Archives for posts with tag: William Moulton Marston

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As previously mentioned in the World’s Second Greatest Detective’s interview with Actor Matt Myers, Atlanta’s Synchronicity Theatre  will be presenting Carson Kreitzer’s Lasso of Truth, a play about Wonder Woman and her creator William Moulton Marston. The play opened on September 26 and will run until October 19, 2014 at the Synchronicity Theatre’s new location at Peachtree Pointe 1545 Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia. Here I’ve had the privilege of asking the scribe herself Carson Kreitzer a few questions about the play and her interest in Wonder Woman. Kreitzer has written several plays, many inspired by peculiar characters from history like Marston.

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WXL: What originally attracted you to the story of William Moulton Marston and the character of Wonder Woman?

CARSON KREITZER: Well, I was a Wonder Woman fan from way back.  Lynda Carter was huge for me. Then, a few years ago, I was writing a play that involved a scene with a lie detector.  (1:23, which was produced by Synchronicity in 2009)  I was doing some research on the lie detector, and came across all this information about William Marston and Wonder Woman.  And bondage.  And polyamory. And the two women living together after Marson’s death, raising the children in sleepy little Rye, New York in the 1950’s…. -that detail still just blows my mind.   And I thought, Holy Cow!  That’s my next play.

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WXL: Marston’s original vision for Wonder Woman has undergone significant change over the years. These changes came about through the collective efforts of writers, artists, and the general public. Do you believe this democratic participation has strengthened or weakened the character?

CARSON: It’s gone up and down. She went through some terrible times after Marson died, in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  But then, the writers who picked up the mantle of her true strength and feminist core have been awesome.  Trina Robbins and Phil Jimenez are the ones I’m most familiar with, but I know she’s had lots of amazing talent creating her stories. I loved the Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang/Tony Akins Wonder Woman New 52 relaunch, Blood, Guts, and Iron, which I read as we were rehearsing for the first production in Marin in February. Lasso of Truth is a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere, with productions at Marin Theatre Company, Synchronicity here in Atlanta, and Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City.  Like the ancient greek myths the story is rooted in, many bards step in to tell the tales.  It seems fitting.

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WXL: Despite suggestions from certain magazines, Wonder Woman couldn’t legally become President of the United States because she was born in Themyscira. Is there an eligible superhero that you’d like to see in the White House? For our purposes here, you can assume younger American superheroes would wait until they were old enough to run.

CARSON: I guess I’ll say Rogue. Though Zephyr Teachout sounds like a superhero name, don’t you think?  With the ability to withstand the corrupting influence of money? Actually, I’m gonna say Elizabeth Warren.   She’s a superhero.

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WXL:  I’ve never seen a play about Bob Kane, Jerry Siegel, or Joe Shuster. How is that you’re able to bring Wonder Woman to the stage, and in a sophisticated and challenging way, before DC Comics can bring Wonder Woman to the movies?

CARSON: Actually, there’s a bit of a movement going on with Comic Book plays!  There is a wonderful, heartbreaking play called The History of Invulnerability, by David Bar Katz, about the creation of Superman.  And there was just a play in New York called King Kirby, which I didn’t see, but it got great notices.  (Bob Kane may still be waiting for his play…)  And I don’t know why they can’t get it together for a Wonder Woman movie… although I do have empathy.  I think Lynda Carter left some pretty big red boots to fill.  She’s so indelibly connected with Wonder Woman, at least for anyone who grew up with the TV show.  I actually had no idea how much Wonder Woman had disappeared from the popular culture until I started working on this play. She was everywhere when I was a kid- TV, lunch boxes, the whole deal. It was shocking to audition actresses, and find that they had not had Wonder Woman to look up to, to emulate, as little girls.  It is definitely time for more Wonder Woman!

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WXL:  What comics are you reading these days?

CARSON: I’m a bit more of a graphic novel buff, myself. Art Spiegelman’s Maus got me hooked, let me know what was possible with pen and ink and words.  Allison Bechdel’s Fun Home is one of my favorite works of art in any genre whatsoever, and I’m so thrilled she just won a MacArthur Genius grant!  I love Stitches, by David Small.  The combination of words and images is so potent, in some ways so like theater… But it’s also very personal and internal as an experience: you create all the voices in your own head, and you can linger on any page or image to fully take in the detail or the moment, or rush image to image as you race to find out what happens.  My mother actually just sent me Jules Feiffer’s Kill My Mother, which is pretty funny of her.  That’s what I’m reading as soon as I get home from Atlanta.

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Atlanta’s Synchronicity Theatre  will be presenting Carson Kreitzer’s Lasso of Truth, a play about Wonder Woman and her creator William Moulton Marston. The play will run from September 26-October 19, 2014 at the Synchronicity Theatre’s new location at Peachtree Pointe 1545 Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia. The World’s Second Greatest Detective asked Matt Myers, one of the actors performing in the production.

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WXL: Briefly describe your role in Lasso of Truth.

MATT MYERS: I play Guy, who is the owner of a comic store in the 90s. He’s an artist himself, having learned to draw partially from reading Wonder Woman comics, and partially from going to the Rhode Island School of Design. He’s minding his own business one day, when in walks a girl bent on owning the first appearance of Wonder Woman (All-Star Comics #8), and thus his life is changed forever.

It’s a really interesting take on Wonder Woman’s origins and some pretty cool storytelling elements in there. And I get to play a comic shop owner who is not like Comic-Book Guy on the Simpsons.

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WXL: What are some of the differences between theatre and comic books as story-telling mediums?

MATT: The luxury of comic books is that you can accentuate things with closeups and angles and using the visual language of comics to convey information very quickly. No closeups in theatre, unless we run at the audience suddenly, or angle changes unless we move the stage. I’m only half joking on that. But theatre has its own conventions to fall back on. Music, sound design, lighting; that can make it a more visceral experience. Both mediums have their own ways of letting you into the minds of the characters, thought-bubbles versus soliloquy. Comics are (generally) a one reader at a time experience, while everyone is experiencing theatre together, so both offer there own types of intimacy with an audience. Honestly, I think they’re more similar than different, though, just from pacing and the types of stories we tell and the types of people who are drawn to them.

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WXL: Personally I’ve grown very attached to Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s work on Wonder Woman and feel nervous about the Finches taking over the title. Azzarello and Chiang had Wonder Woman standing nearly outside of the DC universe and the Finches intend to tie the title more closely with events with the DC universe as whole. Likewise Wonder Woman will make her first appearance on the silver screen in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Do you prefer Wonder Woman as a stand alone character or as part of the larger DC universe? How do you see her involvement with the larger DC universe affect her and her strength as a character?

MATT: For total transparency, I haven’t really read Wonder Woman since John Byrne rebooted her, and before that, George Perez. Guess I’m dating myself there.

We were discussing at rehearsal the other night why Wonder Woman is a difficult character to write. She’s not only Iconic, but Symbolic. So you can tinker around with the iconic characters (and Lord knows they have) but her symbolism and significance makes it hard to do as much with her. Folks get ticky when you deviate too far from form with her. Look no further than David Finch saying they weren’t focusing on the feminism of Wonder Woman. Folks get upset. Even folks who may not have read Wonder Woman recently or ever. She’s that important, Symbolically. And someone has to keep that torch lit.

So all of that to say, I think it’s important that there’s a Wonder Woman in the DC universe and that the other characters show her reverence.  It’s a small but important thing. If Batman and Superman treat her as their equal and not like an equivalent to Aquaman (sorry, Aquaman fans) or the JLA admin (sorry, Flash fans), it’s better for the character. There is no other female character in comics with her kind of cache and power. Still, I understand wanting to give her some distance from the rest of the universe because that frees her up from some of that baggage.

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WXL: When the New 52 launched in September 2011, Azzarello and Chiang received a lot of flack for changing Wonder Woman’s origin from daughter of clay to daughter of Zeus. Many critics felt a certain degree of her essence came from her fatherless origins. Having worked with the character’s real life origins and Marston’s own challenges to gender meaning for Lasso of Truth, how important is this detail of Wonder Woman’s origin to you?

MATT: Hmm, that’s an interesting question. Never really thought about it. But you know, since you brought it up, I think it is important to the character that she didn’t have a male authority figure. It keeps her from having to kowtow to a man, for anyone to have sovereign over her. Zeus is the big boss and all the mythological guys have to bow to him, but Hippolyta seemed a bit more of a guiding force, rather than a vindictive one. In theory, I preferred their relationship. Granted, all of these characters could be much different now than I’m remembering them, as the characters continue to evolve whether I read them or don’t, but I imagine they’ve stayed similar. Wonder Woman bows to no man.

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WXL: Do you believe Marston’s ideas are still present in the character of Wonder Woman?

MATT: Absolutely. She is the standard-bearer for female superheroes. In any incarnation of her, they always have her strength, fortitude and force of will. These are key to her. He wanted to show that strength and femininity are not at odds with each other and she does that.

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WXL: Which DC Comics superhero do you believe is best suited to play Hamlet?

MATT:  I guess the obvious answer is Batman. The death of a loved one causes them to become single-mindedly focused on vengeance, taking their own sanity into doubt at times, and using cunning to defeat the wrongdoers. Maybe Green Arrow? Both of those guys can dwell in the dark places that Hamlet has to go. I guess that makes Claudius Ra’s Al Ghul.

Ooh, I would add that Essential Theatre did a show called Bat-Hamlet a few years ago, that focused on exactly that.It seemed to lend itself more to the Adam West Batman but it followed the train of thought you’re talking about.

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WXL: What are you reading?

MATT: I’m reading She-Hulk, Nightcrawler, Afterlife with Archie, Astro City, and Saga. I go in and out of reading Walking Dead and Invincible and have lately mulled over catching back up on Fables. It’s hard for me to keep up with single issues so I mostly do trades these days.

 

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Few superhero franchises echo the spirit of American ambition like the Green Lantern. In each incantation, the Green Lantern characteristically looks at emotion in a primitively simple fashion, centering its understanding of the universe around the nature of will power. Each era of the Green Lantern reflects changes in the American understanding of Will Power as a component of national identity. In the Golden Age, Alan Scott answers to no Green Lantern Corps. He is a rugged individualist who vigorously pursues his own happiness, much like popular contemporary protagonists Casablanca’s Rick Blaine and Citizen Kane’s Charles Foster Kane. In the Silver Age, Hal Jordan embodies the spirit of the U.S.-Soviet Space Race as a cocky test pilot who flies for the sake of the flight, not the destination- the Chuck Yeager-era ring-slinger that inspired disdain and camaraderie in the Megaphone Mark Green Arrow. John Stewart is a black Howard Roark. Like Luke Cage or Jason Todd, Guy Gardner is the reformed delinquent with a chip on his shoulder; unlike Cage and Todd, Guy also has a shiny green chip on his finger that derives its power from that chip on his shoulder. Kyle Rayner and his limp Will speak to a certain American impotence.  Parallax? The excesses of the over-Will.

When Martin Lodell and Bill Finger created the original Green Lantern in 1940, the American literary imagination enjoyed an infatuation with the concept of the individual.  Western literature of the 1940s featured some of history’s greatest intellectual champions of the nature of the individual, such as Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Herman Hesse, Richard Wright, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Orwell, and Ayn Rand. The struggle of the individual against the shackles of society has been fundamental to the Green Lantern since Alan Scott took the ring in All-American Comics #16. The Green Lantern continues a stubborn American tradition of associating a strong will power with bravery, a tradition with roots in pioneerism, Protestantism, and an irrational suspicion of education.

While suicides, car crashes, and possible murders claimed the likes of Hemingway, Camus, and Wright, the Green Lantern soldiers on. Unlike most stories, the collected Green Lantern is longer than Ayn Rand’s collected works.  The staying power of the Green Lantern narrative lies in its organic nature and how it responds to the monthly shifts in the zeitgeist. Alan Scott appealed to an absurd Objectivism in vogue during the Second World War. Alan Scott appealed to the sense that an individual could change the world whether that individual was Hitler, Gandhi, or Mao. Alan Scott appealed to a 1940s understanding of the American Dream- a dream as green as the Emerald City and Gatsy’s green light.

Below you can see an article that found its way in to the back of several Green Lantern comics. It’s written by Dr. William Moulton Marston, one of comic history’s greatest characters. Marston believed passionately that comic books could sculpt the collective consciousness as to avoid the catastrophes of groupthink such as war. With the credentials of a Harvard-trained psychologists, he gained a following, allowing him to experiment with the messages he believed would improve the world. In addition to writing this strange article, Marston invented the lie detector, created Wonder Woman, and successfully navigated a polyamorous relationship. The article below invokes the tone and language of political propaganda. As nationalism became more sophisticated in the outburst of hostilities that was WWII, the human psyche enthusiastically pursued more meaningful ways to understand their national identity. Americans began to picture themselves as distinct from the rest of the world not simply because of geography or race, but because of their way of life. Will Power emerged as a totem of the New Capitalism and the indoctrination stated early. On the first page of the article, Marston advocates exercises in Will Power, so that one’s Will may enjoy endless growth and the ability to overcome any adversity, including physical handicap. Much of this discussion plays as a precursor to Scientology. L. Ron Hubbard, of course, came from a science fiction background, thus we can conclude that a quasi-school of thought existed in the science fiction community that considered Will Power somewhat magical or holy.  On the second page of the article, Marston depicts George Washington and Ulysses Grant as superheroes of U.S. history. Washington and Grant represent the two most important military victories of the U.S. government, one against the British and one against itself. Marston is asserting that Will Power created and saved the country. The student becomes the master as the article urges kids to share the article’s wisdom with their ignorant parents.

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