The Beth Henley's works Essay

Beth Henley explosion onto the scene in the late 1970 ‘s making what is now known as extremely distinguished work, that commenced in her fatherland Mississippi. Looking to be the following large Southern Writer Henley was favoring her geographical roots in her work. Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Henley has lived the bulk of her life in the South, Traveling to Dallas Texas to analyze an Undergraduate Degree in Acting. It was here she studied at Southern Methodist University alongside other celebrated Southern dramatists James McClure and Jack Heifner. Here she developed a passion for Playwriting, her first one act show Am I Blue written whilst at SMU. It was in 1976 she moved to Los Angeles and wrote the drama that made her a well celebrated Southern Female Playwright. The award that was ‘Crimes of the Heart ‘

She was deemed by Donald R Noble in the Future of Southern Writing:

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“ the Prime Minister Southern Playwright of the 1980 ‘s ” and Crimes of the Heart was described by Karen Laughlin as “ A lemony fluctuation of the grits and Gothic South of Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty and Flannery O Connor. ”

Having been compared to the likes of Williams and O Connor Henley seemed to be on path to going the following large female dramatist. That was until she hit the 1990 ‘s.

“ An flagitious amalgam of ego indulgence and gratuitous sexual fury ”

This is one of the reappraisals used to depict Henley ‘s ulterior work Control Freaks. But this was n’t a one off bad reappraisal. Unfortunately for Henley her other work was excessively reflected in a bad visible radiation. L-Play being described as:

“ L-Play is exanimate, Lemon and mostly Lack Luster. L-Play by Pulitzer Winning Playwright is Less Avant Garde than atrocious. ”

Critics were speedy to detect the dramatic alteration in Henley ‘s work, but non for the better. Having being depicted as a Southern Playwright and holding loose comparings to great authors, Critics were non anticipant of this alteration in her work. Henley had intentionally tried to ramify off and re-establish herself to holding a Post Southern calling, one who worked difficult to take her cultural roots off from her authorship. She no longer wanted to lodge to the conventional regulations of the Southern Milieu. Her awaited new work was non what her southern followings were anticipating. We were non in Mississippi any longer. Transported into a universe much more unrealistic and removed from her native individuality, critics and audiences struggle to recognize Henley as anything other than Southern. My beliefs for these dismaying reappraisals are deficiency of ability to appreciate the new concerns and path Henley has chosen to take. Alternatively we instantly shun this work because the expectancy lead to something cipher expected. She unshackled herself from the South. Throughout this essay with accent placed upon Control Freaks and L-Play I will research how and if Henley has successfully managed to travel off from her Southern Writer position, that she was one time so admired for. If she is now a Post Southern Writer is it true that “ her South of the old decennary genuinely seems gone with the air current. ”

How can we genuinely define a Southern Playwright? Is it an person that has been raised in the South and hence writes about a specific Southern Lifestyle? Yes, to a certain extent but there are other strong subjects I have acknowledged throughout Southern Literature. Southern Playwrights have become identifiably ill-famed during the twentieth Century, peculiarly 1920 to 1960 when Tennessee Williams bounced onto the scene. His most outstanding work was written during so. To be lawfully classified as a Southern Writer, a drama should dwell of, and recognize certain subjects. We peculiarly see people ostracised from society, going an foreigner in their ain native milieus. Peoples are non accepted into the societal order. The obvious instance being inkinesss, adult females and homophiles. We see this in Night Mother by Marsha Norman, the function of Jessie. Jessie has a long term disablement that makes her believe she is non portion of society, she longs to decease throughout the drama as there is no topographic point for her to suit into society. The function of Classic Southern Colloquialism, humourous to native Southerners in peculiar is a strong repeating subject. This is evident in Horton Foote ‘s Trip to Bountiful in the character of Jessie Mae. The antebellum South produced the Southern Belle, most famously seen in the heroic poem Gone with the Wind in the inhabited character of Scarlett O Hara. The neurosis seen in the delicate beauty that is Blanche Du Bois we see in Williams ‘A Streetcar Named Desire ‘ Other subjects include a strong accent on the household and Mother Daughter relationships which Henley writes about in Crimes of the Heart and in Jack Heifner ‘s Porch.

Beth is known as one of the more successful modern-day dramatists, but critics seem to go forth an autochthonal grade upon her, her Southern Roots. Considered a Southern Gothic Writer for many old ages, people fail to detect her as a author that evolves with a modern twenty-four hours audience.

By detecting the Grotesque in L-Play and Control Freaks I have found that non merely does it reflect that of a Southern Gothic Substance, chiefly through the agencies of Parody, It besides helps to make an Absurdist and In Your Face piece of Theatre, that pushes Henley into the Post Southern bracket. The first drama that I found reflected this epoch of motion was L-Play taken from her 1990 aggregation of dramas.

“ I eventually got the thought for the drama when I realised I had no thought. I felt Fragmented, decentralized, and clueless. ”

These are all words Henley used to depict the manner she felt whilst composing L-Play. The complete deficiency of coherence to the drama justifies why Henley might hold felt this manner. The drama being described by one of Beth ‘s closest friends as

“ how unlike Beth it is ”

L-Play is a short drama that consists of 12 scenes all get downing with the Letter L

The symbolism of the Letter L is the lone thing that unites the 12 vignettes that tie the drama together.

“ An L is half a box. It is a missive that is seeking to link. To Associate. ”

I believe that Henley is seeking to appeal to a modern twenty-four hours audience by concentrating on the demand to link and the necessity to desire to happen your topographic point, your ain ego in a modern twenty-four hours society. Does this non take us to what Freud was stating about Henley ‘s characters reflecting the Modern Neurosis? Gene A Plunka describes of Crimes of the Heart

I believe had Henley placed love as one of the sketchs the posed inquiry throughout L-Play of whether we can truly connect with person or how to happen anything concrete in life would hold been defeated. No accent would hold been placed upon the quintessential lone wolf function in the drama. One of the scenes I Looked at was entitled Loser. Loser shows us the lengths 1 with spell to happen lone felicity in a judgemental society. The character Malcolm is urgently seeking to belong in a universe, anyones universe. To be accepted and successful but the deficiency of connexion in the universe leads the audience to see Malcolm resignation to his modern Neurosis, caused by the confines of societal establishments. Henley creates the function of the foreigner like many other scenes in L-Play. All scenes have a sense of desiring to belong, suit in and link but in a grotesque and go againsting mode.

One thing is for certain the alteration in Henley ‘s work has n’t gone unnoticed. Critics seem to hold three diametrically opposing positions of Henley. Some stating Henley ‘s work evolves as she writes, she ne’er conforms to a regional individuality. The 2nd position is that she has snapped all ties with of all time being a southern author. And eventually there are critics that refuse to take her from the southern individuality bracket, holding whatever work Henley produces to be Southern. When asked personally if she considered herself a Southern author Henley said. “ Its like we ‘ve got that settled we do n’t truly hold to experience what shes experiencing or believe about what she ‘s believing approximately, because its in that tradition

L-Play is a piece that Henley deems as Post-Southern. An escapist path to go forth the regional individuality that Henley carries. But has she genuinely left the contemplation of this individuality that became so of import in her early plant, or will she ever replicate in some signifier her heritage through her dramas.

L-Play is a disconnected piece, seeking for a manner to link. I believe the piece is much more originative than that of her work from the 80 ‘s non restricting to Southern Settings. Merely one sketch out of the 12 that assemble the piece is set specifically in the South. The drama has a non additive construction and has minutes that some people would see as absurdist theater due to its tragically amusing minutes that lie beneath in the piece. Due to the realistic surrounding and usage of preponderantly realistic duologue we see elements of absurdism but reflecting a representation of a normal life style. Showing an audience that even in normalcy, we can still be capable to the grotesque.

Leo Seligsohn says of L-Play “ Love is conspicuously absent as on the the L-Words but does non look a careless skip. ”

I believe had Henley placed love as one of the sketchs the posed inquiry throughout L-Play of whether we can truly connect with person or how to happen anything concrete in life would hold been defeated. No accent would hold been placed upon the quintessential lone wolf function in the drama. One of the scenes I Looked at was entitled Loser. Loser shows us the lengths 1 with spell to happen lone felicity in a judgemental society. The character Malcolm is urgently seeking to belong in a universe, anyones universe. To be accepted and successful but the deficiency of connexion in the universe leads the audience to see Malcolm resignation to his modern Neurosis, caused by the confines of societal establishments. Henley creates the function of the foreigner like many other scenes in L-Play. All scenes have a sense of desiring to belong, suit in and link but in a grotesque and go againsting mode.

L-play shows the audience how easy it is to lose your sense of felicity in a modern twenty-four hours society. Gene A Plunka refers to L-Play as “ L-Play depicts the loss of felicity as a consequence of failure to link. This connexion can be construed as meaningful contact and refers to the ability to unify ID and EGO. ”

Siegmund Freud says the head is split into two parts. The witting and the Unconscious. The witting being the mental processing that we are all cognizant of and the rational ideas we have. The unconscious reflects ideas, feelings, impulses that we are non cognizant of. Mostly unpleasant ideas such as hurting and anxiousness. Although we are incognizant of this side of the head, it still depicts and influences some of our behavior and picks. Harmonizing to Freud there are three elements of the personality. The ID, the EGO and the SUPER EGO. The Id remainders in the unconscious province of heads driven by the pleasance rule, our wants and needs. The Ego represents that in out heads which understand world. It develops from the ID but makes certain that when we act on our cardinal desires from the Idaho we do it in a manner that is deemed acceptable by society, as the EGO is a province of the witting and unconscious head. I believe what Plunka is seeking to state of L-Play is that in todays modern society it can be really easy for the pleasance rule to go non existent. This makes the id passive, with merely the sense of world coming from the Ego ruling our lives. If we have no signifier of contentment in our lives so all we are left with is the nucleus of our lives, the world, the self-importance. This finally leads us to experience lost and lonely.

What became evident in Henley ‘s later dramas are the functions of the supporters going the foreigner the lone wolf endeavoring for connexion. Plunka besides says “ Henleys supporters are ostracised, insecure and frequently physically mutilated optimists haunted by the apparition of unrealized dreams. ”

“ It represents Freud ‘s impression of the modern neuroticism, and the denouement efficaciously provides a response to the angoisse and disaffection, that permeates through society and which typically prevents human existences from accomplishing felicity. ” If Crimes of the Heart reflected this premiss of isolation, how far has Henley come with ramifying off from the South in her more modern-day authorship? Some may reason that by retroflexing this isolation, this feeling of loss of connexion, she is conforming to the function of the foreigner. The foreigner most normally recognised as a traditional Southern Gothic trait. When depicting her earlier work Robert J. Andreach writes:

“ Her first image is the 1 that persists throughout most of her plays action. It is the image of an foreigner, a non-conformist, a misfit that the realistic perceptual experience signifiers. ”

As Andreach states it is clear that Henley has worked with the function of the foreigner before in her earlier work. I peculiarly notice it is evident in Crimes of the Heart. The three sisters, ( Ironically representative of Henley ‘s favorite dramatist, Chekhov ‘s Three Sisters, but a much more modern/southern comparing. ) show feelings of isolation and solitariness throughout. In the opening scene we see Lenny puting a taper in a cooky for her birthday entirely. It merely oozes with a sense of sadness, complete solitariness on her ain birthday. If in 1978 Henley wrote dominantly about the Outsider and associating to what we know as the stereotypes of Southern Drama how can we turn out she has moved into a Post-Modern based influence. What is now defined as ‘Post Southern ‘

By looking at her later dramas even the subjects are evidently of a much more absurdist nature. L-Play trades with 12 quick paced scenes, no coherence and a sporadic choice of capable affair. Control Freaks looks into the life of Sister who is enduring from a Multiple Personality Disorder, other subjects include incest, colza and changeless sexual satisfactions we would n’t woolgather of seeing in her earlier work, or other Southern Playwrights work. Henley has been described by William W. Demastes as

“ What is of import is her acute Southern sense of the grotesque and the absurd experienced in day-to-day being, a sense that has frequently triggered loose comparings with her and other southern authors like ‘Eudora Welty ‘ and ‘Flannery O Connor ‘ ”

Proposing that Henley ‘s inspiration stems from these authoritative Southern Writers. I think the job that Henley faces is that holding had the success that Crimes of the Heart did, Critics are indulgent to take the Southern Playwright position out from under her belt.

L-Play is described as one of Henley ‘s ‘most challenging dramas ‘ unlike any of Her old work it seems likely that Henley is doing a witting attempt to maneuver off from the regional individuality that she is renowned for. Gary Richards says of Beth

“ Henley has worked to set up herself as a station modern author, one who has grown out of a Southern Milieu and so has centralised that civilization in early Hagiographas, but for whom that cultural individuality no longer remains pre-eminent in either the authors day-to-day being or her artistic look. ”

Prooving this quotation mark is rather simple when looking at the artistic way Henley chose to take with her in her 1990-1999 aggregation of dramas. No longer are we place in little town Mississippi that was so evident in her earlier plants for illustration, ‘The Wake of Jamey Foster ‘ , ‘Crimes of the Heart ‘ and ‘The Debutant Ball ‘ , to call but a few. We are now transported into the kingdom of other more commercial countries such as Los Angeles, a College Campus in Urbana and Wyoming. Not merely has the locale alteration the dramatic thematic attack has taken a measure into the Post Southern. Having directed L-Play and Control Freaks during my Contemporary Scene Module, I found I was disputing my histrions to travel beyond naturalism, beyond their ain comfort zones, into a universe of hyper-reality. Asking them to play with melodrama in order to finally take this and experience in a much more absurdist universe, making absurdist theater. I relied on a minimalistic scene but used strong choreographed grotesque like motions. Concentrating chiefly on Control Freaks I noticed how obvious the elements of the grotesque can be, in what may ab initio look to an audience as a Close Knit All American Family. We discover quickly that these characters are foul specimens of human existences.

“ To ignore the grotesque would be to disregard a part of the human status, merely as disregarding decease would forestall us from to the full appreciating life. ”

This quotation mark I believe is stating that Henley is integrating the Grotesque into her latter dramas because we all have an interior deviant side that we are non ever consciously cognizant of. These Grotesque ways have n’t been placed in Control Freaks simply to stand for that of a Southern tradition. It is a manner and a portion of our lives.

“ Her ulterior dramas while apparently more experimental may really be true to the full scope of the human experience, by bearing informant to those helter-skelter and crude forces in ourselves and in the universe, that we seldom acknowledge but that exist in malice of our ignorance. ”

We have antecedently seen in Southern Literature the function of the fading beauty, the Southern Belle, The female Archetype. From Scarlett O Hara in Gone with the Wind to Blanche Du Bois in Williams A Streetcar Named Desire. Henley nevertheless paints over this stereotype of the female, projecting an opaque shadow on these characters. Using the grotesque, Henley bludgeons this ideal of beauty and proves the image to be bogus, one that we as a society want to believe is true. She alternatively replaces this pretentious image of adult females with abhoring characters such as Sister and Betty that manifest through their desires for sex. An illustration of this is shown when Betty is holding an matter with the investor of the house she lives in Paul Casper.

Paul: “ Give me some of you. I want some of you before I go. ”

( Betty sticks her manus between her legs. She gasps, so holds her wet fingers out to paul. He grabs her manus and smears her aroma across his lips and nose. )

  • I noticed that sex plays a critical portion in control monsters with all the characters prosecuting in some signifier of sexual activity more than one time throughout the drama. Unlike any of Beth ‘s old work the sex becomes much more heightened and sadistic, they use each others sexual edacity to mortify one another. I believe this is Henley ‘s strongest station southern property in her latter dramas. The accent placed upon sex. I believe Southern audience members are n’t ready to see these sort of over sexualised properties on phase. If Henley ‘s chief audience are southern followings so this could be the ground that Beth is having bad feedback and her newer work. Tarnishing her repute as a southern author by make up one’s minding to ramify off into a way much more in your face and broad.
  • Ewa Kuryluck Polish painter, novelist and litterateur says “ the psyche was conceived in the European tradition as a volatile female which added further complexness to the symbolism of the cave ( the original place of the grotesque ) and led to the creative activity of metaphors which linked sexual thrust to the geographic expedition of 1s ain or another individuals self. ”
  • The cave was notably the original definition of the grotesque, a dark subterraneous grotto. “ what better metaphor for incursion into a warm enclosed infinite, could be than the act of sexual intercourse. ”
  • Freud believed in the metaphor of the geographic expedition of the subterreanean grotto is his psychoanalytic theory. Kuryluk uses his psychoanalytic Sessionss when researching the thought of the grotesque. “ During the psychoanalytic Sessionss Freuds ain office turned into a grotto of wild revery which profoundly linked the physician to the patient and non surprisingly led them to the find of erotism. ”
  • Is this turn outing that sex is at the root of the patients ideas and head? I believe so. I believe that what Freud is hence making in his Sessionss is enabling his patients to look into their unconscious head and face it accept what their ideas desire. I think this theory works good when looking at the secret plan of control monsters and the function of sister, her multiple personality doing her to hold a distressing mind. In the stoping soliloquy It shows her hankering to hold person to demo her attending and turn out her topographic point in society. She feels lost and trapped in the kingdom of her warped sexualised head with all the people around her stuck in their ain loony lives.

This usage of provocative sexual imagination is used throughout with a sense of sado-masochism running backwards and forwards between the males and females in the dramatis personae. Control Freaks is more heightened than any of Beth ‘s other work, doing it typify the Post Southern manner Beth seems to be swerving towards. By glamorizing sex, we get a wholly different attitude to the drama. No longer are an audience comparing the characters to that of a authoritative Southern play, we are in fact acquiring the antonym. Sexual activity, at such a heightened degree, appears clearly in some of the most celebrated assets of Southern Literature. A Streetcar Named Desire, Sweet Bird of Youth and the Southern movie, The Last Picture Show, set in Wichita, Kansas. Sexual activity in these have ever seemed to an audience as sordid and immoral. Rape appears as a strong subject tyrannizing the beautiful adult females in the colza scenes. Henley has alternatively replaced the Genteel beauties of the South, with overtly sexualised characters. I found when directing Control Freaks the closest I could associate these characters was against animals, animate beings about. I made my dramatis personae construe the functions as animate being like animals, to truly acquire the functions into their organic structures and experience the arrant foulness of these beasts. This carnal inherent aptitude Henley brings to her characters is spoken of as a normalcy, a concealed facet we need to accept into our lives. The grotesque is in some manner portion of our lives, we must non presume it is something that appears at Halloween or through Ghost Stories. As Wilson Yates describes the grotesque:

“ That which does non suit into our day-to-day lives, but is present however as a sort of subconscious, diabolic force. ”

The grotesque speaks of some facet of life that does n’t suit in with normalcy, our decorousness and mundane believes. It conflicts with the universe we choose as human existences to hold normal. It represents a misdemeanor in the universe we have construed, whether that be societal, moral or spiritual. Due to this we relegate the image of the grotesque to the dorsum of our ideas and ostracize it to the lower deepnesss of our witting head, but it will ever stay in our witting universe. This is something that is evident in the function of sister whom banishes her multiple personality upset to the deeper portion of her head. We merely see the existent side to sister when she is talking to herself and is unaccompanied. As Wilson Yates describes the grotesque he says “ That which does non suit into our day-to-day lives but is present however as a sort of subconscious diabolic force. ”

A Post Southern assest that Henley adds to Control Freaks is the deficiency of ability for the characters to detect the deformed imagination they are enforcing on the audience.

“ The grotesque has become a cloth of their universe. ”

It encapsulates them wholly allowing the audience see this darkened side of their human mind, that we are all capable of bring forthing. Unlike Henley ‘s older work the characters

“ confess to their dark thrusts ”

Different from her realistic dramas Henley ‘s modernist attack lets her characters imperceptibly connect with the desires they are experiencing from within, and travel with them. The sense of repression is much more removed and we see this in the sexual activity that takes topographic point, i.e orgasms all over the garden, and the fierceness of linguistic communication that bounces excessively and from the supporters of the drama.

“ these characters lead us into an foreign universe of distorted beliefs and violent behaviors that we are forced to admit and accept as our ain. ”

Yates says: “ A Monstrous imitation of itself and the characters behave in ways that are barbarous and foreign to our universe of self perceptual experience. ”

Although this vile but provactive nature of the piece may look on the surface excessively hot to manage for some audience members, one think that Henley lures the audience in to watch a public presentation that distorts the imagination we are witnessed excessively in a normal modern twenty-four hours society. Control freaks takes a elephantine spring for Henley. We are no longer in the plain universe of the mcgrath sisters henleys describes the los angeles public presentation as “ a grotesquw concert dance that ne’er stops get downing in a controlled manner but bit by bit erupiting into pandemonium. ”

  • In control monsters there is a significant sense of dramatic sarcasm. The audience see the disenchantment of the characters on phase but the characters nevertheless do n’t. They accept the grotesque as portion of their day-to-day lives. It has in fact become fabricated into their universe. The audience are invited into the deepnesss of their human mind, where we see Sister ‘s mental instability. Containing fickle behavioural subjects throughout the drama we see the contemplation of the dark points of the human minds. Henley ‘s old characters have ever reflected a much more realistic sense acknowledging to their dark suppressions. Here nevertheless these characters take us into a much more foreign, provocative and distorted universe.
  • Trying to interrupt the Southern Boundaries Henley says we are now concentrating on “ the darker side of the human spirit and passions. ”
  • Wolfgang Kayser writer of grotesque in art and literature says “ Henley intentionally constructs a ludic universe that prevents any empathy with her characters. ”
  • I believe these characters have no redeeming qualities through the prurience and beastly ways in which Henley has chosen they conform excessively. We as an audience should non sympathize with them yet we should be absolutely engaged in the despicable nature of these characters. We see the degrading picks they make that manifest unreasoningly through sexual and provocative imagination and linguistic communication.

“ control freaks reveals a unsafe universe of lawless desires and bloodcurdling visions that forces the audience to contemplate the nature of immorality. ” These capable affairs show henleys abandonement of her realistic dramas

Parody helps beth to ramify into the station southern bracket, peculiarly in control monsters. By her utilizing parodic imagination of the conventional South.

  • Carol Christ in ‘Diving Deep and come uping ‘ says on adult females “ Because patriarchal society Teachs adult females to oppugn their ain worth, womens experiences of void are ineluctable.
  • I believe this is stating that adult females who do non conform to the societal regularities set by society feel ostracised and go defeated in a male centred universe. This is shown by control monsters as Carl takes the power through most of the drama. Christ ‘s theory shows that females who do n’t take conventional lives can go excluded and see themselves as failures. Christ defines the term ‘awakening ‘ which is when a adult female can accept nil into her life. We can utilize Jesuss structuve when specifying the relationships in control monsters. Sister is continuously fighting to suit in and turn out she is non merely a meaningless being. She is non merely combating with her split personality she battles with what I believe and oppressive definition of herself and what we see in the concluding scene is her ability to go a free individual and realise who she is after killing off the alpha male.
  • Henley says of her plants they are “ about get the better ofing the shades of the past and allowing spell of what other people have said you are what they have told you to be. ”
  • How can she finally be deemed wholly station south wind when her prima lady is known to her household as sister. Something that would merely of all time go on in the South. In footings of her sexualing thepieces Henley has nailed it she has the taken that excess expressed measure that breaks the southern boundaries by far. But after looking at these two dramas are the capable affairs truly original or do they lie at the nucleus of southern play. Incest, force, household affairs, the function of the foreigner. All themes we know to be stereotypically southern. Although beths recent work has been received severely I do n’t believe that she has failed merely non lived up the outlooks created for herself after offenses of the bosom. Possibly beth cognize this and that determined her ground to ramify into the station southern class she is trusting to hold reached. Unfortunately offenses of the bosom raised the saloon for Henley to a tallness she seems unable to yet once more range.
  • “ As gary Richards said: Beth Henley is a thrilling fresh immature voice of a wunderkind has given manner to shrillness and confusion go forthing high anticipation more or less unrealized after an initial flash of glare.

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