of Antigone or Oedipus.  This performance deviates from a direct telling, providing the exposition of the Theban plays that catches the viewer up, condensing the saga for thorough understanding in a two hour or so time period.  It looks at the story in a new way, but still keeps the substance and message of the original; the creative force behind the performance has tailored dialogue to the modern audience, providing fresh language and perspective to a timeless story of individual tragedy and political tyranny.  A Greek classic told again, cognizant of the strength of the original’s power to resonate through strong performance and quality oration to tell a struggle that still has relevance in modern times.

IMAGE: http://tristan-jeffers.squarespace.com/dreams-of-antigone/

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REVIEW: “The Life of a Slave Girl”

Slavery: A Corrupting, Futile Exercise

Amazon Thrift Edition or Free Text from Project Gutenberg

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In her account of a servants in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs works in great detail to share with the reader the cold realities of institutional slavery, examining the morally corrupting influence it has upon the master and the degradation in the spirit of the slave; both human, but separated by color in a relationship that bears tragic consequences to both parties.

In her life as a possession, Linda, the character of which this story is centered around, grows up, at first, unaware of her role as a slave under white masters.  She is raised early on by her parents who protect her from the harshness of their situation, providing a loving and nurturing relationship.  It is from those early recollections she finds herself as capable as any other, longing for the normalcy of having her own home and family, and it is her persistence in this dream that carries her through the rougher moments of her servitude at the hands of an ill-willed and villainous master, Dr. Flint.  She takes pride in the levels of independence she is able to attain for herself, maintaining her own strong will and protection/control of her body by her knowledge and cunning.  Her hopes for herself become put on hold after motherhood, for the chance that her children will be able to have a piece of freedom, family, and shelter for themselves.  She sacrifices years of her life in hiding so that they will have an easier existence away from the control of Dr. Flint.

“I should never know peace till my children were emancipated.”  Linda

The antagonist of this narrative, Dr. Flint, is a morally bankrupt individual, lacking s any redeeming qualities. He is thoroughly one-dimensional, totally corrupted by the power that the slave system grants him. He sees no reason not to use and abuse his slaves in any way he chooses, and he never shows any signs of sympathy for them or remorse for his crimes. If he expresses kindness, it is invariably a ruse to try to get Linda to sleep with him. It often seems that forcing Linda to submit to him is more important to him than simply sleeping with her. He is infuriated by her defiance, and he becomes obsessed with the idea of breaking her will. Rather than simply raping her, he persists in his efforts make her acknowledge his mastery.  Dr. Flint seeks to lock Linda up in an isolated cottage in the woods so he can sleep with her freely.  When Linda escapes, he pursues her relentlessly, putting himself hundreds of dollars in debt to chase her to New York. After his death, his spirit lives on in the form of his son-in-law, Mr. Dodge.

“If I have been harsh with you at times, your willfulness drove me to it,.  You know I exact obedience from my own children, and I consider you as yet a child.”  Dr. Flint

This book shows the futility of such a practice.  It makes both the slave and the master less of a human.  Dr. Flint is cruel, hypocritical, and conniving, and he never experiences a moment of guilt, self-doubt, or sympathy for his victims. He never questions his right to do whatever he pleases to his slaves. Dr. Flint represents the cruelty, callousness, and treachery of the entire slave system.  He symbolizes the defining qualities that the system of slavery prerequisites: a lust for power, moral corruption, and a brutal nature. When Linda defies him, she threatens the legitimacy of slavery itself, and it is this defiance that propels his insistence on “mastering” her.

2008 – American History

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REVIEW: “The Bookseller of Kabul”

purchase on Amazon, used, for dirt cheap or pick out the highlights from different reviews

Asne_Seierstad_The_Bookseller_of_KabulThe bookseller: Sultan Khan

Both professionally and at home, Sultan Khan is cold and demanding.  When discussing the issue of the carpenter who stole postcards from his shop, Khan is unsympathetic to the plight of his former employee.  While the rest of the Sultan’s family feels that the carpenter had faced punishment enough in the shame that he has brought upon himself, Khan sees little need for mercy, expecting more than just the beatings that the man received from his father.  When his son Mansur asks him over the phone if the carpenter can be released, the Sultan maintains that he has been insulted, shouting, “He wants to ruin my business, undermine my prices.”  This is not true; as the carpenter’s primary motive for the theft was to help feed his children, not the ruination of Khan or his business.

Khan continues to play the victim in the ordeal, still blind of reality saying, “I paid him well.  There was no need to steal.  He’s a crook.” The carpenter stole because the wages he received were inadequate to support his family—in such dire circumstances, there was a need to steal.  Khan, though, refuses to see this perspective and show mercy and he quickly judges the carpenter guilty. He feels “the truth will have to be beaten out of him” by police interrogation.[1]

Even after the carpenter implicates others, Khan’s son feels badly, remembering the interrogators promise of allowing the man to return to his family if only he confessed.  Mansur knows that the promise will likely remain unfulfilled, recalling his father’s final words before he had left for business in Pakistan: “I’ve worked my tail off to try to create something…and a bloody carpenter comes and tries to usurp my life’s work.  He will be punished.”[2] He ignores the concerns of his family and wife who hope that he will “show mercy” before subjecting the man to a prison sentence.  They are concerned that they will be responsible for the death of the carpenter’s children, should he not be around to feed his family.  They also worry that he could die during the six year sentence, saying that “many never make it through the six years” because the prison is “riddled with infection, tuberculosis, and lots of other illnesses.”  When Mansur mentions to his father that the carpenters children could possibly be dead by the time the six years was up, Khan responds with antipathy saying “If he gets sixty years, I couldn’t care less.  He is going to suffer…”[3]

Khan is ever the master of his domain, and his word dominates above all others in his household and family.  The family accepts this treatment with (mostly) silent and resigned indignation. Khan’s sister accepts his “moods,” crying the whole day when he sends her son Fazil home from the bookstore job that the child had performed so well.[4]  The boy had worked twelve hours per day, under Khan’s promise to his sister to feed and shelter his nephew. However, one day, before the end of the arrangement, Khan scolded the boy, saying, “I’m fed up with you.  Go home.  Don’t show yourself in the shop anymore.” Meanwhile, no explanation was given to the both the heartbroken mother or the boy for the banishment from the bookstore.[5]

The author of The Bookseller of Kabul, Åsne Seierstad, puts it best when she describes the Sultan’s role in the family, likening him to a king who took over “the throne” after the death of his father.  She says “not only does he lord it over the household, but he also tries to rule over the siblings that have moved away.”  She describes Khan’s relationship with his brother, who “kisses his hand when they meet.” Khan demands respect from his younger brother and Seierstad falls short of hypothesizing when she says “God help (the brother) if he even dares contradict the Sultan or, even worse, lights up a cigarette in front of him.”  She suggests that when scolding and hitting no longer work for the Sultan, “the next punishment is rejection,” as was the case with another brother, Farid, who defied his older brother in setting up his own book shop.  Baring rare exception, Khan gets what he demands from his family, or they are disowned.  “Farid’s name is no longer mentioned” as if “he is no longer the Sultan’s brother.” “His word is law,” Seierstad says, and “anyone who does not obey him will be punished.”[6]

[1] P.237

[2] P.244

[3] P.244

[4] P.200

[5] P.187

[6] P.114-115

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