Friday, August 11, 2017

Airswimming: St. Dymphna

The asylum in Airswimming is named for St. Dymphna (pronounced "Dimf-nah"). But who exactly is St. Dymphna? According to the Catholic Church:
Dymphna was the only child of a pagan king who is believed to have ruled a section of Ireland in the 7th century. She was the very picture of her attractive young Christian mother.
When the queen died at a very young age, the royal widower’s heart remained beyond reach of comfort. His moody silences pushed him on the verge of mental collapse. His courtiers suggested he consider a second marriage. The king agreed on condition that his new bride should look exactly like his former one.
His envoys went far a field in search of the woman he desired. The quest proved fruitless. Then one of them had a brilliant idea: Why shouldn’t the king marry his daughter, the living likeness of her mother?
Repelled at first, the king then agreed. He broached the topic to his daughter. Dymphna, appalled, stood firm as a rock. “Definitely not.” By the advice of St. Gerebern, her confessor, she eventually fled from home to avoid the danger of her refusal.
A group of four set out across the sea – Father Gerebern, Dymphna, the court jester and his wife. On landing at Antwerp, on the coast of Belgium, they looked around for a residence. In the little village of Gheel, they settled near a shrine dedicated to St. Martin of Tours.
Then spies from her native land arrived in Gheel and paid their inn fees with coins similar to those Dymphna had often handed to the innkeeper. Unaware that the men were spies, he innocently revealed to them where she lived.
The king came at once to Gheel for the final, tragic encounter. Despite his inner fury, he managed to control his anger. Again he coaxed, pleased, made glowing promises of money and prestige. When this approach failed, he tried threats and insults; but these too left Dymphna unmoved. She would rather die than break the vow of virginity she had made with her confessor’s approval.
In his fury, the king ordered his men to kill Father Gerebern and Dymphna. They killed the priest but could not harm the young princess.
The king then leaped from his seat and with his own weapon cut off his daughter’s head. Dymphna fell at his feet. Thus Dymphna, barely aged fifteen, died. Her name appears in the Roman Martyrology, together with St. Gerebern’s on May 15.
In the town of Gheel, in the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium, great honor is paid to St. Dymphna, whose body is preserved in a silver reliquary in the church which bears her name. Gheel has long been known as a place of pilgrimage for persons seeking relief or nervous or emotional distresses. In our century, the name of St. Dymphna as the heavenly intercessor for such benefits is increasingly venerated in America. [source:]

St. Dymphna is officially the patron saint of the mentally ill, the nervous, the emotionally disturbed and those suffering neurological disorders. As a result she's also the patron saint of psychiatrists, psychologists, and neurologists. She is also the patron saint for victims of incest. 

In America she has an official shrine in Ohio and in New York

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Airswimming: Notes From the Playwright

Playwright Charlotte Jones has published two different sets of author's notes for Airswimming, one from the original production in 2004 and one for the more recently published edition of the script from Samuel French. Both offer some interesting insight into the creation of the play. 

In 2004: 

"I always start with an image. With Airswimming I saw a woman trying to trepan herself with a hand whisk. I happened to read a book about the injustices committed against the mentally ill: “A Miss Kitson and a Miss Baker were placed in a Hospital for the Criminally Insane in the 1920s for bearing illegitimate children and not released until the 1970s.” That was the line that started me writing. There was something terribly moving to me in hearing their names – genteel English names, the names of posh girls who should be coming out into society, not being incarcerated for being out of wedlock. Those names with the dismissive and distancing ‘a’ before them – ‘a Miss Kitson and a Miss Baker’ reading those names was the trigger to wanting to write their story. A story about bad girls trying to be good – a world where it seemed inevitable to me that Doris Day should become the patron saint of all that is wholesome and perfect and feminine.” 

Ms. Jones goes on to say that when writing she starts with the title and then writes the story. About the title of Airswimming she says “[i]t expressed perfectly to me the emancipation that the two women find in each other in a world where they are denied the simple act of coming up for air – and yet still they swim!”

In the recent edition: 

"Airswimming is a comedy about despair. It was inspired by the various true stories of women who were placed in mental institutions in the 1920s because they had given birth to illegitimate children, or for other spurious reasons such as they were deaf, lesbian, or merely "atypical." Some of these women were not released until the 1970s when a lot of the Victorian mental institutions closed down as the great age of pharmacology had dawned. It is a meditation on stasis, on being stuck in a hopeless situation and the salvation that is to be found only in friendship.

The dance and song elements are crucial to the sense of joy that the play can bring in performance. DORA and PERSEPHONE find each other and remain essentially free even though they are incarcerated because of the pleasure and solace they find in each other’s company. As Viktor Frankl wrote so movingly in his book Man’s Search for Meaning: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” DORA and PERSEPHONE manage to save each other and
transform into DORPH and PORPH in order to survive."

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Airswimming: Que Sera Sera!

The music and words of Doris Day appear routinely in Airswimming

A singer and actor, one of Ms. Day's biggest hits was "Que Sera Sera." The song was written for the Alfred Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much which starred Doris Day and James Stewart.

Day's recording of the song made it to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number one in the UK Singles Chart. From 1968 to 1973, it was the theme song for the sitcom The Doris Day Show, and it became her signature song

In 1956 the song received the Academy Award for Best Original Song with the alternative title "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)." It was the third Oscar in this category for songwriters Livingston and Evans

Join Doris, Dorph, and Porph in a chorus of "Que Sera Sera" on this Wednesday before preview! 

Airswimming: Meet the Playwright

Charlotte Jones is a British playwright who was born June 2, 1968. Her first play Airswimming debuted in 1997 at the Battersea Arts Centre in London. She won the Critics’ Circle Most Promising Playwright award in 1999 for In Flame and Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis. Her fourth stage play Humble Boy premiered at the National Theatre in 2001, and was awarded the Critics’ Circle Best New Play Award, the People’s Choice Best New Play Award and was nominated for an Olivier award. It transferred to the West End and ran for nine months before opening at the Manhattan Theatre club in New York and being nominated for a Drama desk award. Humble Boy also garnered Ms. Jones the 2001 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize established in 1978, is for English-language women playwrights. In 2004 her play The Dark premiered at the Donmar Warehouse in London. Ms. Jones also wrote the book to the 2004-2006 West End musical, The Woman in White, in collaboration with David Zippel and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Ms. Jones also writes extensively for TV, radio and film.