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Author Topic:   Astronauts Wives
spaceuk
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From: Staffs, UK
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posted 08-02-2006 06:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The stage play "Astronauts Wives" starts a run at the Soho Theatre,London this Friday I understand.

The play is directed by Richard Wilson (known as 'Mr Meldrew'of UK tv serial 'One foot in the grave' )

Phill
spaceuk

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 08-02-2006 08:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The full title of the play is "astronaut wives club". From the Soho Theater website:
quote:
1969: Man breaks away from the Earth and takes his first steps on the Moon - but at what cost? A play for those who were left behind by the Space Race.
See: http://www.sohotheatre.com/pl1144.html

KC Stoever
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From: Denver, CO USA
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posted 08-02-2006 10:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is anyone going? Could you review it here for cS, or provide a link to a review once one is published?

Thanks.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-02-2006 08:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Guardian shares a bit more detail about this play. The "Astronaut Wives Club" is part of the National Youth Theatre's 50th anniversary celebration; one of six new plays marking each decade the Theatre group has existed. Al Smith, who wrote "Wives Club" shares his motivation for its theme:
quote:
I've always been a spaceship geek: my father had moved to the US in the mid-1960s and worked for Nasa as a physicist, choosing the lunar landing sites for the Apollo missions. Growing up, we'd stand in our garden with a pair of binoculars as he'd point out the seas and mountain ranges on the surface of the Moon. He'd collected dozens of books about the space programme, detailing the lives of those daring men who'd blasted off, wandered around on the surface and fallen back to Earth.

Most of those astronauts were eldest or only sons, and all of them were married. Marriage, it seems, was the silent rule of astronaut selection. To be an astronaut's wife was not only a lucrative position, but powerful in the sense that these men needed their wives if they wanted to leave the planet. They formed a tightknit group that fell to pieces with catastrophic consequences after the launch of the first divorced astronaut aboard Apollo 15 in 1971. My play The Astronaut Wives Club is the story of the people left behind by the space race.


The Guardian's story can be read here.

KC Stoever
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From: Denver, CO USA
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posted 08-02-2006 10:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
I've always been a spaceship geek: my father had moved to the US in the mid-1960s and worked for Nasa as a physicist, choosing the lunar landing sites for the Apollo missions. Growing up, we'd stand in our garden with a pair of binoculars as he'd point out the seas and mountain ranges on the surface of the Moon. He'd collected dozens of books about the space programme, detailing the lives of those daring men who'd blasted off, wandered around on the surface and fallen back to Earth.

Most of those astronauts were eldest or only sons, and all of them were married. Marriage, it seems, was the silent rule of astronaut selection. To be an astronaut's wife was not only a lucrative position, but powerful in the sense that these men needed their wives if they wanted to leave the planet. They formed a tightknit group that fell to pieces with catastrophic consequences after the launch of the first divorced astronaut aboard Apollo 15 in 1971. My play The Astronaut Wives Club is the story of the people left behind by the space race.


I don't know how else to say this.

I love artists.

[This message has been edited by KC Stoever (edited August 02, 2006).]

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-08-2006 03:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Astronaut Wives Club by Al Smith debuted this evening in the United Kingdom.

A couple of days ago, I came across a link to a blog where Mr. Smith was posting: Kandinsky.

On that site, he wrote (referencing collectSPACE and this thread):

quote:
Interestingly, I found an article on a forum over in the states about Astronaut Wives - I'm not sure if they're taking the piss or not, but it's very odd to think that it's worth talking about in their minds... take a look at their thread and let me know what you think.
I posted a comment to the site in reply, assuring him we were serious in our interest and enthusiasm, which I am happy to report, led to us trading e-mails and Mr. Smith registering to post here. He's (understandably) otherwise disposed this evening, but he has said he would welcome an opportunity to chat with our community.

In the meantime and with his permission, I'm reprinting part of an e-mail he sent that shares a bit more about the play, his research behind it and his own motivation for its theme.

quote:
Frankly, I'm a bit staggered that you guys have come across my little play, but I'm delighted that you have. I've read a tonne of books about the space programme, and it's been a subject super-close to my heart for years, and it's a real priviledge to write something about it. In particular, (and I am sure you have read all of these!), I found Andrew Chaikin's meticulous "Man on the Moon" particularly fascinating - I was drawn to a chunk mid-way through that dealt with the life of Donn Eisele. It says, if I remember correctly, that the chap had left his wife for another woman, and had exposed the shaky marriages behind the astronuats' public image... Chaikin says that the Astronaut Wives Club was shaken to pieces by the Eisele breakup - so much so that it never recovered.

There's not much information in all of the books that I've read regarding the wives - having read Chaikin's book, I've always felt that there's a story to be told there, a story that's not really been told that well (as I recall, there's an episode of "From the Earth to the Moon" that deals with the Original Wives Club, which is great, but not that helpful in where I'm aiming at). I came across a book by Andrew Smith which was published here fairly recently that dealt with the subject somewhat - "Moon Dust" - which deals with the psychological impact of the dozen moon walkers - and there's a chunk of information there which was super-helpful. In addition, one of the top books I've ever read has been Wolfe's "Right Stuff" - it's one of the great books of contemporary American literature, and it's interspersed with glimpses of the Mercury astronauts' home lives...but only shades of the stuff.

And so I set about trying to write a story about the break-up of these women. I must admit that, as a playwright, I've taken liberties in the characters and time-zones chosen (I'm no historian). However, I've always tried to keep the heart of the subject clean. From the beginning, I wanted to write a closed time, closed space play (ie, I wanted to make this a short, one hour burst into these womens' lives, without any cut of scene or cut of time - that's a hard thing to do in theatre, and most people shy away from it). I wanted to bring to light the hefty experiences that these women endured during their marriages - I'm really drawn to the financial interests that these families had during the Mercury flights - and comparing the cutting of Apollo missions to the divorce rates in the United States at the birth of the 70s.

I chose to set the play during the return flighht of Apollo 15. I read in Chaikin's book that Worden was the first divorcee to fly - and that struck me as a juicy time to set the play. I have to say that I'm guilty of taking vast artistic licence - I've been cheeky in that I've chosen seven women who I'm sure never had that much to do with each other, but I've chosen them because, to me, they represent the most interesting of all the astronaut wives. Those women are Marilyn Lovell, Betty Grissom, Valerie Anders, Lurton Scott, Mary Irwin, Mary Engle and I've invented a girlfriend for Astronaut Worden to play the catalyst for the play. The whole play takes place during one afternoon, as the wives get together and wait for their husbands' return. As with any good play, the problems and successes of actions off-stage inform and ignite the stuff onstage, and, during the play, the "Wives Club" (as Chaikin puts it) falls to pieces. I'm sure it's factually inaccurate, and I'd not like to slander or upset anyone by it, but I feel it has its heart it the right place.

For me, as I'm sure you may have read in that article, the history of manned space-flight is close to my heart. My father finished his doctorate in physics at Oxford in the mid-1960s and moved to Washington to work at Bellcom as a system engineer for the manned space program. He was there on 17th Street and M (oddly, I spent a year recently opposite his HQ at National Geographic) between 1965 and 68, and worked under Bill Thompson, Dennis James and Ian Ross selecting the specific landing sites for the landing of the lunar modules upon the surface of the Moon. I've always been fascinated that his entire management chain (apart from Bill) was English...it's a pretty strange thing. He's since chaired the National Space Science Centre here, and holds his history with a deep and close personal affection. Although he has nothing to do with the writing of my play - and I take full responsibility for it - he's been a keystone in my fascination with manned space-flight for as long as I can remember.

I'm only 24, and am still really a novice at playwrighting, but I feel that this is a play with a strong heart, that deals with something indicative of the core American situation during the turn of the 60s and 70s. I'd sure as hell never like to offend anyone, but I hope in writing this play I'll inspire others to pick up some books and learn something about what is to me the most fascinating and important phase of the 20th Century.


FFrench
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From: San Diego
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posted 08-08-2006 05:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The guy gets instant kudos from me as the first posting in a LONG time I have read that spells Donn Eisele's name correct!!!

KC Stoever
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From: Denver, CO USA
Registered: Oct 2002

posted 08-08-2006 08:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by FFrench:
The guy gets instant kudos from me as the first posting in a LONG time I have read that spells Donn Eisele's name correct!!!

Right. Instant kudos. But for more than spelling names properly. The playwright gets lots right. But I think you picked up on that, Francis.

More later.

Kris

FFrench
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From: San Diego
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posted 08-08-2006 10:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As he has set his play around Apollo 15, I assume he has read Mary Irwin's book about being an astronaut wife?

paul.i.w
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posted 08-09-2006 02:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for paul.i.w   Click Here to Email paul.i.w     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I happen to be in London this week for work, and have got a ticket for tonight's 'Astronauts Wives'. The background info from Mr Smith was very interesting, I wondered what format the play would take! (When I was buying the ticket the director, Richard Wilson (Mr Meldrew himself, UK fans!) was in the foyer, but he was talking to someone and I didn't like to interrupt to talk to him).

Can you tell me what tne book is called by Mary Irwin7 I didn't realise one of 'the wives' had written one.

Paul, UK
8

ea757grrl
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From: South Carolina
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posted 08-09-2006 06:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mary Irwin's book was titled "The Moon Is Not Enough," published by Zondervan in 1978. A quick search over at ABEBooks.com showed 24 copies available, some of them starting at $1.00.

I don't have the book, but the synopsis I found in the search results makes it sound interesting.

jodie

paul.i.w
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posted 08-09-2006 08:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for paul.i.w   Click Here to Email paul.i.w     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the information, Jodie; I have just ordered a copy, it does sound interesting.

Regards

Paul, UK

FFrench
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From: San Diego
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posted 08-09-2006 09:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is indeed a great read - you get a real sense of the frustrations of being in a marriage where the spouse is hardly ever there... and this is one of the marriages that worked!

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-09-2006 09:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From "This Is London" (The Evening Standard):
quote:
The Astronaut Wives' Club, by the talented young Al Smith, is like Desperate Housewives taken back 40 years and with all remaining men from Wisteria Lane blasted into space.

The womenfolk of the crew of Apollo 15 wait politely, anxiously, bitchily for Houston to reassure them that their husbands don't have a problem. As the minutes tick by, the questions get tougher for pretty young Sandra, Life magazine's latest darling.


Continue reading the article here.

paul.i.w
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posted 08-10-2006 02:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for paul.i.w   Click Here to Email paul.i.w     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I went to ses Astronaut Wives Club last night, and found it very enjoyable, well written and entertaining. The writer has given the background and setting in his post above, but he sets the scene very well in the play - it is clear who is who. As the play progresses the characters develop and flesh out very well. The play is not a documentary, of course, but it does bring out many of the issues and concerns of these women, and thei highs and lows, as well as telling us enough about the space program(me) to give us enough background.

We are aware of the advantages of being and 'astronaut wife' (photos in Lfe, dinner with the President) and the disadvantages (how they are expected to act (Proud, Thrilled, Happy, they trill), their long periods apart from their husbands, and the knowledge of the temptations of their husbands' position).

The invented cahracter, Sandra (Al Worden's new partner), serves as a lightning rod for some of these concerns, especially from Mary Engle. In the most 'dramatic' part Mary's resentments boil over. She has stood by her husband for years because of the 'knowledge' that a divorced astronaut doies not fly. Yet here is the separated Al Worden in space and her husband has yet to fly. Al's new partner ('floosie' as Mary calls her) takes the brunt of Mary's vitriol.

All the performances were excellent, all had very good accents (assuming they are British actresses!). A cynical Betty Grissom takes refuge in drink, Mary Irwin in religion. Val Anders has sympathy for Mary Engle, Marylin Lovell and Lutron Scott try to keep everything on an even keel. A delayed post ascent burn around the far side keeps the tensions up.

The set was simple, a few chairs and 7 characters. It was set at Al Worden's house. A couple of the characters bring 'moon cake'. There is a sqwauk box in the corner. The direction was very good (Richard Wilson), the characters moving around and in and out - responding to phones and the press camped outside.

As for accuracy, well I'm no expert, but I had only one or two minor quibbles. These did not detract from Al Smith's well told story. The theatre was full, the audience very mixed, and there was big applause at the end. All in all a very enjoyable play, well worth seeing if you are in London.

(Sorry for the haste and brevity of the post - and possible spelling mistakes - I canonly grab a few minutes on a PC this week).

Paul, UK

Naraht
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posted 08-10-2006 05:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Naraht   Click Here to Email Naraht     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hmmm, looks interesting... and student tickets only 7.50. I might see if I can make it into London for a performance.

KC Stoever
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From: Denver, CO USA
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posted 08-10-2006 09:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the linked review and the cS review too!

Reading the remarks brings to mind a story Carpenter sometimes tells, about Jo Schirra's cocktail napkins. They are reported to say:

"If we can send a man to the moon, they why can't we send ALL of them there."

ejectr
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posted 08-10-2006 10:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ejectr   Click Here to Email ejectr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Now that's funny.....

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