Monthly Archives: September 2017

We Are Not Ourselves

We Are Not Ourselves
We Are Not Ourselves
by Matthew Thomas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The writing is vivid, beautiful, even nearly poetic at times. BUT it is all third-person, character point of view internal musings. There is little or no dialogue. There is a lot of telling and not enough showing in the character development. We know how they think and the petty things that drive them to make certain decisions, but only because we are told. We do not discover from their actions.

Secondly, this is a book that deals with early onset Alzheimer’s but in a very frustrating and almost unsympathetic way. I forced myself to read the first 200 pages because it won awards and was recommended by an agent. But it breaks all the rules they teach you in Novel-writing 101, and I found it so frustrating to read that I set it aside to read something I could enjoy.

View all my reviews

The Family You Choose

Last November, in 2016, I took the NaNoWriMo challenge and wrote over 50,000 on a novel.  It was an exercise.  I wanted to see if I could discipline myself to putting out a certain number of words every day.  I also wanted to write a story with more action and complications than I normally write into my first drafts.

With that in mind, and a single image of a young woman unwrapping the contents of a parcel, removing the bubble wrap and tape from a funerary urn, I began.  I did write over 50,000 words, but I did not finish this novel. After many months, I’m picking it up again and taking another look.

I realize that I really like these characters and they each have a unique and somewhat colloquial voice. There are plenty of complications.  I only need an ending.

Having just finished working through my other two novels with my critique groups, I need something else to work on with them.  I took in the first chapter and they are very enthused.  So it looks at though this will be my writing project for the next few months at least.

Wish me luck and send good vibes.

Directing MST Production of Gunderson Homage to Jane Austen

Main Street Theater announced its season to include “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” as its second production, following Gorky’s “Enemies”.  I’ve agreed to direct it and am very excited to once again be working with the characters from Pride and Prejudice and the work of Lauren Gunderson.

Having performed in Lauren Gunderson’s “Silent Sky” a couple of seasons ago and delighted in “The Revolutionists” this last season at MST, I am very excited to be involved in this play, which she co-wrote with Margot Melcon. A lovely person and talented writer, Gunderson has become one of the most produced playwrights in America.

To add to my joy, this play is a riff on one of my favorite Jane Austen books. I performed in MST’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (penned by Artistic Director, Rebecca Green Udden) in the 1980s and directed a revised and improved version of that script in the 1990s.  This will be like a holiday visit with extended family.

Which is where the play picks up, two years after Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett have settled their differences, overcoming his pride and her prejudice to become a happily married couple. The lovely Jane has married her Bingley and they are expecting their first child, seemingly at any moment. But they have journeyed to Pemberley to celebrate Christmas with the Darcys, the studious Mary Bennett in tow. The rest of the family is expected to arrive before Christmas day.

More mature and accomplished, Mary is still more comfortable playing the pianoforte or perusing an Atlas than serving tea or engaging in polite conversation. She has come to realize that everyone expects her to be an old maid and care for her parents as they age, but she is not sure she’s happy with that lot in life. A woman ahead of her time, she would prefer the life of the scholar or the professional musician, but those avenues are not readily available to her. (This seems to be a theme in Lauren’s plays.)

Meanwhile, Darcy’s aunt, the formidable Lady Catherine has died, and despite her best efforts, the estate is entailed to a distant cousin named Arthur de Bourgh. A diffident young scholar and scientist, he could not be more uncomfortable with his new role as Lord of the manor. On his reluctant journey to assume his dubious title at Rosings, he accepts Darcy’s invitation to join the family celebrations. Unfortunately, Darcy invited him without telling Elizabeth.

The ‘cute meet’ happens when Arthur arrives somewhat unexpectedly to be greeted rather curtly by Mary, who seems to assume he is more likely a burglar than a guest.  They are just starting to discover how much they have in common and struggling to express their attraction, when first Lydia Wickham then Anne de Bourgh arrive to complicate the matter.

As you might expect, Lydia’s rather patched up marriage to Wickham is not entirely successful. But she is too arrogant and proud to admit they are anything but happy, until she thinks she might latch onto a rich Lord for a lover.

Anne, the almost invisible and sickly daughter of Lady Catherine has emerged from her chrysalis upon her mother’s death. Unfortunately, her new gregariousness has a decidedly snippy and privileged tone very like her mother’s.  Unwilling to wait for Arthur to get around to arriving at Rosings, she arrives at Pemberley in the middle of the night to root out her cousin and stake her claim as his fiancé.

Needless to say, mayhem ensues.

I have cast a wonderful group of actors and am anxious to begin the rehearsal process in October. Meanwhile, I’m working with the talented designers at MST to create the world of Pemberley on MST’s thrust stage.

Keep the show in mind when you are trying to find things to do around the holidays. Opening in early November and running through mid December, it should be a delightful alternative to the usual Scrooge and Nutcracker offerings.

For more information visit the Main Street Theater website at

Claire Hart-Palumbo


In the aftermath of the devastation that was Hurricane Harvey, and similar losses in Florida, it may be time to honestly assess what is important to us.

Television streamed a 24-hr a day summary of disaster, seasoned with kindness. Those of us who waited and watched the water rise, resigned to possibly losing our homes and having to be rescued, stayed glued to TV,  radio, and social media as long as there was power. I was struck by two things. Stuff is just stuff.  People (and pets) and our relations to them are more important.

While scrambling to prop up furniture and decide what to save, it dawned on me that I have accumulated a lot of objects, very few of which would be deeply missed.  I took measures to save my computers and the writing I’ve done and the pictures stored on them.

It shook me to realize that all my family was too far away to help or support me and I would be thrown onto the ‘kindness of strangers’ should the worst happen. Once the water began to rise in my street, friends around the city who might offer me shelter were unable to reach me without great risk. I had to depend on myself to do what was possible and to protect the two small creatures that are my daily companions.

Yet over and over again, I saw on TV the selfless bravery of our first-responders, the wonderful character of generosity and courage of my fellow Houstonians, and the unexpected blessing of people from all around the country who drove all night, often towing a boat, to reach out and help.

I was lucky. After three days of rain, I climbed into bed with my cats prepared to wake up to water on the floor. I prayed, as I knew my family and friends were praying. Miraculously, the rain stopped for several hours—long enough for the water to recede from my doorstep.

Just as in the aftermath of Ike, neighborhoods banded together to help each other. Neighbors that we met and befriended during that last event but somehow lost touch with or did not follow through to grow the acquaintance, once again knocked on doors and worked together to share whatever assistance and encouragement they could. It would be nice to think that we will do better this time, but history does not bear that out.

As we begin to recover, we will once more become absorbed in personal trials and lose sight of the bigger picture. That, I think may be the true tragedy of social media. It keeps us engaged, but always at arms length. True friendship takes a little work. You may have Facebook and Twitter friends around the world, but do they include your next door neighbors?  Is it easier to post something like this than to walk next door and say thank you?

Just something to think about.

Claire HP