A battle of wills
Michael McClure's The Beard,
produced and directed by Gary Cha-
son at Houston's Museum of Modern
Art, 610 West Alabama, is like an
object encased in a plastic bag. It
moves, thrusts, rolls over as it develops a rhythm within its confined
The play opened here December
11. First presented about 10 years ago
in San Francisco, The Beard gives us
Jean Harlow (Claine Hartt) and Billy
the Kid (Barry Gremillion) as prototypes of sex object and macho male
thrown together time without end in
hell or heaven or some eternity. They
project themselves and relate to each
other through the stereotypes they
embody: she the writhing silky-silk-
swathed body with contrapuntal floating boa, he in skin-tight black with
While ostensibly about sex, the
play is very interesting from a
feminist point of view as a struggle of
wills: whose will is stronger, whose
will dominates. Each claims to be in
control and to be willing what is
happening—indeed, willing the very
existence of the other.
She frequently repeats the statement that^he has many selves and he
must find the real one. For all of his
momentary show of brutality (which
results in a torn stocking and bitten
toe) it is she who is in control, she who
sets the pace and decides how quickly
or slowly they proceed as each seeks
dominance. He has moments of independence, but they seem like petulant
reactions to her defiance. When they
finally reach the point which was the
purpose of each from the
start—sex—it is sex which is satisfying to her (cunnilingus).
It is a beautifully coordinated production, visually and audially.
The erotic aspects of The Beard do
not seem shocking today. Apparently
the play was "shocking" when it
opened in the 60' s. But in the interim,
we have had "O Calcutta," "Deep
Throat" and legions of R-rated
movies to accustom us to the idea that
yes, we all have a body, and the body
is a legitimate subject for art without
fretting about that indefinable concept, obscenity.
At MOMA's Gallery-Theater the
theatrical experience is not limited to
the playing area; it extends out onto
the sidewalk, where large plastic
woman's legs project from the front
wall of the building. This recalls Niki
de St. Phalle's "Moma" in Brussels
several years ago; an immense plaster
body of woman was thrust between
Sounds like the ultimate portrayal
of woman as an object, but at any rate,
at 610 West Alabama the male body is
also celebrated by being objectified
through art. Inside the theater, one is
surrounded by erotic sculpture, painting, drawing and photography.
Bravo Sandra Stevens, Yannis
Manolakos, Gary Chason et al. of
MOM A! A gallery-theater of erotic
art in Houston is to be welcomed.
(Note: The play is held over through
Sunday, February 1. Performances
take place at 8 p.m. Thursdays - Sunday. Tickets are $3.50 and reservations may be made by calling
Play humor panned
THE FRONT PAGE, Alley
Theater through January 11
7he Front Page is a comedy that
gets its laughs at the expense of
"niggers," "tarts" and seduced
stenographers. One is reminded of
the feature line of a recent Ms.
article: "Why we aren't laughing
anymore . . ."
This Alley Theater/ Nina Vance
production, partially funded by a
grant from the National
Endowment for the Arts in
Washington, D.C., a federal
agency, and sanctioned by the
American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, painfully
reminds us of the way it was 50
years ago and how far we have to
An incredible John Kenny set
establishes the tawdry image ol a
I920*s press room in Chicago. The
newsmen treat women only as
objects of derisive scorn or equally
offensive sexual imagery as they
recount recent seductions. The
women who are seduced are
mentioned by group nomenclature
such as waitresses, stenographers
and other "public" women.
Negative sterotypes of women,
Blacks and low-status workers are
woven through the plot by the end
of the first act, but the worst was
yet to come. In Acts Two and
Three, 4 stereotypical female
characters pass through the press
room. Neither the good-hearted
cleaning woman, the misunder
stood prostitute, the bitch
motherin-law nor the clinging,
weeping bride-to-be come to any
The "tart" throws herself out a
window to save the life of the one
man who has treated her well. Her
destruction is the only
"productive" end for a street
The bride and her mother,
portrayed as castrating
manipulators, cling to men. The
methods merely differ as the
mother tears into the leading man
with caustic tongue while the "little
woman" weeps her way to victory.
The view of women is everything
contingent upon their ability to
please the men of the press room.
The deepest insult does not lie in
the writing of Hecht and
MacArthur but in having U.S. tax
dollars and a Bicentennial stamp
of approval on something so
degenerating to Blacks and
Humor is a form of aggression in
society and expresses those
emotions not capable of being
carried out overtly. Covertly they
appear on stage. Perhaps
theatergoers realize its "historical"
nature but it remains to be seen if
the status of Blacks and women
has changed enough in fifty years
to circumvent white male
supremacy. We cannot stand by
without protesting negative
treatment in the arts no matter
what its historic context.
By reputation The Beard, an erotic
play which opened at the Houston
Museum of Modern Art and runs
ultimate portrayal of woman as object," observes feminist critic Gertrude Barnstone, but in the play "the
art." Barnstone sees the play as a
triumph over wills. And, Jean
Harlow's will-be-done by the play's
through February 1,''sounds like the male body is also celebrated through end.
Assert yourself - act equal
Do you begin almost every sentence with:
"I'm sorry ..."
"It's only my opinion ..."
"I know this sounds stupid,
but. . ."
"I kinda think . . ." or "I sorta
feel. . ."?
Well then, read The New Assertive Woman.
There are many books telling
The New Assertive Woman is an
all-together "how-to" book written
to help women, conditioned in
dependent behavior, to become
One of its basic premises is that
women must be aware of their personal rights (see chart, " Every -
woman's Bill of Rights") and assert
themselves in repossessing their
basic human rights.
The authors of The New Assertive
Woman assert that the ultimate right
is to change behavior. Conditioned
behavior is learned and can be unlearned. When women choose to ignore or do not claim their rights, they
resort to playing games such as ' 'the
sufferer" or "after all I've done for
If you appreciated all I' ve done for
you, you would want to help me more.
I need the cleaning picked up. Will
you please stop by and get it before
Another game is, "It doesn't matter to me; whatever you want.''
It doesn't make any difference.
Any place you want to go—whatever
you want to eat or do.
I want to go see a movie. I would
like to eat fish. I'm tired and want to
rest and do nothing.
Unlike the manipulating
Fascinating Woman and the submissive Total Woman, The New
Assertive Woman attempts to undo
years of "feminization." It tries to
help a woman find her own independent identity and to be responsible to
herself for her feelings, ideas, and
The authors include a test of female
1. Did you say what you wanted to
2. Were you direct and unapologe-
3. Did you stand up for your own
rights without infringing on the
rights of the other person?
4. Were you sitting or standing in
an assertive posture?
5. Did your voice sound strong and
calm? Were your gestures relaxed?
6. Did you feel good about yourself after you finished speaking?
Once a woman learns to be assertive, she has acquired skills that will
give her more choices, more independence, more self-esteem and more
control of her own life.
Women are born equal. The New
Assertive Woman shows women
how to act equal.
Every woman's Bill of Rights*
1. The right to be treated with respect
2. The right to have and express
your own feelings and opinions
3. The right to be listened to and
4. The right to set your own
5. The right to say no without feeling guilty
6. The right to ask for what you
7. The right to get what you pay for
8. The right to ask for information
9. The right to make mistakes
10. The right to choose not to assert
* Excerpts from The New Assertive
Woman by Lynn Bloom, Karen
Coburn, and Joan Pearlman.
©opyright 1975 by Lynn Bloom,
Karen Coburn, and Joan Pearlman.
Used with the permission of the De-