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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..


Brian M said...

Congratulations on the part! I have only read 6 pages of the play thus far, but it already seems like you have the best character: intelligent, quick-witted, romantic...she mentions analysis and speaks French - I can hardly wait to see what this play is all about!

Lauren Sowa said...

Thanks Brian! Hope you're enjoying it! If you've finished, I'd love to know your thoughts! The play gets more interesting the farther in you get!


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