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.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Airswimming: Meet the Design Team

Meet the design team behind the regional premiere of Airswimming

Katherine Forrest (Stage Manager) Katherine is delighted to be making her debut with Dragon Productions Theatre Company. She has worked behind the scenes and on stage for many previous shows. Her most work was done at Woodside High School, taking on various roles in productions. She is also studying at Canada College to obtain a double major in Business and Theater.

R. Dutch Fritz (Scenic Designer) This is Dutch’s 2nd Dragon production after the fantastically received, Dead Accounts. Most recently he designed Sister Act at Hillbarn Theatre, Cabaret at Pacifica Spindrift and All in the Timing at NDNU Theatre; where he designs scenery, costumes, props & lighting and teaches Design & Production for his day job. For 20 years, Dutch produced the NDNU Theatre Festival & Playwrights’ Contest. Some favorite credits include, Amateurs, Almost Maine, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, *Dracula (his own adaptation),Our Town, Three Sisters, Beard of Avon, Misalliance,  A Christmas Carol, Fiddler on the Roof, Hotel Paradiso, Grapes of Wrath, Oklahoma!, *Real Women Have Curves, *Dearborn Heights, Dead Man Walking, 1940’s Radio Hour, *Rose Tattoo, *Blood Wedding, Noises Off, You Can’t Take It With You, *The Rover, Much Ado About Nothing, *Roosters, *Marisol, *F.O.B., Deathtrap, Crimes of the Heart, Will Rogers Follies, Holes, Defying Gravity, Aladdin, The Foreigner, Oliver, Secret Garden, Diary of Anne Frank, Sweeney Todd, Woman in Black, To Kill a Mockingbird, Approaching Zanzibar, Urinetown,*Dancing at Lughnasa, Inherit the Wind, *Our Lady of the Tortilla, Waiting for Godot, *Picasso at the Lapin Agile, and Man of la Mancha. He has adjudicated for American College Theatre Festival and Music Theatre San Jose High School Outreach. Other credits include, Ragazzi, Central Washington University, Laughing Horse Summer Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Invisible Theatre and University of Arizona, where he earned his MFA. He holds MSS & BA degrees from U of South Dakota where he designed museum exhibits, restored a 1941 Chevy and was a traditional Lakota/Sioux. For his grandson’s 3rd birthday Dutch built a kid-scaled pirate ship. An Eagle Scout; he has been a cook, teen counselor and a lifeguard. (* Shows directed and designed.) More at  

Brooke Jennings (Costume Designer) Brooke is ecstatic to rejoin Dragon Productions with this thoughtful production of "Airswimming.” A graduate of UC Santa Cruz's Theater Arts Masters Program, Brooke is an award winning Costume Designer currently working in the Bay Area and New York. Her credits also include San Francisco Playhouse (Colossal, The Nether, Stage Kiss), Berkeley Playhouse (Peter Pan The Musical), We Players (MIdsummer of Love, Romeo and Juliet, HeroMonster, Ondine), Magic Theater (asst. designer: A Lie of the Mind, Bad Jews), FaultLine Theater (Every 28 Hours, Maggie’s Riff), Virago Theatre (The Singularity (New York Premier, 2015)), Custom Made Theater Company (Mother Night, Belleville, Chess The Musical, Six Degrees of Separation, Sam and Dede (SF and NY Premieres)), and City Lights Theater (Rocky Horror Show). Brooke is the 2015 Recipient for Best Costume Design by Theatre Bay Area for her work on We Players’ “Ondine at Sutro," directed by Ava Roy and Carly Cioffi.

Charles McKeithan (Master Carpenter) has been working in Bay Area theater for over ten years now as an actor and a carpenter and is happy to be back with the Dragon for another round of fun. His past works include multiple producttions here at the Dragon, Walls of Jericho at the Pear, Collosus at SF Playhouse, and countless productions with Ron Gasparinetti under the guise of Thrust Scenic Design.

Lance Huntley (Sound Designer) Lance is pleased to be working at Dragon

Chloe Schweizer (Assistant Sound Designer) Chloe is excited to be back in the Bay and working with Dragon Theatre again after filling in last summer as a stage manager for Anna Christie. Other recent credits include stage manager for Sunnyvale Community Players’ Rent, and assistant stage manager for the world premiere of Ike Holter’s Night Runner with The Theatre School at DePaul’s “Chicago Playworks for Families and Young Audiences” series. This fall, Chloe will be returning to The Theatre School to continue pursuing a BFA in theatrical sound design. She hopes you enjoy the show!

Patrick Mahoney (Lighting Designer) Patrick is thrilled to be designing his first show at Dragon Productions. He is a recent transplant to the Bay Area having just come from the Cleveland Play House as their Lighting Apprentice. While there, he served as the Assistant Lighting Designer for shows such as Sex With StrangersKen Ludwig’s Baskerville, Clybourne Park, How I Learned to Drive, and Disney’s Freaky Friday.  Locally, Patrick was the Assistant Lighting Designer for As You Like It at California Shakespeare Theater and Measure for Measure at both Santa Cruz Shakespeare and California Shakespeare Theater.  B.S. in Theatrical Design from Northwestern State University.

Richard Newton (British Dialect Coach) This native of Liverpool, England  is a theatre professional and educator. His body of work includes: as dialect - for Dragon Theatre - The Woman in Black & Smash!; for Theatreworks Silicon Valley - Hound of the Baskervilles, The 39 Steps, Emma the musical; City Lights - Calendar Girls, Dr Jeckyll & Mr Hyde;  for NDNU & Performing Arts Group - Christmas Carol, the Musical (also, associate director); for Coastal Rep - Oliver!, The Rivals, & The Odd Couple. As director - Awake & Sing at Coastal Rep and will direct there in early 2018. As actor/writer/ensemble he collaborated on Arc:Hive - A Moment (Un)Bound: Or, The Unreal Past - a Dragon Theatre 2nd Stage production which was an honoree in the 'Standout New Works' category in the Silicon Valley small theatre venue awards. He supplements his professional theatrical career with the healing arts. His main focus is the horse/human connection where he finds their interaction resonates with his theatrical training and teaching. In this vein he cowrote/collaborated/acted in the experimental play Philippos, Red Barn, Stanford: a work integrating human actors and horses as actors. He holds an MFA in Directing/ Dramaturgy from Roosevelt University, Chicago.

Erika Overstreet (Scenic Intern) Erika is glad to be back in the theater helping to make the stage at Dragon Productions come alive. She spent her years at the University of Davis, CA working on a variety of shows but has since been using her skills in event coordination. When not offering her services to the next Dragon show she can be found roaming the Stanford campus or the Bay Area.

Erika Zinsmeister (Dramaturg) Airswimming marks Erika's dramaturgical debut in the Bay and she is grateful for the opportunity to explore public education and community development in the arts as part of Dragon's creative community. Having grown up in theater on the Massachusetts South Shore, she is thrilled to find this creative outlet for her historical research skills across multiple topics and time periods. She joins Dragon Productions straight out of a PhD program in the History of Health Sciences at University of California, San Francisco.