Archive for September, 2020

I have been into a deep reading slump for nearly a month. I tried getting back to reading, but my attention was scattered and I couldn’t focus. Today, I tried reading a play, and I’m happy to report that it finally worked. Hopefully I’m back 🙂

I discovered Marsha Norman’s ‘night, Mother in a literary anthology that I have. I read her potted biography at the beginning of the play and found it very fascinating. I finally got around to reading the play today.

Jessie’s mother is trying to take out a cupcake from the kitchen cabinet. She calls Jessie to ask her something. Jessie enters the room. Jessie seems to be cleaning up something elsewhere in the house. Jessie and her mother start talking. At one point Jessie asks her mother where her father’s gun was kept. Jessie’s mother tells her that it is in a box in the attic. Jessie goes and gets it. Her mother asks her why she needs the gun. Jessie tells her why. At this point, I have to stop and ponder on whether I should tell you why. I don’t want to spoil the surprise and so I won’t, and I will skirt around this. Her mother thinks that Jessie is joking, but when she realizes that Jessie is serious, she tries to talk Jessie out of it and uses every kind of stalling tactic to buy time. The rest of the play is a long conversation between Jessie and her mother. What Jessie is planning to do, and whether she succeeds in it or whether her mother succeeds in preventing her is told the rest of the story.

‘night, Mother is a play which grabs your attention from the first line of dialogue and never lets go till the end. The story is intense, the dialogue is crisp and sharp and amazing and asks all the big questions in beautiful everyday ways, and as the play hurtles towards its denouement, our heart starts beating harder. It is haunting and heartbreaking. I cried when I read the last page.

I loved ‘night, Mother”. It is a haunting book. I am so glad I discovered Marsha Norman. I haven’t heard of many women playwrights before. I haven’t read any before (except for a short 10-page play by Wendy Wasserstein). When we talk about 20th century playwrights after the Second World War, the typical names that are mentioned are Tennessee Williams, Harold Pinter, Bertolt Brecht, Samuel Beckett, Arthur Miller – all men. Women playwrights seem to be rarer than rare birds. It is odd. The reason might be that there are not many women playwrights around, or they are there, but they are not getting enough visibility. I think it is probably a combination of both, but I also feel that it is more the first than the second. If we do a simple test, we can discover this. If we pick a contemporary poetry anthology, we’ll find that half the poets featured are women. But if we pick an anthology of plays, we’ll be lucky to see even one play by a woman playwright. I don’t know why things are the way they are. But I am very happy to discover that there are amazing women playwrights out there, and Marsha Norman is among them. ‘night, Mother is one of the great plays I’ve ever read. It won the Pulitzer when it first came out, was successfully performed in Broadway, and was adapted into a movie starring Sissy Spacek and Anne Bancroft. I hope to watch the movie sometime. I can’t wait to read more plays by Marsha Norman.

Have you read ‘night, Mother? What do you think about it? Have you read plays by women playwrights? Who are your favourites? Please give me some recommendations.


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