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The Great Divide - Tech!

Well, tech has come and gone. We survived. I am thankful to this cast and crew of wonderful people for making a long day thoroughly enjoyable.

I have to say though, our cast is pun-ny. By that, I mean we make bad jokes. Often. And laugh at them. Perhaps it's due to the weightiness of the material that every time Ed calls, "10!" we end up giggling and rolling our eyes at each other. Whatever the reason, it makes for a welcome breath of lightness for me.

Having just read Moody's Faith Healer, I've been thinking about Ruth's faith. She carries her faith heavy on her back (and around her neck) for two acts, allowing it to hurt every time she feels a speck of happiness. When her mother tells her she should have died rather than marry Ghent it confirms a deeply-seeded fear in Ruth - the fact that she made the wrong choice. At least in society's eyes. I recently saw a production of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and in the famous banquet scene Titus asks the emperor:

Was it well done of rash Virginius
To slay his daughter with his own right hand,
Because she was enforced, stained and deflowered?

The emperor responds without hesitation:

It was, Andronicus.
Because the girl should not survive her shame,
And by her presence still renew his sorrows.

Titus then kills his daughter Lavinia, who has been raped by two men. What is worse? To live with the shame, or to be killed for it? I know Ruth's answer.

At least Mrs. Jordan doesn't stab Ruth with that paper knife. Her words cut just as deeply, though.

Side note: I found this amazing map of Arizona from the year 1906.

I still have my fingers crossed for a cast field trip out West.. with four days until previews start, we totally have time.. right?

Tomorrow's Play: Edward II by Christopher Marlowe

The Faith Healer

by William Vaughn Moody

Oh, Moody, you just speak to my heart. I'm a little biased at the moment, since I have the joy of speaking his poetic text every night, but I loved this play. Granted, it's no Great Divide, but it's captivating all the same. 

Faith seems to be the theme of the month. It's an interesting topic for me to explore since I do not consider myself to be religious. Faith, however, is not strictly a religious concept. What struck me about Moody's Faith Healer (not to be confused with Brian Friel's three-hander) was the importance of faith in and between those we love.

Knowing Great Divide so intimately, it's easy to see archetypal characters that show up in both plays. The patriarch of Faith Healer, Beeler, is like an older, more-fleshed out Phil. Rhoda is a Ruth/Polly blend, and Dr. Littlefield is as if Dutch went to medical school. Seriously, Moody has something against doctors. Not only do they not get the girl (oops, *spoiler alert*) but they are either too finished and boring, or downright evil. A few of Littlefield's lines actually made me gasp.
Photo: Metropolitan Playhouse 2002

Metropolitan produced Faith Healer in 2002 to some pretty nice reviews. I think it's wonderful that they are now offering Moody's other, more famous play, The Great Divide. What a rare opportunity for audiences to step back in time to see what was hailed as, "The Great American Drama...[capturing] the indomitable spirit characteristic of the people of our great Western country." (Lafayette, LA Advertiser.) Shamless plug ;)

The Faith Healer tells the story of a faith healer, Ulrich Michaelis who has taken up board in the Beeler home. Word gets out that there is a healer in town and hundreds, if not thousands of people form lines outside the house waiting to be healed. Michaelis is anxious because he is not sure it is "his time" to perform miracles, but when the matriarch of the home, Mrs. Beeler, who has been confined to a wheelchair for five years, walks with his help, he begins to believe. His distraction comes in the form of the young and beautiful Rhoda, a "wicked woman" who doesn't believe she is worthy of love. Michaelis fears he has lost his ability to heal because all of his love and focus has been on Rhoda. He tells her:
Before creation, beyond time, God not yet risen from His sleep, you stand and call to me, and I listen in a dream that I dreamed before Eden.
A more "finished" Ghent. Le sigh, romantic.

Rhoda is scared to let him love her because when she was younger she was wooed by the evil moustache-twirling Dr. Littlefield who conveniently shows up the very day Michaelis comes to stay. Okay, he doesn't really have a moustache. At least not in the script. Rhoda believes that she must do penance for her sinful past but Michaelis believes:
What is pain but a kind of selfishness?
Rhoda finds redemption in Michaelis' love and all ends well as love saves the day. A good way to end a long day of Great Divide tech and a super awkward Oscars 2011.

Goodnight, moon. 

Tomorrow's Play: The Great Divide - Tech!


Sganerelle, or the Imaginary Cuckold

by Moliere

This was a quick, fun read. A verse comedy in rhyming couplets, it tells the tale of Sganerelle who mistakenly believes that his wife is cheating on him. The play comments on love and fidelity (or lack thereof). At the beginning of the play we encounter Sganerelle's neighbor and his daughter, Celie having an argument. Celie is engaged to Lelie (yes, really) but her father wants her to marry another man. "Alas!" she cries, to which her father responds:

Alas? What's that supposed to mean?
I hate alases. Don't you make a scene,
My girl, and rouse my blood, or very soon
You'll sing alas to quite a different tune.
No wonder you're obsessed by stupid fancies
When day and night you read these cheap romances,
Which fill your head with love, instead of higher
And holier matter - fling them in the fire
Before they wreck your morals.

Women throughout the history of literature are always losing themselves in novels. Maybe if guys took the hint and learned something about the men we are escaping to, women wouldn't have to dive into books to fulfill their dreams.

Through a series of misunderstandings that eventually turn out alright Sganerelle accuses his wife of adultery and then begs her forgiveness. He asks:

What man ever looked more of a cuckold than I did?
Yes, looked, for this example proves it's vain
To trust appearances, however plain.
When all the evidence as you receive it
Adds up to one conclusion: don't believe it.

Not everything is as it seems.

I would recommend this play for people who want a laugh and anyone looking for classical comedic monologues.

Tomorrow's Play: The Faith Healer by William Vaughn Moody

Dr. Faustus

by Christopher Marlowe

I recently participated in a workshop of this play with the Theater Reconstruction Ensemble, which consisted of a weekend of exploring the text, and basically, playing in a room with fun, talented people. Not a bad way to spend a weekend. This occurred smack dab in the middle of rehearsals for Great Divide so I was drawing parallels the whole time, since both plays deal so much with the threat of damnation. During the workshop, I had the ridiculous realization that I've never worked on Marlowe. I felt slightly guilty, cheating on my man Will Shakes, but I got over it when I remembered how awesome Kit is. ALSO, this play has one of the best stage directions I've ever read. More on that later.

We all know the story of foolish Doctor Faustus, who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for power. Damn Yankees, anyone? Great musical. I digress. Faustus is a smart man, so smart that he's bored, and looking for something to challenge him. When we first meet him, he is alone in his study, debating the inevitability of sin.

[He reads.] "Stipendium peccati mors est." Ha!
Stipendium, etc. The reward of sin is death. That's hard.
If we say that we have no sin
We deceive ourselves, and there's no truth in us.
Why, then, belike we must sin and so consequently die.
Ay, we must die an everlasting death.
Why doctrine call you this? Che sera, sera?
What will be, shall be? Divinity adieu!

Interesting to note here that Faustus takes into account only the first part of the Bible verse, "the wages of sin are death" and not the latter half "but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Had he taken that into consideration he might not have been so easily swayed to the dark side. Of course, then we'd have no play. So, yeah.

After being visited by a good and bad angel, Faustus conjures the devil Mephistopheles, who ended up being my favorite character. In my opinion Mephistopheles, or Stoph as he was lovingly referred to in our workshop, has some of the most beautiful language in the play. When asked how it is possible that Stoph is out of hell, he responds:

Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it.
Think'st thou that I, who saw the face of God,
And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells
In being deprived of everlasting bliss?

Mephistopheles is a complex character. It made me wonder about the man before the devil. He warns Faustus about the danger of his actions. There is nothing he won't do to get Faustus' soul, but he also has moments of near vulnerability that show he is more than just an evil entity. Stoph's description of hell left me feeling pity for the creature - the somber note with which he recounts the vast emptiness of his eternity is somehow lovely. Faustus asks him, "Tell me, where is the place that men call hell?" Stoph answers:

Within the bowels of these elements,
Where we are tortured and remain for ever.
Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self place, for where we are is hell,
And where hell is, there must we ever be.
And, to conclude, when all the world dissolves
And every creature shall be purified
All places shall be hell that is not heaven.

I imagine that Ruth has read Dr. Faustus. Or better yet, Polly follows her around the house while she's doing chores reading passages out loud. I have to run that by Polly, the beautiful and talented Elizabeth Inghram. Anyway, now, I leave you with the stage direction!
[MEPHISTOPHELES and FAUSTUS] beat the FRIARS and fling fire-works among them, and so exeunt.
I mean, it's no Exeunt, pursued by a bear. but it's pretty good. I'm sure it's not hard to stage at all.

Tomorrow's Play: Sganerelle, or the Imaginary Cuckold by Moliere


The Great Divide - Day 22

Forgive me if this entry begins to read like a history lesson.

I am just caught up in so many fascinating things about the time period and culture surrounding Ruth and her family in The Great Divide. And who knows, you may learn something!

The Great Divide was originally titled The Sabine Woman, referencing the historical rape of the Sabine Women. In my opinion, this places the emphasis on the event that occurs early in Act 1 that brings Ruth and Ghent together.. but it suggests that the focus of the play is Ruth and how she deals with that painful event. Changing the title to The Great Divide shifts the focus ever so slightly onto the relationship between the two lovers and their mutual struggle to find happiness despite their obstacles. So, bravo Moody! Good change!

In doing some research into the lifestyle of the early 1900's, I came across a wonderful encyclopedia full of useful information.

A ranch woman's life, or the life of a farmer's wife, differs from that of her city-slicker counterpart. But if asked to trade the country life for that of the town, most would answer that living an unconventional life in a day filled with conventionalities makes for a life that is never dull.       --Kristi A. YoungRonda Walker Weaver, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Regional Cultures: The Rocky Mountain Region
Ruth would absolutely choose ranch-life over stuffy New England society. Pre-Ghent, she is "just drunk with happiness the whole time," so much so that her brother, Phil is weirded out, "What's the matter with you tonight?" he asks her as she comments on the beauty of the desert. She is happy to be out west, working, and useful to her family. She embraces the difficulties and is hopeful about the future.

Americans have always been goal-oriented, but moving West was not a goal in the traditional manner, not one of working communally for the highest good but being independent, taking care of oneself, conquering the rock-hard ground of the West. Tackling an obstacle and conquering it—this lure was often called “end in view.” Those hoping to carve a place where the old way of life could be retained quickly learned that moving West also meant moving on. Old ways were soon transcended as a new land called for a new plan. Adapting the ways of the old world to fit the landscape and the livestock of the West kept many old traditions alive. In addition, adopting the ways of other immigrants and then melding them with traditions of one's own culture meant that westerners were always ready to be innovative.        --Kristi A. Young; Ronda Walker Weaver, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Regional Cultures: The Rocky Mountain Region
Ruth takes her independence to the extreme when she encourages Phil and Polly to go off and leave her alone at the ranch. "It only takes a moment," as the song says, and that moment is one she will regret until she comes to embrace her fate. 

Something I did not know very much about before beginning work on this play was the culture of the Navajo Indians in the early 1900s. They are very much present in the play, even though we never encounter them onstage. For Ruth especially, they are woven into her life, as she learns their rug-making and basket-weaving skills.

Navajo of New Mexico and Arizona

The Navajo, a nomadic people, came from Canada and migrated southward into the Southwest region between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries. They remained nomadic hunter-gatherers until the mid-sixteenth century. The Navajo acquired sheep from the Spaniards, marking their transition from cultivating cotton for their textiles to using wool. They sheared the wool from their flocks, washed, carded, and spun it, and then dyed it using native plants such as wild walnut, lichen, and rabbitbrush. They traded chief's blankets to other Native Americans throughout the Southwest and Great Plains regions. But by the twentieth century, on the advice of their reservation trading post merchants, many Navajo switched to weaving rugs to sell to tourists. Although the Navajo adopted some agricultural practices learned from their neighbors, their economy primarily revolved around sheep.
The Navajo were slow to relinquish their warrior ways. The warriors ranged far and wide to resist Spanish, Mexican, and then Anglo-American domination. When the Anglo-Americans acquired Southwest lands from Mexico, violence broke out between the Navajo and the U.S. Army that had been sent into the frontier to protect settlers. Finally, in 1864, the Navajo were defeated and forcibly imprisoned at Fort Sumner (Bosque Redondo) in New Mexico. This left the Navajo decimated by disease and starvation, and in 1868 the U.S. government relented and returned them to their territorial lands on a reservation that straddles northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona, created for the Navajo. They reestablished their flocks of sheep and regenerated their economy by weaving wool blankets and learning to create silver jewelry from a former artisan of the Spanish mission system. Thus, art provided a means for the Navajo's economic survival.  --Jeremy Bonner, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Regional Cultures: The Southwest
Just as the Navajo Indians found a means of survival through their art, Ruth does the same. She earns her freedom (whether granted or no) through selling her handiwork to the "tourist mob." 
Many Native Americans saw the physical geography of the land where they lived as being animated with a life force that suffused everything. Therefore, any object made from natural materials of the earth was imbued with spiritual qualities. The process of creating such an object was viewed as part of religious ritual, like saying a prayer.                      --Jeremy Bonner, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Regional Cultures: The Southwest
I love this idea and believe that Ruth would absolutely think of each completed rug as a little prayer sent up to God. Penance for the wrongs she has committed. Though she has her own spiritual beliefs, learning the ways of the Navajo might influence her connection to the earth and the ritualistic nature of her handiwork.

Tickets are now on sale for The Great Divide! 
Purchase here

Tomorrow's Play: Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe


That Pretty Pretty; or, The Rape Play

by Sheila Callaghan
Callaghan, Photo: Helayne Seidman
That Pretty Pretty; or, The Rape Play started out as a reaction to the kind of nasty, misogynistic plays that have been adored by the masses for the past decade. But then it turned into an investigation of why we - meaning I - find this work compelling and repulsive at the same time. It attempts to critique the images while simultaneously trafficking in them. -Sheila Callaghan
After reading Lascivious Something, my expectations were pretty high for Callaghan's That Pretty Pretty. I am sad to say that I didn't like it very much. Not only did I find it confusing, but I didn't buy Callaghan's intention that it was women taking these misogynistic images and reclaiming them. Perhaps my opinion of the play would improve upon seeing a production.

There is no doubt that Callaghan is an extremely talented writer. This particular play is just not my cup o' tea. Though, considering rape has been on my mind lately (see: posts on The Great Divide), it was interesting to see the gender reversals and how that changed my experience of the scene in the hotel room.

Despite the title, this play is a comedy. There are graphic, even scary scenes, but the heart of the piece is light. Owen is a writer, creating a piece based on an experience he and his friend had with two girls, though he is taking artistic liberties with what actually happened. We are left thinking, what is real? Who is telling the truth? Callaghan creates a dynamic play that pushes boundaries and buttons. As Owen says in the final scene:
Some people don't want to see the truth. But my question to them is, why is "truth" so controversial?
Tomorrow's Play: The Great Divide - Day 22


The Great Divide - Day 18

"For the wages of sin in death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ Our Lord." -Romans

Continental "Great" Divide
Ruth says to Ghent near the end of the play, "If you could have said, "The wages of sin is death!" and suffered the anguish of death, and risen again purified! But instead of that, what you had done fell off from you like any daily trifle." At this point in the play, she has been trying to teach him her way of life for so long that it's killing her. She is emotionally and physically drained, and Ghent simply cannot see it her way. He says, "What have we got to do with suffering and sacrifice? ... Our law is joy, and selfishness." What we have here are two hard-headed people with opposing points of view who are terribly in love and just can't seem to make it work. 

Will they ever close the great.. divide.. between them?? You'll just have to come check it out and find out for yourself!

On my mind:

Stages of Grief: Briefly in rehearsal the other day we talked about acceptance with regards to Ghent towards the end of our relationship. When I looked up the stages to remind myself of what they are (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance) it struck me when I read that a person might not necessarily feel all of the stages nor necessarily in that order. This made me think, what exactly am I grieving in this play? *That* night, in a moment of weakness I made a promise. Almost immediately, I try to get out of it, then accept my fate. I spend the rest of the play punishing myself for choosing life over death (silly? perhaps, but true nonetheless). I think some of the stages are shown in scenes - depression, denial, acceptance, and anger for sure.. many of them I can pinpoint all in one scene.. some may be experienced off-stage. Ruth and Ghent certainly experience their grief differently, just as they experience their love differently.

Ruth: What's in a name? Ruth, meaning "friend, companion" is probably best known from the book of Ruth in the Bible. When I was down at ASF, I was fortunate enough to work on a new play by the talented John Walch called In the Book Of, which is based on the story of Ruth in the Bible, so I had some familiarity. In the story, Ruth says to her mother-in-law,  
Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.
This is not exactly how my Ruth begins with Ghent, but it is certainly where she ends up. She has left her home and the life she knows to make a new life with this man. She tries to show him her way of life, to save him, but in the end she says, "Teach me to live as you do." She spends most of the play trying to change Ghent, and in doing so, ends up changing herself. 

Tomorrow's Play: That Pretty Pretty; or, The Rape Play by Sheila Callaghan


by John Patrick Shanley

This play is un-DOUBT-ably amazing. *groan* I remember when it was playing on Broadway there were many discussions of "Who did you side with?" I only saw it once, but my friends who went more than once said they sided differently depending on the performances that night. I love that - it's truly an experience you can only have in the theatre. The film is brilliant, as well, but it's static. The beauty of live performance is that one actor may be slightly more convincing than the other that night.

Shanley has crafted a piece that is so subtle and just the right amount of ambiguous. As a culture, we always want to know who is right in any given argument, because it tells us who we should side with. The brilliance of Doubt is that we don't know who is right and therefore are left to question our own judgements and suspicions. If you were quick to assume that Father Flynn is guilty, what might that say about your point of view towards priests? As Flynn says:
The most innocent actions can appear sinister to the poisoned mind. 
News story after news story reveals corruption in the Catholic church, so it is an easy thing to believe that Father Flynn would take advantage of one of his altar boys. Sister Aloysius is vigilant in her pursuit of the truth, instructing that:
Every easy choice today will have its consequence tomorrow.
And yet, even she, a woman who believes that "Innocence is a form of laziness," has doubts by the end of the play. It is the scarier choice to believe that Flynn is innocent, because there is a boy's well-being at stake, but it is what we want to believe.

Much of this play is about faith. I don't just mean religious faith, but faith in people.
Faith is a buzzword these days and brings up different images for different people, but at its root it is about trusting. Trusting yourself, trusting others, trusting that we, as humans, are essentially good.

So, who did you side with?

Tomorrow's Play: The Great Divide - Day 18


The Great Divide - Day 8

A petticoat and a corset - two things that will completely change everything.

I found this poem by O'Neill that I wanted to share:

Warm lips against which mine have kissed and sighed
Grey, gold-flecked eyes which fear to see the goal,
Cold pulse?  I hear the breathing of your soul.
A passionate sob of heart unsatisfied.
Awake, O sleeping Princess!  Side by side
Onward with me to win the highest dream!
On where the watch fires of the Future gleam
Where life is real
beyond The Great Divide!

(Eugene O’Neill, “Beyond the Great Divide” 1915)

My favorite line - "Cold pulse? I hear the breathing of your soul." .. perhaps this poem is about death and the afterlife, but I am going to bend its meaning for my own purpose to the circumstances of this play. I think even though Ruth is cold towards Ghent, there is something in her soul that he senses.. else, why would he fight so hard for her love? 

When telling friends about this play, I say, "It's a love story, albeit, an untraditional one." .. I believe that. I am in the process now of tracking that love.. and how present it is for Ruth in any given moment. When is the first moment of realization? How does my love manifest itself in each scene? It's a tricky balance.

On my mind:

Pride: Polly says of me, "You know when it comes to pride, Ruth would make Lucifer look like a charity-boy asking for more soup." Pride is a sin. And for a woman who tries so hard to be good, to be so guilty of this one thing is interesting. It is her tragic flaw. On Lucifer:
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.         Isaiah 14:12-15

Can we talk for a minute about how Ghent and I have literally risen high above - we live on top of a mountain. And we make our living from a hole far down in the ground that belches "its stream of gold." Never thought I would be quoting the Bible, but when you're playing a very religious woman, there's a lot to be learned.

Philip and Ruth: This relationship is very emotional for me, this week. When they are reunited in Act II and Ruth says to him, "This is the finding of the prodigal, and she expects a robe and a ring," it is heartbreaking to me. I knew the story of the Prodigal son, but I looked up the exact wording to see if it would inform the moment at all. Upon returning to his father, the younger son says:
Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.
I feel that, in her own way, this is exactly what she is saying to Philip. He cannot understand why she has hidden herself away and not contacted anyone, but she feels so much shame and guilt that she no longer feels worthy of him. However masked and playful she is upon greeting him, the defenses eventually slip away and there is one truthful moment of repentance in, "I'm sorry."

Time to learn lines. More soon.

Tomorrow's Play: Doubt by John Patrick Shanley


As Bees in Honey Drown

by Douglas Carter Beane

This play really could not be more different from The Great Divide, stylistically, plot-wise.. it's almost unfair to compare them because they are at two ends of the spectrum. I can't help but compare, however, since my head is so wrapped up in early 20th century language and behavior..

As Bees in Honey Drown is a decent play. I much preferred Beane's The Little Dog Laughed, but I did enjoy reading this piece. It's basically about a scam artist and how her victims take their revenge. The main thing I took away from this play:

In New York, anyone can create a new identity.

Alexa Vere de Vere was once a normal girl with a normal, boring upbringing, who then decided she wanted to be someone of import and so she adopted a larger than life personality and irresistible charm. Once she believed she was important, the rest of New York followed suit. The thing with disguises though, is that when the line begins to blur, it's easy to forget who you really are.

The scam runs like this: Alexa and her latest discovery (read: victim) are buying something, ie: dinner, new clothes, etc. She only has cash so she asks victim to pay with his or her credit card so that Alexa can have the receipt for her accountant. Alexa pays victim back in cash. Eventually, this continues and Alexa stops paying back, then victim is left screwed out of lots of money. My main issue with this play lies entirely with this scam. Since when can you not get a receipt when you pay with cash?! This does NOT make any sense to me. Therefore, as I read the play I just thought that all of her victims were stupid because they fell for this, and probably deserved to get scammed. Also, I saw it coming from the beginning so it wasn't much of a reveal.

Issues aside, I really like Beane as a writer. There were some lines that resonated with me.. There is a moment when Alexa is having a heart-to-heart with her latest discovery, Evan Wyler, writer. She tells him a story about a woman she knows who was discovered to be a masochist:
I asked her what it was that inspired her to be treated poorly. She told me that the line between pain and pleasure was very thin indeed. I smiled to her ruefully and told her not to fret because the line between pain and love was virtually indistinguishable. But we're not like that, are we? We're not the ones people hurt. We are the creative people. We have art to protect us, even if our greatest creation gets to be ourselves.
I agree that art can be a comfort, but I think because we are creative people we feel things intensely in life as well, and so I think we are the ones that people hurt. Sometimes my expectations are so high that my disappointments run so deep. And then, when people meet or surpass my desires, my heart bursts.

What she says about the line between pain and love being very thin is speaking to me regarding my relationship in TGD... why do we punish ourselves for feeling pleasure? (Actually, that's Ghent's argument at the end, I punish myself because of my Puritanical upbringing).. but in modern life, what is it that scares us about happiness? About success? Alexa says:
It is every time you create that you run the risk of proving or chiseling at your reputation. 
It is easier, and perhaps safer for peace of mind, to say, "I am an actor," but never act. It is riskier to slip into someone else's skin and try them on for size - To risk your own reputation, publicly, to attempt to express yourself with someone else's words.

So, for the next two months, I will be taking that risk to try and tell Ruth's story of struggle and strength. Hope you'll join me.

Tomorrow's Play: The Great Divide - Day 8


The Great Divide - Day 7

One week into rehearsal, and I feel as if I've lived with this play for months. Tonight, er, last night? It's late. Anyway, tonight I was talking with some friends after The Shakespeare Forum (which you should come to, btw) about how much I love this play and how much it scares me at the same time. I am drawn to this role and this play because it is challenging.. that risk and complexity is exciting. I do a lot of classical theatre but The Great Divide is an interesting piece because it toes the line between classical and contemporary. As Moody was a contemporary of O'Neill's, the language is certainly heightened, but the cadence is modern. Moody was also a poet so there's no denying that the text is beautiful. The Shakespeare nerd in me finds immense pleasure in words, so I'm pleased as punch to speak these lines.

The Great Divide is structured as a three-act play. Each act is set in one location and there are a few french scenes in each, but the show is not longer than two hours, give or take ten minutes. We are structuring it with only one intermission for performance purposes, with Acts I and II creating our first act and Act III, our second act. Today we ran Act I only and it never fails to amaze me how liberating the first day of script-lessness feels. I have two hands! I can get close to people! I know what I'm saying! It also reveals gaping holes and awkward moments, which are fun learning experiences as well.
Scene from "The Great Divide"
Things on my mind: (I = Ruth)

The Great Arizona Desert - the vastness of the terrain vs. the claustrophobia of Massachusetts society. My excitement at the beginning of the play is due, in part, to the freedom I feel out here .. the limitless possibilities.. the new adventures. Image of a bird being released from a cage comes to mind. Vulnerable.

"Youthful Optimism" - I am 19, in a time when people only lived to be about 50. .. but I am young enough to still be of the mind that life holds so many opportunities. I am excited about the ranch and our business prospects.. at the same time I am yearning for the man of my dreams. This mentality at the top is so important for the overall journey.

In a letter to his wife, Harriet, Moody wrote, "There is no such thing as absolute truth, but that truth depends entirely upon the actual working values or 'fruits of life', of any given proposition." There is no quote that is more appropriate for the relationship between myself and Ghent. I fear society's judgement of our relationship and that stunts the growth of our love for so long. But no one knows the truth of our hearts but us. This is scary. Scary, scary, scary.

Suggested reading, by my dear friend Marianna Caldwell: Double Falsehood by Shakespeare (?)

Tomorrow's Play: As Bees in Honey Drown by Douglas Carter Beane


The Great Divide

by William Vaughn Moody

Exciting news! I have been cast in the Metropolitan Playhouse's upcoming production of The Great Divide, running March 5th - April 3rd!

Much of my time will be devoted to this wonderfully complicated play so I have deemed February a month of deep exploration here at Play A Day! I still have a few plays from January to post about, but I'm thinking it could be fun to go into more depth and keep an open rehearsal journal of sorts. For those of you who are interested in reading it, a free download is available here. I would love to get a dialogue going about the issues present in the play!

About the playwright:
Moody, William Vaughn (1869–1910), playwright. The son of a Mississippi riverboat captain, he was born in Spencer, Indiana, and educated at Harvard, where he became the class poet. He later taught both at Harvard and at the University of Chicago before retiring to devote himself to writing poetry and plays. His earliest theatrical works were blank‐verse dramas, The Masque of Judgment (1900) and The Fire Bringer (1904). Neither was produced during his lifetime, although scholars have found merit in both, and only two others were enacted on stage while he was alive. The Great Divide (1906), one of the milestones in the history of American theatre, was seen as an examination of a fundamental native conflict and was an early instance of what Quinn has called the “Drama of Revolt.” The Faith Healer(1909), which centered on a man's attempt to regain divine curative powers, failed, possibly because Moody was too ill to make the requisite revisions. His early death is believed by many scholars to have deprived the theatre of a major voice and to have left it for Eugene O'Neill to bring American drama to maturity a decade later.     -Oxford Companion to American Theatre
 The Great Divide is a love story. Well, kinda. Written in 1906, the play focuses on the Jordan family's excursion from Massachusetts out to the wild west of the Arizona desert. Like many families, they set out to make their fortune in an untamed land. Ruth Jordan, a dreamer, who has spent most of her days working with her brother Philip to make their enterprise go, ends up marrying a rough, unpolished westerner named Stephen Ghent, much to her family's dismay. The conflict of East v. West is huge, as personalities clash and upbringings differ.

I will not reveal all that happens in the play, for those who wish to be surprised. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to play Ruth.. her story is full of spirit and struggle, like so many women of that time.

*Spoiler alert!* My thoughts below reveal some secrets of the play so STOP here if you want to read the play first!

Things on my mind: (I = Ruth)

Destiny - It is mentioned so much in this play. For better or worse, these lovers are brought together and their meeting is not a traditional one. If they are "pre-destined" as Polly says, what kind of sense of humor does their puritanical God have? Even I feel that we have known each other forever. When I say to Win that I've known Ghent "all my life. And for aeons before" I am speaking truthfully. Perhaps, I believe there must be some good in our relationship if God saw fit to bring us together. That may be part of why I fight so hard.

Marriage - Marriages in 1906 were still, to some extent, business contracts. I will not settle for an arranged marriage, a passionless love. Winthrop, though lovely and sweet, is not enough for me. He doesn't challenge me. Ghent is nothing BUT a challenge. The struggle is to make this ending real and truthful and believable. Thinking about the Polly/Phil marriage vs. Ghent/I.. what was the marriage of my parents like?

Puritanical Life - I am such a God-fearing woman that it almost destroys me. Find that passion from a contemporary POV.. Also, domestic differences between living in MA and farming in AZ - hard, physical labor, climate, danger, DIRT.. completely different way of life. Freeing.

So much more, but that's all for now.

Tomorrow's Play: more on The Great Divide..


3x3, or 9 After 9

by Kevin Brewer and Shane Breaux

I won't talk too much about this play because it's still being workshopped and I don't want to give away all of the awesomeness before you all have a chance to experience it for yourselves... but, what I WILL say is that this collaboration produced some hilarity as well as some truly touching moments.

This play was co-written by two awesome playwrights, whom I met while working on Brewer's Island with the New York Shakespeare Exchange. I just realized that I never blogged about Island ... that will be remedied in the near future.

3x3, or 9 after 9 takes place in a 3-floor apartment building. Each floor has three apartments, creating a cube of people living on top and underneath and in between each other. So, the question is, how well do you know your neighbors?

More info to come about upcoming readings of this play. Stay tuned!

Tomorrow's Play: The Great Divide by William Vaughn Moody


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