4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Call it the Hamilton Effect

Contemporary slang and F-bombs feel too linguistically liberated

Bull in a China Shop: “One seeing too much, the other seeing too little.”
Bull in a China Shop: “One seeing too much, the other seeing too little.”

Bull in a China Shop

“I am a revolution!” shouts Mary Woolley in Bryna Turner’s Bull in a China Shop, based on the famous teacher, activist, and President of Mount Holyoke College. She wants to convert the college from a finishing school for wives to “a f*ing preeminent school of critical thought for women.” She also wants to change the world.

That expression, back in fashion of late, is tricky, not to mention totalizing. It has the scope of empyrean ambition but lacks specifics. Where to start? The whole world? What usually follows the expression are a few protests and endless ideological bickering. Woolley (1863-1947) had a foothold. In 1932, she campaigned to disarm the world. She did not succeed.

Her life was full of firsts: first woman to graduate from Brown University (Bachelors, 1894; Masters, 1895); first woman senator of Phi Beta Kappa; first and only woman to attend the Geneva Conference of 1932 (she argued that “moral disarmament was as important as military disarmament”), etc. She never entered a fight gleaming with naivete or far too aflame. And she never led with her chin. “You are right in thinking there are difficulties… in being a woman,” she wrote in 1932. “I must be effective, but not aggressive; womanly but not womanish; informed but unable to take my pipe and join other ‘pipers’ in the corridors [of power]…et cetera!”

Woolley battled within the system. Jeanette Marks (1875-1964), her life partner for 50 years, refused to acknowledge boundaries. She was a writer, gifted teacher, and unfettered firebrand. Woolley could be one too, but compared to Marks she was an unlit match.

They met at Wellesley College. When Woolley became President at Holyoke, she gave Marks a teaching post in the English Department (Marks founded the Laboratory Theatre in 1928). Woolley and Marks had to keep their relationship a secret or be fired. It wasn’t a complete secret, though. They had a large, underground fan club of devoted students.

The title, Bull in a China Shop, fits both women. It’s the beginning of a new century and each wants to change the status quo. One of the strengths of Turner’s play: the China Shop becomes an equally strong metaphor for what they’re up against. Though women’s suffrage is making headway, many still insist that women must be “headless wives.” One wrong step and Woolley and Marks are out on the street. But they refuse to tiptoe.

Another strength: conflicts come from without and within. Based mostly on their correspondence, the play covers four decades of their relationship. Each has a different sense of time. Woolley believes in common sense and a “smooth revolution.” She’ll run the race when the gun goes off. Impetuous Marks wants to jump the gun. As they “lead the college into the new century,” she sometimes forgets they’re in enemy territory. They clash about the scope of a revolution: one seeing too much, the other seeing too little.

They have to be distant even when together. Once again, Marks leaps a boundary. She has a brief affair with young Pearl. Woolley is in China, at a conference (she stays three months to throw off suspicion about their relationship). Pearl, head of the fan club, has a boulder-sized crush on Marks, who justifies having sex because it will broaden Pearl’s experience. When rejected, Pearl becomes bullish enough to smash every item in the china shop. She hurls rocks at Marks’s window and — as played by Andrea Agosto — lets out with an unconditional love/hate monologue that brings the house down at Diversionary.

The play moves in short scenes like snapshots and covers a lot of territory. Too much, and too sketchy for those interested in greater detail about the two women and the times they lived through. A possible positive here: the play prompts one to track down information about the pair, fill out the portraits. It is also a comedy, a choice that certainly entertains but often lessens the women’s underlying seriousness, since both were warriors.

China Shop is another example of a current trend: call it the Hamilton Effect. The play combines then and now. As in that great musical, multi-racial casting enhances themes and appeals to a wider audience. Contemporary slang and F-bombs, however, feel too linguistically liberated for women in the early decades of the 20th century (when Clark Gable said he didn’t “give a damn” in 1939's Gone With the Wind, he shocked much of the country).

At the heart of the play, and the Diversionary production: over the 40-year stretch, Woolley (Joanne Glover) and Marks (Tamara McMillan) reverse roles several times. Wooley works within the system. The higher up she quests to change the college and the world, the more she must compromise. Marks resents this approach and the system, but must compromise to keep her job — and their love. Their differences illustrate the struggle for equality in miniature.

Credit to director Kim Strassburger for wrestling with a multi-styled text, to Ron Logan for his minimalist set, and to Diversionary Theatre, now in its 33rd season, for staging plays with important subjects San Diegans wouldn’t see elsewhere.

Bull in a China Shop, by Bryna Turner

Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Boulevard, University Heights.

Directed by Kim Strassburger; cast: Andrea Agosto, Maybelle Covington, Jo Anne Glover, Tamara McMillian, Milena (Sellers) Phillips; scenic design, Ron Logan, costumes, Beth Connelly, lighting, Curtis Mueller, sound, TJ Fucella.

Playing through October 14; Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Cunningham manse owner kicks in $3000 for latest GOP House accused

Dow Jones heir helps bankroll Florida congressman Matt Gaetz
Next Article

Swagyu Chop Shop’s must-try 18-dollar burger

Wagyu butcher in Poway and Imperial Beach smashes high-end beef between buns
Bull in a China Shop: “One seeing too much, the other seeing too little.”
Bull in a China Shop: “One seeing too much, the other seeing too little.”

Bull in a China Shop

“I am a revolution!” shouts Mary Woolley in Bryna Turner’s Bull in a China Shop, based on the famous teacher, activist, and President of Mount Holyoke College. She wants to convert the college from a finishing school for wives to “a f*ing preeminent school of critical thought for women.” She also wants to change the world.

That expression, back in fashion of late, is tricky, not to mention totalizing. It has the scope of empyrean ambition but lacks specifics. Where to start? The whole world? What usually follows the expression are a few protests and endless ideological bickering. Woolley (1863-1947) had a foothold. In 1932, she campaigned to disarm the world. She did not succeed.

Her life was full of firsts: first woman to graduate from Brown University (Bachelors, 1894; Masters, 1895); first woman senator of Phi Beta Kappa; first and only woman to attend the Geneva Conference of 1932 (she argued that “moral disarmament was as important as military disarmament”), etc. She never entered a fight gleaming with naivete or far too aflame. And she never led with her chin. “You are right in thinking there are difficulties… in being a woman,” she wrote in 1932. “I must be effective, but not aggressive; womanly but not womanish; informed but unable to take my pipe and join other ‘pipers’ in the corridors [of power]…et cetera!”

Woolley battled within the system. Jeanette Marks (1875-1964), her life partner for 50 years, refused to acknowledge boundaries. She was a writer, gifted teacher, and unfettered firebrand. Woolley could be one too, but compared to Marks she was an unlit match.

They met at Wellesley College. When Woolley became President at Holyoke, she gave Marks a teaching post in the English Department (Marks founded the Laboratory Theatre in 1928). Woolley and Marks had to keep their relationship a secret or be fired. It wasn’t a complete secret, though. They had a large, underground fan club of devoted students.

The title, Bull in a China Shop, fits both women. It’s the beginning of a new century and each wants to change the status quo. One of the strengths of Turner’s play: the China Shop becomes an equally strong metaphor for what they’re up against. Though women’s suffrage is making headway, many still insist that women must be “headless wives.” One wrong step and Woolley and Marks are out on the street. But they refuse to tiptoe.

Another strength: conflicts come from without and within. Based mostly on their correspondence, the play covers four decades of their relationship. Each has a different sense of time. Woolley believes in common sense and a “smooth revolution.” She’ll run the race when the gun goes off. Impetuous Marks wants to jump the gun. As they “lead the college into the new century,” she sometimes forgets they’re in enemy territory. They clash about the scope of a revolution: one seeing too much, the other seeing too little.

They have to be distant even when together. Once again, Marks leaps a boundary. She has a brief affair with young Pearl. Woolley is in China, at a conference (she stays three months to throw off suspicion about their relationship). Pearl, head of the fan club, has a boulder-sized crush on Marks, who justifies having sex because it will broaden Pearl’s experience. When rejected, Pearl becomes bullish enough to smash every item in the china shop. She hurls rocks at Marks’s window and — as played by Andrea Agosto — lets out with an unconditional love/hate monologue that brings the house down at Diversionary.

The play moves in short scenes like snapshots and covers a lot of territory. Too much, and too sketchy for those interested in greater detail about the two women and the times they lived through. A possible positive here: the play prompts one to track down information about the pair, fill out the portraits. It is also a comedy, a choice that certainly entertains but often lessens the women’s underlying seriousness, since both were warriors.

China Shop is another example of a current trend: call it the Hamilton Effect. The play combines then and now. As in that great musical, multi-racial casting enhances themes and appeals to a wider audience. Contemporary slang and F-bombs, however, feel too linguistically liberated for women in the early decades of the 20th century (when Clark Gable said he didn’t “give a damn” in 1939's Gone With the Wind, he shocked much of the country).

At the heart of the play, and the Diversionary production: over the 40-year stretch, Woolley (Joanne Glover) and Marks (Tamara McMillan) reverse roles several times. Wooley works within the system. The higher up she quests to change the college and the world, the more she must compromise. Marks resents this approach and the system, but must compromise to keep her job — and their love. Their differences illustrate the struggle for equality in miniature.

Credit to director Kim Strassburger for wrestling with a multi-styled text, to Ron Logan for his minimalist set, and to Diversionary Theatre, now in its 33rd season, for staging plays with important subjects San Diegans wouldn’t see elsewhere.

Bull in a China Shop, by Bryna Turner

Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Boulevard, University Heights.

Directed by Kim Strassburger; cast: Andrea Agosto, Maybelle Covington, Jo Anne Glover, Tamara McMillian, Milena (Sellers) Phillips; scenic design, Ron Logan, costumes, Beth Connelly, lighting, Curtis Mueller, sound, TJ Fucella.

Playing through October 14; Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

San Diego in books - DEA infighting, horseback adventure, William Manchester's WWII

Deep Cover, California Coast Trails, Death Bite, Goodbye Darkness
Next Article

Santee tosses Mesa Road to county like a hot potato

Mission Trails park is main user but they're not about to help
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close