Mrs. Warren’s Profession was written in 1893 and first published in 1898. Because of Mrs. Warren’s defense of her profession (she was a madam although it was never actually stated), it generated much controversy and was banned in a number of cities. Its first performance in a public theatre in London was not until 1925. In the last half of the 20thcentury it has become one of Shaw’s most frequently produced plays. For blog on Mrs. Warren click here.
GREASE, A New 50’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Musical. Music, book and lyrics by John Jacobs and Warren Casey. It opened off Broadway in February 1972, and moved up to Broadway June 1972. It ran 3,388 performances on Broadway.
In Summer 2019 Grease was the first production for MSU’s Tent Theatre (June 12-22) and the second production for Stages St. Louis playing at the Kirkwood Civic Center (July 19-August 18). In Summer 1983, I directed a production of Greasefor Tent Theatre in Summer 1983. It was an immense success, and a production that I had remembered fondly.
As I watched the new production in Tent, I tried to remember how I felt about the material 36 years ago. Whatever I thought then, I have now acquired a more jaundiced view. I find the material blatantly sexist.
Michael Hamilton, director, of the production at StagesStL wrote in the program guide for the season: “Grease may parody the 1950s, but its appeal has proven ageless. Even though the girls wear poodle skirts and the boys sport T-shirts and pegged pants—anyone who had a childhood, went to high school, once faked an ID to buy beer, or cruised the drive-in circuit in an old custom car, can immediately empathize….Certainly an iconic representation of a more innocent youth culture, Grease celebrates an American way of life that is perhaps long past, but is fondly remembered.”
I do not now have the enthusiasm that Hamilton displays in his program note. I see the portrayal of women as belittling. While it is an insular world In Grease, is that a good reason for accepting the views dramatized in it? The women spend their time mooning over the boys and expecting conformity in behavior and dress to be accepted by the Pink Ladies.
Rizzo, leader of the Pink Ladies, sets the tone with her opening line, “Hey, hey! Hey, where’s all the guys?”
As the guys assemble, one of them says to Danny, the leader of the Burger Palace Boys:
“Doody. Where ya been all summer, Danny?
Danny. Well, I spent a lot time down at the beach.
Kenickie. Hey, ‘dja meet any new broads?
Danny. Nah. Just met this one who was sorta cool, ya know?
Sonny. Ya mean she “puts out?
Danny. Is that all you ever think about, Sonny?”
The “one who was sorta cool” turns out to be Sandra Dumbrowski, the heroine, new girl in town. The story that follows is how Sandy learns to conform so as to win Danny and to become a member of the Pink Ladies. The last scene in the musical depicts the triumph of conformity:
“Marty, Frenchy, Rizzo and Jan in Pink Ladies jackets enter silently, gesturing to the GUYS to be cool as THEY take up defiant positions. Sandy enters, now a Greaser’s dream girl. A wild new hair style, black leather motorcycle jacket, skin-tight slacks, gold hoop earrings. Yet SHE actually looks prettier and more alive than SHE ever has. SHE is chewing gum and smoking a cigarette. SHE slouches casually…
Rizzo. (Aside to Sandy). Remember, play it cool.
Danny (Turns and sees Sandy). Hey, Sandy! Wow, what a total! Wick-ed!”
The musical ends with,
“Frenchy. Gee, the whole crowd’s together again. I could cry.
Jan. Gee, me too!
Sandy. Yeah, I’m all choked up.
The KIDS all have their arms around each other as THEY sing a one-verse reprise of ‘We Go Together’ and go off dancing and singing.”
Maybe I shouldn’t blame Grease for creating a picture of an insular world that existed in the 1950s. The musical was being true to a certain culture for the period that it created. In it the independent woman would not be accepted. For Summer 2019, Grease may have been a perfect choice. While itwas written in the early 1970s depicting and parodying the 1950s, it is THEmusical for the Trump era. It exhibits the behavior and attitude expected for women by the leader of the free world. Men define the world and a woman’s place in it. In the last scene Sandy is the epitome of the Trumpian female. She is “now a Greaser’s dream girl”-- dressed in highest Pink Ladies fashion standing beside HER man.
Vivie Warren would have been quickly banished from the world of Grease. She intended to create her universe and her role in it. In Act III of Mrs. WarrenVivie has received an offer from Sir George Crofts to be his wife, receive a title and have a fortune settled on her. Vivie dispatches him:
“Vivie. I suppose you really think youre getting on famously with me.
Crofts. Well, I may flatter myself that you think better of me than you did at first.
Vivie. (quietly) I hardly find you worth thinking about at all now. When I think of the society that tolerates you and the laws that protect you! when I think of how helpless nine out of ten young girls would be in the hands of you and my mother! the unmentionable woman and her capitalist bully--”
In Act IV Vivie is at first wooed by her mother:
“Mrs. Warren. Vivie: do you know how rich I am?
Vivie. I have no doubt you are very rich.
Mrs. Warren. But you dont know all that means: youre too young. It means a new dress every day; it means theatres and balls every night. It means having the pick of all the gentlemen in Europe at your feet; it means a lovely house and plenty of servants; it means the choicest of eating and drinking; it means everything you like, everything you want, everything you can think of…. I know what young girls are; and I know youll think better of it when youve turned it over in your mind.”
When Vivie refuses and turns her back on all that her Mother offers, Mrs. Warren upbraids her:
“Mrs. Warren (lapsing recklessly into her dialect). We’re mother and daughter. I want my daughter. Ive a right to you. Who is to care for me when I’m old? Plenty of girls have taken to me like daughters and cried at leaving me; but I let them all go because I had you to look forward to. I kept myself lonely for you. You’ve no right to turn on me now and refuse to do your duty as a daughter.
Vivie (jarred and antagonized by the echo of the slums in her mother’s voice). My duty as a daughter! I thought we should come to that presently! Now once for all, mother, you want a daughter and Frank wants a wife. I don’t want a mother, and I don’t want husband. I have spared neither Frank nor myself in sending him about his business. Do you think I will spare you?”
(In the quotations from the play spelling and punctuation are Shaw’s.)
Vivie would be unacceptable by the Pink Ladies, and she would not be tolerated by Donald Trump.
Vivie morphs pass the time of Grease to the present day. She is now Prime Minister and confronts Donald Trump:
Vivie. (“Plain business-like dress, but not dowdy.”) I am not for sale. I do not want a Mentor. Your facts and figures are fake and grossly inaccurate.
Trump. (Billcap pulled low to hide his eyes) Nasty!
(Vivie smiles confidently.)