The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man

Critics

LemonMeter

83 %

Reviews: 12

Audience

LemonMeter

Reviews: 0

The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man – Part fact, part fever dream, and part musical, this captivating new work opens with Alice B. Sheldon – better known to sci-fi aficionados as author James Tiptree, Jr. – contemplating suicide. Dodging in and out of reality, the play, with a bold musical score from award-winning world music artist Yuval Ron, investigates gender, longing and creativity as self-exploration through one of the science fiction world's greatest literary tricksters. Sheldon was most notable for breaking down the barriers between writing perceived as inherently ‘male' or ‘female,' as it was not publicly known until 1977 that Tiptree was, in fact, a woman. Inspired by the biography ‘James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon' by Julie Phillips along with ‘With Delicate Mad Hands' by James Tiptree, Jr., The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man, is a co-production from Son of Semele Ensemble and opens on October 27 at Son of Semele Theater in Los Angeles. Alice B. Sheldon started writing science fiction under the male pen name of James Tiptree, Jr. as a last grasp for life at the age of 50. Without expecting any success, Sheldon as Tiptree ended up taking the science fiction world by storm writing the most provocative and socially relevant stories to this day. For years, no one knew Tiptree's true identity. Influential science fiction writers such as Phillip K. Dick wanted to collaborate with him; Ursula K. Le Guin and Joanna Russ put him on a pedestal. In 2012 Tiptree was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Ironically it was the remarkable life Sheldon led as a woman that made her so believable as a man. She was an officer in the Army, worked for the CIA, the Pentagon and traveled the world. The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man has universal and topical resonance as it deals directly with the repression of women, of gender/sexual orientation, depression and the search for hope. It also brings science fiction — a form that was long marginalized — to the center stage and shows how Alice B. Sheldon used science fiction to address issues that plague humanity such as genocide, ecocide and racism. The play experiments with form, episodic storytelling, shifting time and vacillating between inner and outer realities. It is interwoven with one of Tiptree's short stories to frame the telling of Sheldon's life. The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man takes imaginary license whereby Sheldon is visited by an unexpected stranger — an extraterrestrial “star caller” from one of Tiptree's stories — who leads her on an episodic, emotional journey through the shadows of her past where, despite her life's accomplishments, buried pain and unmet desires reside. She encounters her younger selves, her domineering mother, her repressed lesbian love, and the incarnation of her male alter-ego: James Tiptree, Jr. The play locates unexpected links between gender orientation, creative expression and mental health, and shows how science fiction became the answer to Sheldon's struggles as a woman. “I have always been drawn to the lives of female artists; especially those who committed suicide. While their work may be celebrated, often their lives and personal triumphs are not. My intention is to unapologetically shed light on one of these overlooked lives: a true story about a woman who pretended to be a man,” explains Huskey. Tiptree earned the reputation of being a male author who understood women and often addressed gender issues – on Earth and in worlds beyond. Having spent her entire life in male-dominated arenas – the Army, the C.I.A., academia, and finally science fiction writing – the invention of Tiptree allowed to say all of the things she felt she couldn't as a woman. Once outed, Sheldon didn't feel a sense a liberation. Instead, her confidence rattled with the transition from a perceived male writer to a female one, she faded from the science-fiction scene, leaving her legacy behind. The cast features Anneliese Euler (Comedy Central, danced with Meredith Monk, Leonix Movement Theatre, Heidi Duckler, Son of Semele company member) as Mary Bradley; James Ferrero (Wolf, Narcissus & Echo, Romeo & Juliet) as James Tiptree, Jr.; Emma Zakes Green (multi-disciplinary artist, writer, and director) as Tass; Betsy Moore (Son of Semele Ensemble, Best Avant Garde Show at United Solo Festival for Freebird Goes to Mars) as Alice B. Sheldon; Isabella Ramacciotti (El Segundo community theater) as little Alice; Paula Rebelo (Theatre Movement Bazaar's Big Shot, The River Bride, The Clean House, Four Larks' The Temptation of St. Antony) as young Alice; Megan Rippey (Marie Antoinette, Red Velvet, Pussy Valley) as Mira; Ashley Steed (Son of Semele Ensemble, The Visceral City Project) as Janice; Alex Wells (Son of Semele Ensemble, LA Weekly Award for Best Male Comedy Fatboy, Classical Theatre Lab member) as Ting; and rounding out the ensemble are Kamar Elliott, Nathan Nonhoff, and Robert Paterno. The creative team includes Eli Smith (set designer), Rose Malone (lighting designer), Martin Carrillo (sound designer), Lena Sands (costume designer), and Richard An (musical director). Maureen Huskey writes, adapts and directs for theater and opera. She began her career in New York City collaborating with avant-garde artists in NYC's thriving downtown experimental theater world. Now based in Pasadena CA, her directed stage works have been presented in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vienna, Austria, and Vancouver. She has received a Princess Grace Honoraria Award, a Bessie Award (NYC), and her shows have received nominations from the NAACP and OVATION AWARDS among other accolades. Huskey has received numerous grant awards and residencies for her work including the Creative Capital Award and the Voice & Vision's ENVISION grant for women artists (NYC). She co-founded Red Dive, a vanguard company in the site-specific and immersive theater movement in NYC which she directed until 2006. She holds a BA in Theater and Communications from Western State Colorado University, a Diploma in Dramatic Playwriting with Merit from the University of Kent at Canterbury, England as a Rotary Scholar, and a MFA in Theater Direction from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Huskey has taught and guest directed at CalArts, College of the Canyons and Long Beach State University. Yuval Ron is an internationally renowned music artist, composer, and record producer with a specialty in World Music. Among his many honors, he composed the songs and score for the Oscar-winning film West Bank Story in 2007 and was the featured artist in the Gala Concert for the Dalai Lama's initiative Seeds of Compassion at the Seattle Opera Hall. Ron has received commissions for site-specific scores from the Getty Center, Japan-America Center, Lauren Bon and Farm Lab, and from various international choreographers, including Daniel Ezralow (American Repertory Ballet), Ashley Roland (ISO dance company), Oguri (Renzoku Dance Company) and visual artist, Hirokazu Kosaka. His ensemble music has been performed at the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Broad Stage in Santa Monica and at premiere venues around the world. Son of Semele Ensemble is an award-winning Los Angeles based theater company. They produce innovative theatrical productions and through a variety of programs they support the work of artists who take bold steps in their work. In 2004, American Theater Magazine named Son of Semele Ensemble one of the best new theater companies to watch. Since then the company has received numerous awards and nominations from LA Stage Alliance's Ovations, LA Weekly Theater Awards, a SAGE Award, Los Angeles Drama Critic Circle, Stage Raw, and NAACP, among others. The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man runs October 27 through November 18 with performances on Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m. Tickets are $25; patrons 25 and under get $5 off with valid ID at the door; performances in the first two weeks are pay-what-you-can, and group discounts are available. Son of Semele Theater is located at 3301 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90004.

Reviews

Avatar

The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man works as a creative and experimental avant-garde art piece, but doesn't do much for one seeking a narrative of a fascinating life story that could possibly have been better (differently?) handled from another approach. However we give credit to everyone from above-the-line to talent for bringing this story (that we had never heard about) to the forefront.

sweet-sour - Erik Vanlier – Golden State Haunts - ...read full review


Avatar

The relationship Alice has with Tiptree is one of the more nuanced and exciting elements of the play as it's never given a singular influence as the two seem to orbit around each other in a dance of attraction and repulsion, never managing to coalesce into a single entity but having to create that appearance for the public.

sweet - Brian Tull - Horror Buzz - ...read full review


Shari Barrett

The atmosphere of travelling in space, as well as through Sheldon's mind, is stylistically represented by all characters intertwining themselves in the flexible cords, allowing them to appear weightless as they weave their way around each other on Eli Smith's imaginative set. Awe-inspiring technical wizardry is also reflected thanks to Rose Malone's lighting design and Martin Carrillo's spacey sound design. The entire cast proves how effective a true ensemble of players can be when their give-and-take onstage support of each other lifts the production into a true state of imaginative reality.

sweet - Shari Barrett - Broadway World - ...read full review


Avatar

Under Huskey's guidance and Richard An's musical direction, the entire cast functions as a seamless ensemble, from realistic emotional interchanges to precisely mechanized group choreography, sort of Grotowski movement exercises by way of the Rockettes. And although the pulp elements of the piece sometimes run away with the narrative, this nearly indescribable fusion of text, music, movement and fantasy takes us inside the mind of a fascinating woman, whose refusal to be hampered by the conventions of her times led her through uncharted territory and new frontiers.

sweet - F. Kathleen Foley - LA Times - ...read full review


Avatar

I think its so fascinating that this author chose an alternative reality, both imaginatively and in terms of gender, to demonstrate her talents... I should add, that besides the cast members I mention above, all the ensemble players, including Kamar Elliott, Emma Zakes Green, Nathan Nonhof, Robert Paterno, and Ashley Steed were quite convincing. The lighting by Rose Malone was memorable. I'll be back to worship at the altar of this small space soon.

sweet - Douglas Messerli - US Theater - ...read full review


Avatar

The cast of The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man is top-notch; they expertly bring emotional depth to the whimsical music and narrative... The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man, despite its somewhat tragic inspiration, brought a smile to my face on multiple occasions and is an intimate musical that deftly plays with time and space, fictional and real.

sweet - Lacey Rae - Media Geeks - ...read full review


Ellen Dostal

Though the sum of its parts does not yet add up dramatically, The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man does fit somewhat more effectively in the landscape of a theatrical tone poem. There the freer style of its content allows more room for the playwright to explore Sheldon's fascinating life journey and tragic end without limits.

sweet-sour - Ellen Dostal - BroadwayWorld Los Angeles - ...read full review


David MacDowell Blue

Alice Bradley Sheldon, the "real" Tiptree, emerges as the subject of The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man, a musical taking place in her mind--blending memories and dreams, impressions and ideas to create if not necessarily coherent nevertheless a compelling and deeply informative whole.

sweet - David MacDowell Blue - Night Tinted Glasses - ...read full review


Avatar

It's clear what Huskey is trying to do here, which is to present Sheldon as a feminist heroine — but this could easily have been done without this flatfooted surreal approach. One suspects Sheldon, a steadfastly matter-of-fact stylist, is likely to have found as disconnecting as we do.

sour - Paul Birchall - Stage Raw - ...read full review


Avatar

Kudos to talented writer/director Maureen Huskey and her team on her intriguing new production The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man, now playing at the Son of Semele Theater in Los Angeles. The colorful, well-executed experimental play, with music by acclaimed World Music artist Yuval Ron, explores the very complicated life and unfortunate suicide of award winning 60's and 70's science fiction writer James Tiptree, Jr., who was actually a woman by the name of Alice B. Sheldon.

sweet - Harrison Held - Discover Hollywood - ...read full review


Avatar

These combined factors shows the experimental aspects to this story. Not necessarily in a science fiction mode, but it undertakes this practice of expression.

sweet - Rich Borowy - Accessibly Live Off-Line - ...read full review


Rob Stevens

Playwright Huskey has wonderfully woven all these characters and incidents in a fast moving tale while director Huskey has created vivid and stunning images to make it all come together. At times all three versions of Alice are in a scene as well as male alter ego James. The real life characters mix with the sci-fi creations and yet the narrative thread is never lost... Blast off with The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man and take an amazing voyage through an intriguing life story.

sweet - Rob Stevens - Haines His Way - ...read full review


Avatar

The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man works as a creative and experimental avant-garde art piece, but doesn't do much for one seeking a narrative of a fascinating life story that could possibly have been better (differently?) handled from another approach. However we give credit to everyone from above-the-line to talent for bringing this story (that we had never heard about) to the forefront.

sweet-sour - Erik Vanlier – Golden State Haunts - ...read full review


Avatar

The relationship Alice has with Tiptree is one of the more nuanced and exciting elements of the play as it's never given a singular influence as the two seem to orbit around each other in a dance of attraction and repulsion, never managing to coalesce into a single entity but having to create that appearance for the public.

sweet - Brian Tull - Horror Buzz - ...read full review


Shari Barrett

The atmosphere of travelling in space, as well as through Sheldon's mind, is stylistically represented by all characters intertwining themselves in the flexible cords, allowing them to appear weightless as they weave their way around each other on Eli Smith's imaginative set. Awe-inspiring technical wizardry is also reflected thanks to Rose Malone's lighting design and Martin Carrillo's spacey sound design. The entire cast proves how effective a true ensemble of players can be when their give-and-take onstage support of each other lifts the production into a true state of imaginative reality.

sweet - Shari Barrett - Broadway World - ...read full review


Avatar

Under Huskey's guidance and Richard An's musical direction, the entire cast functions as a seamless ensemble, from realistic emotional interchanges to precisely mechanized group choreography, sort of Grotowski movement exercises by way of the Rockettes. And although the pulp elements of the piece sometimes run away with the narrative, this nearly indescribable fusion of text, music, movement and fantasy takes us inside the mind of a fascinating woman, whose refusal to be hampered by the conventions of her times led her through uncharted territory and new frontiers.

sweet - F. Kathleen Foley - LA Times - ...read full review


Avatar

I think its so fascinating that this author chose an alternative reality, both imaginatively and in terms of gender, to demonstrate her talents... I should add, that besides the cast members I mention above, all the ensemble players, including Kamar Elliott, Emma Zakes Green, Nathan Nonhof, Robert Paterno, and Ashley Steed were quite convincing. The lighting by Rose Malone was memorable. I'll be back to worship at the altar of this small space soon.

sweet - Douglas Messerli - US Theater - ...read full review


Avatar

The cast of The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man is top-notch; they expertly bring emotional depth to the whimsical music and narrative... The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man, despite its somewhat tragic inspiration, brought a smile to my face on multiple occasions and is an intimate musical that deftly plays with time and space, fictional and real.

sweet - Lacey Rae - Media Geeks - ...read full review


Ellen Dostal

Though the sum of its parts does not yet add up dramatically, The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man does fit somewhat more effectively in the landscape of a theatrical tone poem. There the freer style of its content allows more room for the playwright to explore Sheldon's fascinating life journey and tragic end without limits.

sweet-sour - Ellen Dostal - BroadwayWorld Los Angeles - ...read full review


David MacDowell Blue

Alice Bradley Sheldon, the "real" Tiptree, emerges as the subject of The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man, a musical taking place in her mind--blending memories and dreams, impressions and ideas to create if not necessarily coherent nevertheless a compelling and deeply informative whole.

sweet - David MacDowell Blue - Night Tinted Glasses - ...read full review


Avatar

It's clear what Huskey is trying to do here, which is to present Sheldon as a feminist heroine — but this could easily have been done without this flatfooted surreal approach. One suspects Sheldon, a steadfastly matter-of-fact stylist, is likely to have found as disconnecting as we do.

sour - Paul Birchall - Stage Raw - ...read full review


Avatar

Kudos to talented writer/director Maureen Huskey and her team on her intriguing new production The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man, now playing at the Son of Semele Theater in Los Angeles. The colorful, well-executed experimental play, with music by acclaimed World Music artist Yuval Ron, explores the very complicated life and unfortunate suicide of award winning 60's and 70's science fiction writer James Tiptree, Jr., who was actually a woman by the name of Alice B. Sheldon.

sweet - Harrison Held - Discover Hollywood - ...read full review


Avatar

These combined factors shows the experimental aspects to this story. Not necessarily in a science fiction mode, but it undertakes this practice of expression.

sweet - Rich Borowy - Accessibly Live Off-Line - ...read full review


Rob Stevens

Playwright Huskey has wonderfully woven all these characters and incidents in a fast moving tale while director Huskey has created vivid and stunning images to make it all come together. At times all three versions of Alice are in a scene as well as male alter ego James. The real life characters mix with the sci-fi creations and yet the narrative thread is never lost... Blast off with The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man and take an amazing voyage through an intriguing life story.

sweet - Rob Stevens - Haines His Way - ...read full review