Lynn Liccardo is a woman who is never at a loss for words. This New Jersey native, and resident of the Winter Hill section of Somerville, talks passionately of something many of us have not thought deeply about, namely Soap Operas.
Liccardo has written extensively for the now defunct Soap Opera Weekly, and her blog on the Red Room website. Her blog was selected as one of the 10 best for soap opera fans. Her essay The Ironic and Convoluted Relationship between Daytime and Primetime Soap Operas was published in Transformation for a New Media Era (University Press of Mississipi-2010). She has a new e- book out through the Red Room titled: As The World Stops Turning which deals with her favorite soap: As the World Turns.
I asked this doyenne of soap operas if they are worthy of scholarly exegesis. Liccardo opined: “Soap Operas have been part of our culture for 80 years… Popular culture permeates every aspect of life—not always for the better. But it has a very important impact. And soap operas are very much Pop Culture—so it does have an impact and makes a statement about society.”
Liccardo has more ambitions around her work with soap operas. She is planning to gather words and images of the late Irna Philips, the creator of soap operas. She plans a film documentary, as well as a book about Philips titled: As Irna’s World Turned: The Life and Legacy of Irna Phillips.
Liccardo is also an accomplished playwright. She has had her plays performed at the Boston Playwright’s Theatre, and other venues. Her one act play Settling In was performed at Somerville Community Access TV, and her other plays have been performed as far away as Los Angeles.
I asked her if a critic compared her plays to a soap opera would she be insulted. The answer of course was NO. Liccardo said her plays are small. They usually consist of a conversation between two people. Soaps according to Liccardo, at their best, are conversations between two people. She smiled: “I hope the best I see in soaps operas the audience sees in my plays.
Excerpt from as the world stopped turning…
However, thinking back over what the students had seen over the preceding month, I could find but one example of “naturalistic acting quietly project(ing) deep emotions” – a tiny scene with Lucinda (Elizabeth Hubbard), Bob (Don Hastings) and Kim (Kathryn Hays). The scene was really nothing – no plot – just a brief mention of Bob’s recent stay in the hospital and a reference to Bob and Lucinda’s visit during her first breast cancer occurrence in 2005. Sam had that video, and included scenes from a second, related episode.
In the second episode, Lucinda’s granddaughter, Faith, is brushing her grandmother’s hair and asks why Lucinda’s hair is coming out in the brush. There are so many ways that scene could have been written and played. The “soapiest” would have been for Lucinda to have a total emotional meltdown in front of Faith, followed by the requisite, and heart-rending, explanation and apology between grandmother and granddaughter.
But that’s not how it happened. Not even close. The drama of that scene was all in Elizabeth Hubbard’s face as Lucinda struggled mightily not to let Faith see the pain and terror she was feeling, willing herself not to let go of her emotions until her granddaughter was safely out of the room. It was a powerful moment, and as the students watched, all I could hear was their breathing, punctuated by the occasional sniffle. Nothing illustrates the sorry state of daytime soap opera these days more than the fact that one must be of a certain age to remember when these kinds of moments were not so few and far between.