In three plays of the eight plays at the Festival of Independent Theatres, now playing at the Bath House Cultural Center through August 3, a glamorous movie star, a beloved novelist and a new mother shatter preconceived notions, revealing the complexities of trying to live life within other people's expectations.
"They're captives of their image. They're captives of their brands," said playwright Isabella Russell-Ides.
Russell-Ides is the playwright of "Jo & Louisa," WingSpan Theatre Company's contribution to the festival. The world premiere play imagines a conversation between Louisa May Alcott and her greatest creation, Jo March, from her wildly successful novel Little Women.
"Because Jo is Louisa May Alcott's alter-ego, this theatrical conceit – putting them together in the same room - gives me an opportunity to have Louisa's youth confront her about her domestication," Russell-Ides said.
The play peels away the layers of Alcott's character. "We learn about Louisa May Alcott not only from a historical point of view but then we get to see her drop the mask. And then we get to experience Jo in a whole new light," Susan Sargeant, the director of the show and theater's producing artistic director, said.
Alcott financially supported her family, claiming she wrote "moral pap for the young" because it paid well. Hospital Sketches, based on her gritty experience as a Civil War nurse, drew acclaim, but the optimistic Little Women became the brand she perpetuated.
"There were a lot of compromises that she made, but in this play, we have the opportunity to take some buttons off," Victoria Wright, who plays Louisa, said. "Jo really sums up everything that she wishes she would be. She was forced to conform to a certain Victorian life."
The version of Jo March confronting Louisa is an energetic 15-year-old, untested by life. She is not happy about her character's marriage to Professor Bhaer. "That was oppression to her. She was not happy about that. She was not doing it because she wanted that. She felt like she had to to be somewhat free or to write. She had to have a man attached to her," Bethany Burnside, who plays Jo, said. "This is a very unapologetic Jo and she knows she can be even more than she was. She's begging for freedom. And she knows Louisa can be more too."
Nicole Neely wrote "Marilyn, Pursued by a Bear" as companion piece to Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale" for the American Shakespeare Center.
"I thought about the king spiraling into this horrible darkness and affecting everyone around him because something in him told him his wife was cheating on him," Neely said. "I saw a lot of Marilyn in that. She thought people hated her. She thought people were whispering about her all the time."
The play presented by Lily & Joan Theatre Company focuses on Marilyn Monroe's brief stay at Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic following the stressful filming of her last film, "The Misfits," and the end of her marriage to playwright, Arthur Miller. Monroe thought it was going to be a restorative retreat. Instead, she found herself in a padded cell and deprived of privacy. Neely depicts Monroe facing her greatest anxieties with the titular bear inspired by one of Shakespeare's most famous stage directions representing her demons.
CC Weatherly, who plays Monroe, knew only of the actress' bombshell status and appreciates the play's deeper perspective of her humanity. "I think with fame we idolize people into godlike creatures, and we forget they aren't immortal, they faulter too. Marilyn Monroe was a person that felt immense pain, loneliness, love, heartbreak and she truly felt unworthy - you name it. She felt it too. The play helps us as a whole to truly see one another instead of overlooking one another," Weatherly said.
Lily and Joan Theatre Company selected the play to serve as a conversation starter about mental illness. "This show opens a door for those that feel misunderstood, or closeted in their mental illness, trauma or depression. One of the biggest takeaway messages from show is we all at times feel alone, but you are not alone," Weatherly said. "This production is the perfect opportunity for audience members to walk out of the theater doors and open up to their loved ones about what they are thinking about that haunts them."
Someone mentioned to Neely that everyone knows how Monroe's battle with mental illness ends. "But we're going to see her fight," Neely said.
"Marilyn, Pursued by a Bear" is paired four times with "small hours," Lucy Kirkwood and Ed Hime's intense play about a new mother struggling with post-partum depression. "She's not a famous individual, but she is famous architype: she's a mother," Barrett Nash, who plays the woman in "small hours," said.
Nash considers this role one of the hardest she has played. Produced by Leos Ensemble, the show unfolds in real time as this new mother tries to hide her emotional turmoil and distract herself as her baby cries in another room.
"There are certain specific things we as a society placed on women in that situation or certain expectations of who they are and how they're supposed to approach that that I know a lot of mothers feel like they don't live up to and the shame and guilt that comes along with that is huge and almost universal," Nash said.
The 21-year-old father of an infant is behind bars, accused of injury to a child after his 3-week-old baby was taken by air ambulance to a Dallas-area hospital Saturday.
Rogelio Ortiz was arrested Sunday night by Dallas County Hospital District Police. The Navarro County Sheriff's Office said Monday they "investigated a highly disturbing case" over the weekend where a child had been reported injured in the town of Rice, about 10 miles north of Corsicana, and that they'd arrested the child's father in the case.
"Upon initial evaluation of the child by Corsicana Fire Department personnel, a concern was raised about the significant level of injury being inconsistent with the story given," the sheriff's office said, who added a deputy was called to conduct an investigation into the child's injuries.
Meanwhile the child was taken by air ambulance to a hospital in Dallas for immediate treatment.
The sheriff's office said the investigation led to an arrest warrant being issued for the child's father who was arrested Sunday at the hospital and charged with injury to a child, a first-degree felony.
Citing the ongoing investigation, deputies did not reveal more details about the child's injuries or what led them to arrest the child's father.
Ramos has already put her influence into action through a post on her Facebook page. It asks friends to buy a book for a student and include a motivational message.
"Just pick a number that calls to you for whatever reason, and I'll match that number to a kid that you don't know but that you could purchase a book for that student and write them an encouraging note inside that would be greeting them on the first day of school," she explained.
Books specifically for her third graders and notes that read, "have a great first day. You're gonna rock this school year!" inspired last year's class. Already, Ramos can see it happening again as books start to come in for her new class.
She posted her request on July 8, and again, discovered an overwhelming response.
"This is a book I just got in the mail yesterday," she said. "I opened the first one to find her note, and it says, 'hope you have a great year. Third grade is the best because of everything you learn. Enjoy this amazing book. It's one of my absolute favorites. You're in my thoughts and prayers. Signed, a special friend.'"
That note will end up in the hands of one of students.
"So, when they see that, they get really excited that that's just for them. And they'll go, you'll see them say, 'oh, look at my note!'" Ramos said.
The note she posted on social media has brought in books from across the country.
"I went to a few years of my elementary school in Maryland and my teacher there signed up," she said.
And there was this random meet up in Houston.
"A couple of days ago there were two women in Houston at the same book store. They don't know each other but got to talking and asking for help about the kind of books 3rd graders would like," Ramos smiled. It turns out those third graders were hers back in Haltom City.
"For me, it shows me there's so many good people out there and so many who are willing to help you start a project," Ramos said as she talked about the lessons she'll now pass on to her students.
"For me, it's more than just academics in our classroom. It's kindness. It's becoming a good citizen. So, when they see other people are doing that for them, they want to do it for other kids, too," she said. "A book is a story, but it has a lot of stories behind it."
And, for her third graders at David Smith Elementary, it means more stories still to tell as they start a new school year next month.
A group of citizens sued the city to stop Plano Tomorrow from being implemented because they feared that it would usher in increased business, commercial and multifamily development amid the population boom that the entire North Texas region is seeing, and because they wanted something as significant as a comprehensive plan to be approved by the voters.
By one estimate, the population of Plano alone will grow by as many as 300,000 people over the next 20 to 30 years.
Soon after it was initially passed, a petition with more than 4,000 signatures on it was submitted to the city to repeal Plano Tomorrow. After the city denied the petition, a citizens group sued in an effort to either force a vote on the comprehensive plan by way of a voter referendum, or to repeal Plano Tomorrow altogether.
Earlier this month, representatives for the plaintiffs met with the city in mediation to reach some sort of deal. And despite reaching what seemed to be a "solid agreement," according to a statement from the city to The Dallas Morning News, the citizens group backed away from the deal and decided to continue with the lawsuit.
A driver who was outside their disabled vehicle in Plano was killed Monday morning after being struck by another vehicle, officials said.
The disabled Nissan was in the eastbound lanes of the President George Bush Turnpike west of Preston Road when a Volvo SUV struck the driver who was outside the vehicle, said Department of Public Safety Public Information Officer Lonny Haschel.
Lewisville ISD is racing the clock trying to get construction completed on the new Mill Street Elementary School campus before the start of school on Aug. 13.
Weather has caused construction delays and now parts of the campus will likely not be completed before the first bell, but crews are working to get enough done and inspected so students can attend classes on the scheduled first day.
Some landscaping work and planned porches on the sides of the school would also not likely get completed before the first day of school, but crews could work on this in the evening and on weekends during the school year.
The final inspection is scheduled for Aug. 9 and school starts on the Aug. 13 so it would be a quick turnaround for teachers to get into their new classrooms.
The school district is working on a contingency plan in case the work cannot be completed and pass inspection in time.
Some of those arrested have been sentenced to death, the Intelligence Ministry said.
U.S. officials have not yet responded to the allegations. The Iranian government occasionally makes similar claims and it was not immediately possible to determine whether they are legitimate. The U.S. government never acknowledges CIA recruitment abroad.
While Tía Isa wants to save money for a car that will take the whole family to the beach, her niece does odd jobs for neighbors. But it’s hard to save enough when half the money is set aside to someday bring family members who live far away to join them. Meg Medina’s simple, genuine story about keeping in mind those who are far away is written in lovely, lyrical prose and brought to life through Claudio Muñoz’s charming characters.
NBC 5's Reading With You is a 9-week reading initiative encouraging elementary-aged children to read at least one book a week throughout the summer to help combat summer learning loss, often referred to as the "summer slide."
Each week, NBC 5 is highlighting a book from our online reading list compiled with the help of Reading Partners North Texas.