Body Awareness
by Annie Baker

An unconventional family wrestles with a grown sons sexual awakening and an unwanted diagnosis in this gentle comedy. A recent off-Broadway hit by a first-time playwright.

Book Selection: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Thursday, 5/6: Post-show discussion with Dr. Gary Mesibov, former director of TEACCH and internationally recognized researcher in autism.

Friday, 5/7: "Meet the Play" Pre-show discussion with Dramaturg Karen Blansfield, for an introduction to the play's themes and background.

Thursday, 5/13: Post-show discussion with Dr. Geraldine Dawson, Chief Science Officer of Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization.

Sunday, 5/16: Post-show panel discussion with parents of children with autism, to discuss their experiences

Dates: April 30 - May 22, 2010

Director: Paul Frellick

Cast: Sean Casserly, Susannah Hough, Bill Humphreys, Catherine Rodgers

Stage Manager: J.J. Bauer

Sets: Rob Hamilton

Lighting: Liz Droessler

Costumes: Victoria Cox, Mardi Magoo

Props: Devra Thomas

Dramaturg: Karen C. Blansfield

Crew: Brittany Bugge, Alex Deyneka, Danny Tauber

Sound: Ross White

News about Body Awareness

April 23rd, 2010
Body Awareness: Dramaturg Notes
Aspergers Syndrome: A mild form of autism in which people demonstrate significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests, physical clumsiness, and atypical use of language. It differs from other types of autism in regards to the development of language and cognition.

Aspergers syndrome is named for the Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger who, in 1944, described children in his practice who lacked nonverbal communication skills, demonstrated limited empathy with their peers, and were physically clumsy. Fifty years later, it was standardized as a diagnosis, but many questions remain about aspects of the disorder. The exact cause is unknown, although research supports the likelihood of a genetic basis.

Therapy is aimed at behavioral improvement, focusing on specific deficits to address poor communication skills, obsessive or repetitive routines, and physical clumsiness. Most individuals improve over time, but difficulties with communication, social adjustment and independent living continue into adulthood.

Here are a few YouTube clips about Asperbergers that may be helpful:

Documentary about Aspergers Syndrome

What is Aspergers Syndrome?

This Emotional Life (PBS)

Science shows that connecting with others is the key to happiness. Jason, a 29-year-old man with Aspergers syndrome, talks about his challenges, and Dr. John Cacioppo talks about the impact of loneliness. From This Emotional Life, premiering January 4, 2010.

Autodidact: A self-taught person.

Crime and Punishment: Dostoevskys most exciting novel (1866) describes the drama of a murderer who is tortured by his conscience. The hero is spiritually redeemed when he finally confesses his crime and accepts the punishment. (Other of his novels include The Brothers Karamazov, which tells about the murder of an evil man by one of his four sons. The symbolic redemption of the other sons represents the authors faith in the saving power of God.)

The fictional protagonist, Raskkolnikov, is a young ex-student of law living in extreme poverty in St Petersburg, sleeps on a couch using old clothes as a pillow, and due to lack of money eats very rarely. He is frequently referred to as a former student because he doesnt have the money to finish his institute education. Emotionally, physically, and financially stressed, he is also socially inept and neurotic about small things, such as crowded spaces. Raskolnikov fluctuates between extremes of altruism and apathy. He is described by the narrator as extremely handsome, and many other characters in the work state that he is very intelligent.

Daguerreotype: This was the first practical and popular method of photography, named for Louis J. M. Daguerre, a French stage designer and painter who perfected the process in 1837. The word daguerreotype also refers to photographs produced by this process. Daguerres process involved treating a thin sheet of silver-plated copper with fumes from crystals of iodine to make the silver plating sensitive to light. The sheet was then placed inside a camera and exposed to light through the camera lens for 5 to 40 minutes. After the sheet was removed from the camera, it was developed by vapors from heated mercury. The mercury combined with the silver at the points where it had been affected by light, and formed a highly detailed image. The image was then fixed by treating the sheet with sodium thiosulfate. Daguerre first published a description of his process in 1839, and it was soon improved by other inventors. Daguerreotype portraits were tremendously popular during the 1840s and 1850s, especially in the United States.

Deepak Chopra: American physician born in India who has become a widely known author and lecturer on spirituality, alternative medicine, and mind-body medicine. A former leader of the Transcendental Meditation movement, he has become a popular New Age figure in the self-help market. Home page:

Down (Downs) Syndrome: Named after John Langdon Down, the British physician who described the syndrome in 1866, Down Syndrome (DS) is a condition in which extra genetic material (the infamous 21st chromosome) causes delays in the way a child develops, both mentally and physically. It affects about 1 in every 800 babies. The physical features and medical problems associated with DS can vary widely from child to childincluding some impairment of cognitive ability and physical growth, and a particular set of facial characteristics. While some DS kids need a lot of medical attention, others lead healthy lives. Though DS cant be prevented, it can be detected before a child is born, and the health problems that accompany it can be treated. Although no one knows for sure why DS occurs and theres no way to prevent the chromosomal error that causes it, scientists do know that women age 35 and older have a significantly higher risk of having a child with the condition.

Etymology: The etymology of a word describes how it entered the English language. Words arrive from a multitude of different sources. Some are simply formed by combining an existing word with a prefix or suffix; others have very complicated histories, passing through forms in various languages before finally entering English. Tracing a complex etymology of the latter kind involves thorough research in the historical dictionaries of various languages, and often consultation with a specialist in a particular language or period of history.

Feminists trend of burlesque dancing: One source notes that both pole dancing and the newer craze of burlesque dancing have been associated at different times with neo-feminism. Burlesque dancing encourages women to push their boundaries, which in turn increases their self-esteem and tone up at the same time. A 2004 article from Womens ENews says this: Over the last 10 years, women have dusted off pasties and tassels in a rediscovery of classic burlesque, which ended its heyday in the early 1960s with the sexual revolution and increase of sex and nudity in other venues. Now, an over-sexed public is cheering for the sexy glamour of burlesque, which offers a glimpse but doesnt bare it all. . . . Since it began coming back in the mid-1990s, burlesque now seems to be everywhere: on television, on screen, on stage and online.

Idbaal performance group: One source I found says that the word means song telling a story.

Klezmer: Often referred to as Yiddish music, klezmer is a Jewish secular musical tradition that developed around the 15th century, drawing on devotional traditions extending back to Biblical times. The musical legacy of klezmer continued to evolve over the years, and its repertoire is now largely dance songs for weddings and other celebrations. Originally, the term referred to musical instruments and was later extended to refer to musicians themselves. By the mid-to-late 20th century, the word was used to identify a musical genre.

National Eating Disorder Week: See an article from Psychology Today, if interested:

OED (Oxford English Dictionary): The Oxford English Dictionary has been the last word on words for over a century. In 1857, the members of the Philological Society of London decided that existing English language dictionaries were incomplete and deficient and called for a complete re-examination of the language from Anglo-Saxon times onward. The project proceeded slowly after the Societys first grand statement of purpose, with the working title New English Dictionary. Planned as a four-volume, 6,400-page work that would include all English language vocabulary from the Early Middle English period (1150 AD) onward, plus some earlier words if they had continued to be used into Middle English, the project was headed by James A. H. Murray and was projected for completion in ten years. However, (since they were still in the A category after five years), the dictionary was published periodically, with the last volume appearing in April 1928now under the name A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles that contained over 400,000 words and phrases in ten volumes.

In 1933, a single-volume Supplement to the Dictionary was published; it was also reprinted in twelve volumes and formally given its current title, the Oxford English Dictionary. Between 1972 and 1986, a four-volume Supplement appeared, incorporating new information on the language, more scientific and technical terms, and considerably more words from North America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean. In the 1980s, work began on transferring the print edition into electronic form (CD-ROM). Today, the OED is continually being revised and updated in its online format. Interestingly, the OED has never been commercially profitable for Oxford University Press.

For further information (and LOTS of it), see

Prescriptivism vs. Descriptivism: To expand upon the definitions provided by Jared in the play:

Prescriptivism (or prescription) can refer both to the codification and the enforcement of rules governing how a language should be used, rules that may cover such standards as spelling, grammar, or syntax, or rules for what is deemed socially or politically correct.

Descriptivism in contrast, observes and records how language is used in practice and is the basis of all linguistic research. Prescription and description are often seen as opposites, in the sense that one declares how language should be while the other declares how language actually is. But they can also be complementary, and usually exist in dynamic tension. Many commentators on language show elements of both prescription and description in their thinking, and popular debate on language issues frequently revolves around the question of how to balance these.

Self-objectification: This is the tendency for women to evaluate themselves based on their physical appearance because they believe that this is how others judge them. Self-objectification may result in habitual monitoring of ones appearance, feelings of body shame because of the failure to meet a physical ideal, and ultimately, disordered eating as a way to improve ones appearance (anorexia, for example).

Shirley, VT and Shirley State College: This is obviously a fictional Vermont town and college campus, although there are numerous small colleges/towns in Vermont which may have provided a prototype for this play. What is interesting is that the name Shirley can be both male and female, reinforcing some of the sexual ambiguity of the play and/or some of the vague background of some characters. In fact, before the publication of the novel Shirley by Charlotte Bront in 1849, Shirley was an uncommon but distinctly male name and would have been a very unusual name for a woman. Today it is regarded as a distinctly female name and an uncommon male name. And, of course, we now have the inevitable reference to the model of innocence, Shirley Temple. This ambiguity of names is also reiterated in the name Phyllis, whom Joyce often addresses as Phil, which is also a mans name. Given the vague background of Joyces sexuality as well as the circumstances regarding how she and Joyce met and connected, the ambiguity seems appropriate to the melding of sexualities in the play.

Theory of Mind: The ability to attribute mental statessuch as beliefs, intents, desires, pretension, knowledge, oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from ones own.

Womens Bodies, Womens Wisdom: A best-selling book on womens physical and emotional well-being by Dr. Christiane Northrup. Official website:

Deep Dish contact:

Paul Frellick
(919) 968-1515