Evaristi, Marcella 1953–
EVARISTI, Marcella 1953–
PERSONAL: Born July 19, 1953, in Glasgow, Scotland; married Michael Body (a theater director), 1982 (separated); children: one son, one daughter. Education: University of Glasgow, B.A. (honors), 1974.
ADDRESSES: Home—14 Woodlands Dr., Glasgow G4 9EH, Scotland.
CAREER: University of St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland, playwright-in-residence, 1979–80; University of Sheffield, Sheffield, England, creative writing fellow, 1979–80; University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, writer-in-residence, 1984–85; University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, writer-in-residence, 1984–85. Actor in stage plays, including Dorothy and the Bitch, 1976; Twelfth Night, 1979; Sugar and Spite, 1981; Mystery Bouffe, 1982; The Works, 1985; Terrestrial Extras, 1985; Visiting Company, 1988; and The Offski Variations, 1990. Actor in radio plays, including The Works, 1985; and The Hat, 1988.
AWARDS, HONORS: Student Verse Competition prize, British Broadcasting Corporation, 1974; Arts Council bursary, 1975–76; Pye award for Best Writer New to Television, 1982, for Eve Set the Balls of Corruption Rolling.
Dorothy and the Bitch (monologue), produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1976.
Scotia's Darlings, produced at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 1978.
(With Liz Lochhead) Sugar and Spite (revue), produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1978.
(With Liz Lochhead) Mouthpieces: A Musical Satirical Revue, produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1980.
Commedia (produced in Sheffield, England, 1982), Salamander Press (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1983.
Thank You for Not, in Breach of the Peace (review), produced in London, England, 1982.
Checking Out, produced in London, England, 1984.
The Works (produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1984; also see below), published in Plays without Wires, edited by Philip Roberts, Sheffield Academic Press, 1989.
Terrestrial Extras, produced in Glasgow, Scotland, 1985.
Trio for Strings in Three, produced in Glasgow, Scotland, 1987.
Visiting Company (monologue), produced in Glasgow, Scotland, 1988.
The Offski Variations (monologue), produced in Glasgow, Scotland, 1990.
Nightflights, produced in Dundee, Scotland, 2002.
Hard to Get, British Broadcasting Corporation, 1981.
Wedding Belles and Green Grasses, British Broadcasting Corporation Radio-3, 1983.
The Works (adaptation of stage play), British Broadcasting Corporation Radio-3, 1985.
The Hat, British Broadcasting Corporation Radio-3, 1988.
The Theory and Practice of Rings, British Broadcasting Corporation, 1992.
Troilus and Cressida and La-di-da-di-da, British Broadcasting Corporation, 1992.
Eve Set the Balls of Corruption Rolling, British Broadcasting Corporation, 1982.
Hard to Get (adaptation of radio play), Granada, 1983.
SIDELIGHTS: Marcella Evaristi is a Scottish feminist playwright whose autobiographical productions are marked by wit and psychological insight. In 1976 Evaristi completed her first stage play, Dorothy and the Bitch, which is constructed as a monologue wherein celebrated wit Dorothy Parker reflects on the nature of femininity and her own Jewish-Catholic background. Evaristi followed Dorothy and the Bitch with Scotia's Darlings, a stage production about a woman struggling to adapt to city life and a stepdaughter. "Evaristi's achievement in this early play," wrote Jan McDonald in the Dictionary of Liter-ary Biography, "is to combine cutting satire with a portrayal of a protagonist who remains sympathetic even in her undeniable foolishness."
Hard to Get, another of Evaristi's notable stage plays, charts a pair of marital relationships over the course of nearly two decades. Both female characters have compromised their own aspirations and talents to survive in a male-oriented society, though both also develop the knack of rendering themselves as injured parties when interacting with males. "The men … are constantly frustrated by the women's propensity to cast themselves in the role of victim," said McDonald. By the play's end, though, both women have managed to realize a measure of success in pursuing their long-suppressed goals. "The personal issues are resolved," noted McDonald, "but the happy ending has been 'Hard to Get.'"
In her next staged work, Commedia, Evaristi presents a Scottish widow who enters into an affair with an Italian schoolteacher in Glasgow. The couple eventually travel to Italy, where they share a respite from the widow's married children. The vacation is undone when the children arrive in Italy with their spouses, and the couple's relationship dissolves after one of the children perishes in a terrorist bombing. Writing for the New Statesman, reviewer Benedict Nightingale summarized Commedia as "a play altogether pretty eloquent about people's right to resist the importunate iconography of others."
Terrestrial Extras is a production in which space invaders, assuming feminine guises, descend on Scotland—instead of their intended target, Washington, DC—and soon begin developing amusing misconceptions about life on Earth. As McDonald wrote in her profile of Evaristi, "The plight of the socially deprived, the vulnerability of women to violent male advances, and the vulgarization of a culture saturated with pap promulgated by the media are all exposed with sharp, ironic wit."
Visiting Company is another revelatory monologue on the plight of women in patriarchal society. In this play, a woman replaces her husband as guest speaker at a meeting devoted to the topic of arts funding. In the course of her speech, the heroine interjects revelatory anecdotes that expose her husband as an abusive, sexually reckless homophobe and drunk. The play ends with the heroine agreeing to sign a petition to fight policies against homosexuality. Evaristi constructs another of her monologues, The Offski Variations, as a series of speeches—delivered by different characters played by one actress—on what McDonald described as "the recurrent theme of parting, separation, and loss." In a New Statesman piece, Angela McRobbie observed that The Offski Variations serves as evidence of Evaristi's "true love of endless talk, sex, families and Scottish-Italian culture."
Aside from writing for the stage, Evaristi has completed plays for television and radio broadcasts. Her radio plays include The Hat, in which a piece of art, a collage, reflects the changes experienced by an artist's model after a younger woman has replaced her. McDonald deemed The Hat "sophisticated in its use of language and complex in its narrative; yet it is also moving." In another radio play, Troilus and Cressida and La-di-da-di-da, Evaristi provides what McDonald called "a twentieth-century feminist critique of the legend of the Trojan prince Troilus and his fickle lover." Still another radio production, The Theory and Practice of Rings, reveals the plight of women through representations or various marital relationships. This play ends with a husband—on the fifteenth anniversary of his marriage—announcing that he wishes to leave his wife for his pregnant lover. McDonald, who described Evaristi as "primarily a poet," contended that "her best work has been for radio."
Evaristi returned to the stage with Nightflights, a musical set in Italy that explores aging, love, and mortality. "Above all, it is about magic," said Ksenija Horvat in a review for EdinburghGuide.com. Horvat wrote that Nightflights signals "the return of Marcella Evaristi, the uncrowned queen of Scottish playwriting, after a decade of absence from the Scottish stage."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Dramatists, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Contemporary Women Dramatists, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 233: British and Irish Dramatists since World War II, Second Series, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.
New Statesman, November 19, 1982, Benedict Nightingale, "On the Rocks," review of Commedia, p. 32; April 6, 1984, Paul Allen, "Gravy Train," review of Checking Out, p. 41; February 9, 1990, Angela McRobbie, "Freedom from the English Word: Scottish Writing in the Year of Culture," p. 33.
EdinburghGuide.com, http://www.edinburghguide.com/ (May, 2002), Ksenija Horvat, review of Nightflights.
"Evaristi, Marcella 1953–." Contemporary Authors. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 23, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/evaristi-marcella-1953
"Evaristi, Marcella 1953–." Contemporary Authors. . Retrieved January 23, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/evaristi-marcella-1953
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