Stephanie M.

Stephanie M.

I'm a content writer and novelist who loves books, writing, theater, and my cat. I have published two novels and traveled to London and Paris.

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    Latest Articles


    Latest Topics


    Should Conventional Theater Change to Accommodate Diverse Actors?

    Musical theater is a huge and well-loved medium, and in recent years has given us some cutting-edge hits (Legally Blonde, Wicked, Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton, etc.) Yet there are some accepted "rules" of theater culture that still feel like stereotypes or "boxing in" actors. For instance: sopranos get the leads; mezzos and altos play "witches and britches." Tenors play romantic leads; basses play villains. Actresses past the age of 30 can expect to play mothers and grandmothers, but not love interests for their own sake. If you are a white male, you cannot convincingly play a male or female of any color (although I have conversely seen white women tapped to play WOCs). Actors with disabilities can only really expect casting in disabled roles.

    Most theater aficionados will tell you there are solid reasons behind this thinking, even truth. Then again, in 2019, should conventional theater change more to suit the needs and desires of actors? Could or should a musical be written to give an ingenue role to an alto or a hero role to a bass? Is it pushing the envelope to allow actors of certain orientations to play outside of them, or for a white actor to play a POC (outside of a historical context)? In short, what would and should truly "diverse," "inclusive" theater look like?

    • I think that, in some respects, it's easier for theatre to accommodate diversity than other media because, moreso than in any other medium, any actor who's qualified can take a particular role regardless of race, gender, or background. This is especially true of school performances, which have to work with the available students. I've seen a rendition of one of Shakespeare's history plays that featured Black actors, for example; and on YouTube I've found versions of Little Shop of Horrors where Seymour was biracial and the dentist was Asian. I've even found a theatrical version of the Screwtape Letters where Screwtape was played (really expertly, I might add) by a woman. – Debs 2 months ago
    • Hi, Debs,That sounds really cool. I'm glad your theater experience was more inclusive than mine. My schools (high and college) had GREAT theater programs I so wanted to be a part of. But, esp. in the case of my high school director, I was not given that chance and I think it was because of cerebral palsy (couldn't prove it, and if I'd said something it would've been, "Oh, you just think everybody's picking on you.") But the truth was, even after calling my acting phenomenal on more than one occasion, that director in particular would only assign me chorus or walk-on roles. The justification was, "Well, the leads have to dance," but chorus lines are basically there to *dance*, at least in my productions. There were other examples of non-diversity there too, such as the lead *always* went to a first soprano--and the year it went to a mezzo, of course, I wasn't in the running. But, this director was *also* willing to cast a white girl as a Hispanic lead (but not a girl of color as a white lead) ??????Anyway, it's only been recently that I realized the full lack of inclusivity and diversity in the world at large and the theater world, so...there you go. Again, we need more stories like yours. – Stephanie M. 2 months ago

    Real People, Film Portrayals, and Responsibility

    Most actors spend their careers playing fictional characters. However, many actors are chosen to star in biopics, Biblical epics, or similar films at least once. When an actor makes the switch from playing a character to portraying a real person, the gravitas factor goes through the roof, and while most actors will try to play real people respectfully and responsibly, there are some who arguably do it "better" than others. Just for one example, look at the many actors who have played Jesus Christ over the years.

    In your opinion, what does it take to play a certain real role responsibly and respectfully? How much of a production team’s choice is based on "casting type" and how much is based on say, personality or lived experience? What are some of the best biopic portrayals you’ve seen, of whom and by whom, and why? Discuss.

    • An example of Jesus Christ would be Robert Powell from Jesus of Nazareth. He is so committed in his role that 99% of the time he does not blink. Of course, his line delivery is convincing. In fact, whenever I think of a live-action Jesus now, I think of Powell's performance. To play a real role responsibly and respectfully, you would need to study that character's life and habits and replicate them to the best of your abilities. Experience in, say, boxing would help if you are playing Muhammad Ali, and having an authentic accent would help if you are playing someone of another race. A good example of how Hollywood casting ruined a character (and actually disgruntled her real-life counterpart) is Ingrid Bergman as Gladys Aylward in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. The look was wrong (Gladys had dark hair and was short), the accent was wrong (she had a Cockney accent), and her story was portrayed inaccurately (most of the details were correct, but Hollywood added a love story). Maybe include a rant of sorts of how Hollywood likes to add (or used to add) unnecessary love stories, even if there was no hard evidence for it in real life. – OkaNaimo0819 2 months ago
    • This is an amazing topic! I wonder if the responsibilities change depending on the fact that the character of portrayal is still alive or not.As great as both movies were, Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, I have to admit that I was more invested in Rami Malek's performance as Mercury as opposed to Egerton's because I knew that Elton John is still around. – kpfong83 2 months ago

    Recreating the Beauty of Saving Mr. Banks

    Saving Mr. Banks (2013) was something of a groundbreaking film for Disney. The company had done films based on true stories before, but Saving Mr. Banks was the first to juxtapose the story of a Disney classic’s making with the story of the original work’s author. Saving Mr. Banks met with critical acclaim and is also one of my favorites in the canon. In fact, I’d very much like to see more films like this.

    Do other films in the canon, live-action or animation, lend itself to this type of storytelling? Would actors or viewers be interested in say, learning about the personal lives and struggles behind the makings of Disney’s Golden, Bronze, or Renaissance films? Are there untold stories to be mined from animators (e.g,, Walt’s Nine Old Men, female animators, etc.) and other production staff/voice actors? Discuss.


      Sorting Quizzes: Why Do We Like Them So Much?

      Potterheads enjoy asking each other which Houses they’re from, and once you become a Potterhead, one of the first things you want to do (at least in personal experience) is get formally Sorted via a well thought-out quiz or app. It’s not uncommon to go on social media and find people sorting their favorite media characters into Houses, putting HP Next Generation characters into Houses through fanon, and debating the traits of certain Houses and how they are or are not represented. (I myself am a proud supporter of Slytherin House redemption).

      But, why all the fuss over this little bit of HP canon? Why do people get sorted over and over again, identify with more than one House, and so on? Several reasons worth exploring exist. For one, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff are just sort of "there," while Gryffindor and Slytherin get all the attention. House Sortings are the closest we’re probably going to get to a "real" Hogwarts if we can’t afford trips to Orlando. Sortings help us craft new, fantasy-based identities that may help us handle some real-world problems to a degree. We might be looking for a "perfect" Sorting experience that hasn’t been achieved yet.

      Is it all of this? None? Are there facets not yet considered? Discuss.

      • I feel like it stems from a desire to understand yourself at a deeper level. The premise of the series is that the Hogwarts house you belong to is supposed to tell you something about yourself, even if it isn't always immediately obvious what, as well as surround you with a community of (more or less) like-minded individuals. People like this idea, and so they try to find ways to make it work for them. – Debs 2 months ago
      • I believe that people are eager to sort themselves into houses, because they want to belong to something. Millions of people are in love with the Harry Potter universe, because they prefer it to their own reality. Classifying oneself as Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, or Hufflepuff allows people to identify with something that is greater than themselves. It acts a method of justification for their personalities, and people want to feel that it separates them from others. – nicolemadison 2 months ago
      • To add on, I personally felt really validated and felt like I could finally accept my personality better while growing up. For example, before I became a Potterhead, I was almost embarrassed to be a smooth talker and that I could switch around my words well enough to sound really manipulative, even though it was not in my intention to be like that. However, after being sorted into Slytherin, I began to feel proud and truly understand that it wasn't a bad thing after all. I really owe it to the Sorting Hat for that one. – Dorothy 2 months ago
      • Robert Caialdini author of Pre- suasion talk about how people need to have questions answered and will give there attention to topics which propose one in order to find out the burning question of why, this sounds like good topic to explore – Gkcopy161 2 months ago

      The Explosion of WWII Women's Fiction

      My most recent Artifice article was about the feminine spirit in Holocaust-centered YA literature, and I enjoyed every minute of prepping and writing it. I also enjoy Holocaust-based fiction (in small doses) because it so often focuses on heroism and brutality in real, thought-provoking ways. The stakes are already built in and a lot of times, couldn’t be better.

      But then I had a thought. Lilac Girls, The Guernsey Potato Peel and Literary Society, Lost Roses, The Girl in the Blue Coat, Flight Girls…there is a LOT of WWII women’s fiction around these days, not all Holocaust-based. And I wonder, what is it about this sub-category that is or has become so compelling? Are other women in other time periods as compelling, and what could authors explore to give them their due? Have writers overused this category or are there more stories to be explored?

      • Wonder Woman 2017 is one other, though not the same time period but definitely a precursor in that regard. (And I suppose, Linda Hamilton in the hypothetical.) – L:Freire 2 months ago
      • I think it's because women became more independent during this time. They took over men's jobs in the factories, joined the army as pilots, and even acted as spies or saboteurs. There is a wealth of possible stories just from this period. I don't think it's overused yet. It's close, but not quite. However, World War I women could also be explored, particularly those in the Red Cross, as well as the 1920s. (These periods particularly interest me.) – OkaNaimo0819 2 months ago

      Can Jeopardy Survive Without Alex Trebek?

      Alex Trebek’s announcement of pancreatic cancer shook Jeopardy fans and resulted in an outpouring of love and good wishes on social media. Fans rejoiced when earlier this year, Trebek rallied and achieved borderline remission. But recently, he has hinted he may step down from Jeopardy in the wake of his cancer and treatments. If this were to happen, could Jeopardy survive? Discuss the changes the show might undergo, whether some might be overdue, and how much Trebek’s presence has made the show what it is today.

      • Sad news for Jeopardy fans. But the show will live on, and even though Alex Trebek may not be the host, the core values will remain the same. – Lava0083 3 months ago

      Translation of Book to Film

      Every time a movie is adapted from a book, people complain about it. This is understandable; I’ve seen my favorite books butchered in film and it’s never pleasant. However, I recently read the comment on a BuzzFeed article about this that a certain book’s story didn’t "translate" to film. Are there certain books that translate better than others to film, and if so, what are some? Does a book need certain elements to translate well to film, or are filmmakers simply stuck doing the best they can because, print and film being different mediums, certain things are bound to get lost in translation? Discuss.

      • As you have stated before, texts are analyzed ad infinitum. Yet in terms of this topic, I think you could argue slightly different, for a change of pace. All writing goes through drafting phases and all authors go through periods of productivity and delay or self-doubt. That said, how can we destroy an adaptation that is merely going through a rough phase, on its merry way to the final version? Doesn't sound fair to the artist, but then again, is life ever fair? As far as translation goes, an author that is true to his craft and steadfast to the theme will inevitably produce the elusive masterpiece. Another incumbent will fumble the narrative by second-guessing the motive and the medium, failing to strike a vital chord with the audience in the process. Nonetheless, you managed to rehash a contentious issue among art lovers. – L:Freire 5 months ago
      • The two conversing sides of the argument perhaps both have a touch of truth. Most of the books that have failed after being adapted to films have departed so far from the themes and messages of the books that fans have been almost experiencing a different story altogether (e.g. Eragon). This departure from the known characters is such a removal for the audience that it is almost being incorrectly introduced to someone you already know. On the other hand, writing a narrative in hundreds of pages cannot practically incorporate the waves of thoughts, senses, and minor details within a two hour film. While most including myself would gladly take a 12 hour Harry Potter film, to appeal to wider audiences, films cannot be realistically expected to cover all aspects of a book. Certainly, some films have handled the transition better than others and remained true to the heart of the book, but unfortunately the realities of the economically driven film industry prevent the full transition that fans so ardently desire. Maybe the solution is in tv adaptation rather than film to allow for longer screen time, or maybe the magic of perspective and thought disclosure in books can never be truly replicated. – Huntforpurpose 5 months ago
      • I'd be interested in hearing about living writers and their part in the production of the films. Should they be given authority over everything? Do they write the screenplay? if not, does the screenwriter get the say over the writer etc. – sophiatarin 5 months ago
      • It's a valid concern. There is a documentary on The Virgin Suicides that makes the case for inclusion of the writer within the film-making process. Of course, Sofia Coppola has the ultimate say over the characterization of the narrative. But the author of that novel, Jeffrey Eugenides, was a vital component behind the dialogue, the mood, and the setting. Also, I failed to mention earlier that the reverse can be surprisingly successful. For instance, the Star Trek episode "All the Yesterdays" made a seamless foray into a series of acclaimed novel tie-ins by A.C. Crispin. The onscreen romance between Spock and Zarabeth translated into two compelling novels of time travel and a supposed offspring between the pair. – L:Freire 5 months ago
      • A compelling factor in this debate is circumstances. The ancient Greeks wrote dramatic recollections of events that moved audiences of the time and to this day in practically every discipline that has emerged since then. But, there were no motion pictures to reclaim those texts. Then, Shakespeare entered the picture with an equal fervor for casting light on the matters of his day. Presently, we submit to the same appetite for literary escape with authors such as J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins, probably as eagerly as the Greeks and the British did in the early days of the art. In those times as it continues to be today, the stage was the medium for the written script. I venture to guess that audiences had their preferences for certain actors and theatres when reading the written play was not a viable option nor a preference. Perhaps, it may be that reading the plot in the comfort of a familiar setting with pleasant music or refreshment is the reason why some people opt for this method of entertainment. Indeed, the pace of a book or the flash of color and splash of sound in a film is what draws fans to each particular venue. So, an author's style or an actor's appeal may be the reasons why people turn to different sources of entertainment, including the online variety. I suppose radio producers had the same challenges in their respective field that could be incorporated into this topic. – L:Freire 5 months ago
      • Adaptation theory says that a film can do anything a book can do - it just does it in different ways. For example, first-person narration in a book might be translated in film via sound editing to an internal monologue. I don't really understand this as a valid concern because books, despite what people commonly think, are also a visual medium (consider font, illustrations, formatting, inflection, quotes, etc.) – KateBowen 4 months ago

      The Best Short Stories and Short Story Conventions

      Short stories form the backbone of almost any literature and creative writing class, either because students read or write them. Either way, they are analyzed–sometimes to the point of death, but we hope today’s literature students and teachers are moving past such tendencies.

      Of the myriad of short stories that exist, classic and contemporary, what are some that should belong in any canon? In particular, discuss contemporary stories or collections not getting attention right now, that should be. To go along with this, what are some universal themes, character traits, or tropes that make a short story "work" better than it would if it were written in longer form? Do some topics or themes lend themselves better to short form, and why?

      • I tend to favor the practicality of the short story for inducement to entertain, either personally or formally. Two titles in particular exemplify this viewpoint: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. As you mention, the commentary on social norms that they bring to the fore have been exhaustively analysed. But, I think that they serve the greater purpose of shedding light on the quirks of society that are overlooked or simply ignored in the haste of the day. Furthermore, they can provide a conducive outlet for what would otherwise manifest in cold or violent indifference. At the very least, the short story can be an entry point into much lengthier and broader literature or a welcome reprieve from it. – L:Freire 5 months ago
      • The short story, the ancient art that we knew, is still written and written abundantly, but the lack of follow-up may make us think it is an art of extinction, and no longer exists only in the form of simple flashes here and there. In fact, I have been able to read in the past few months a large number of story collections, with different qualities and atmospheres. Enough on the things the writer wants to point out, and let the reader complete in his mind what he thinks the writer may have wanted to write. – rosejone 5 months ago
      • I personally never got too into short stories. I've always devoured novels, and all my book/article ideas seem to come in "long form." Seriously, I was telling people at age ten that my 50-page "masterpieces" were "novels." That said, there are a few short stories that have stuck with me for years, and if they can win me over, they can win anyone over. :) I wanted to know other people's opinions so I could try some more short stories. – Stephanie M. 5 months ago

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      Latest Comments

      Stephanie M.

      This sounds like a beautiful character and I hope he gets a great story! 🙂

      Pursuing Equity When Writing Diverse Characters
      Stephanie M.

      Amazingly thorough! Somebody needs to do this for other shows, like Once Upon a Time (the writers had a 20-foot timeline outside their writing rooms and *still* got confused).

      The X-Men Timeline
      Stephanie M.

      Very interesting, especially the breakdown of regions.

      Adapting Worlds, not Stories
      Stephanie M.

      Oh, my, yes. I remember as a little kid, those women were the height of fashion for me. Then again, I spent a lot of time playing dress-up with my grandma’s old stuff, so that’s probably why. Still, man, they make that stuff look good.

      How The Golden Girls Changed the Face and Narrative of Aging
      Stephanie M.

      @greem: Always.

      How The Golden Girls Changed the Face and Narrative of Aging
      Stephanie M.

      Congratulations! Happy bingeing!

      How The Golden Girls Changed the Face and Narrative of Aging
      Stephanie M.

      I know. Every time I watch an ep, I’m struck with the perfect balance of funny and serious. For instance, I watched “Long Day’s Journey into Marinara” today. We go from semi-serious sibling rivalry to Rose’s client’s piano-playing chicken (???) to death of said chicken, to Angela and Sophia beaning a cheater with their purses. Pure gold.

      How The Golden Girls Changed the Face and Narrative of Aging
      Stephanie M.

      LOL. Well, if the Lords of Kobol/Cable want us all to be Golden Girls, I say bring it.

      How The Golden Girls Changed the Face and Narrative of Aging