Archive for March, 2011

What I have for you today is the kind of thing English majors and Virginia Woolf fanatics love to find — a giant factual error about Woolf.

Well, maybe it’s not so giant. But it was made in the print and online editions of the Calgary Herald.

I won’t mention the writer who made the goof. You can click on the link and see his name for yourself.

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut gets theatrical treatment in Downstage production

Sometimes, actors are celebrities. Other times, they play them.

Anthony Hopkins played Richard Nixon. (And Picasso). Will Smith played Muhammad Ali. Meryl Streep played Julia Child (and Virginia Woolf).

All of which brings us around to Calgary actor and producer Joel Cochrane’s new role. He’s playing Kurt Vonnegut, a famous dead novelist, in And So It Goes, the George F. Walker play that begins a . .  .

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Virginia Woolf was on The Daily Show last night.

Well, not really. But last night’s episode used Virginia Woolf’s well-known title, A Room of One’s Own, to make fun of Vice President Joe Biden’s staff, who put a pool reporter in a storage closet to prevent him from mingling with a high-rolling crowd at a political fundraiser in Winter Park, Florida.

Here are the graphics Stewart used on the show.


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In memoriam to Virginia Woolf on the 70th anniversary of her death, I share two things.

One is a YouTube video that gives us a look at some of the wonderful and amazing things she would have done if she had not walked into the River Ouse on March 28, 1941.

The other is a tribute to Virginia by her great niece, Emma Woolf, in The Independent article, “Literary haunts: Virginia’s London walks.” In her piece, Emma shares stories her father, Cecil Woolf, tells of Virginia and Leonard. She also sets the record straight about their relationship as a couple and offers advice for understanding Virginia’s life and work.

She also recommends visiting the Cock Tavern on Fleet Street to raise a glass to Virginia. It’s the spot where she and Leonard dined when they were living in rented rooms at nearby Clifford’s Inn as newlyweds.

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Virginia Woolf is on stage again. A new play is debuting at the Royal Northern College of Music Studio Theater in Manchester, England, in honor ofthe 70th anniversary of her death.
A Good Day: Love, Death and Virginia Woolf premieres April 14 and runs through the 16th. It is described as a dramatic love story that gives a mesmerising and compelling view of Woolf’s final hours, according to producers Brian M Clarke and Tom Elliott.
Helen Parry is the director, and the show is being promoted by Beat Productions.

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Elizabeth Taylor died March 23, which means the online world was filled with stories connecting Taylor and Virginia Woolf — all because one of Taylor’s most famous films, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, mentions Woolf in the title.

Nevertheless, plenty of Woolf sightings still mentioned the modernist author in her own rite. Here are 26 of them. And in tribute to Taylor, you’ll find a clip from Who’s Afraid at the end of this post.

  1. Greatest role and privilege of women, New Straits Times
    Virginia Woolf
    wisely remarked “I would venture to guess that ‘Anon’, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman”. Today, we live in more enlightened times. Women are now accepted in most walks of life even if it took Germaine
  2. Star Trek: With the Next Generation, CurrentMom
    I was not a science fiction/AV nerd-type – I was more the angst-ridden poet, the Virginia Woolf groupie, the English major in search of her Heathcliff. Not to mention my Annie Hall look-alike contest, which went on for the better part of my junior year …
  3. Dave Lavender To Lead “Street Haunting” Tour,HNN Huntingtonnews.net
    Written by Matthew Earnest, a New York-based playwright, “Street Haunting,” is adapted from a Virginia Woolf essay and is being presented by Marshall Theatre Alliance. As you listen to the iPlay on your cell phone, you will be prompted to walk to seven … Read “Woolf’s `Street Haunting’ inspires iPlay.”
  4. 10 Favorite Classic European Films, TheCelebrityCafe.com
    With a story that could easily beat any novel by Leo Tolstoy or Virginia Woolf in regards to its complexity, Jean Renoir’s ‘comedy of manners’ is probably one of the finest films ever made. Renoir made technical leaps far beyond any other French
  5. Does literature still matter?, Salt Lake Tribune
    If you don’t believe her, here’s Virginia Woolf on why reading poetry can be a transformative experience: “Our being for a moment is centred and constricted, as in any violent shock of personal emotion.” And here is Eliot himself, to explain why poetry (more…)

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Editor’s Note: Patricia Laurence, Woolf scholar and professor of English at Brooklyn College, the City University of New York, attended the March 16 performance of Room and wrote this review.

Lauren "projecting a stillness of mind"

Imagine a string of pearls–“moments of being”–from Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and A Sketch of the Past strung together in a dramatic adaptation. This is the experience of attending Room, an admirable production mounted by the New York Women’s Project, under the direction of Ann Bogart, and adapted from Woolf’s works by Jocelyn Clarke.

These “moments” are a part of Woolf’s philosophy that a great part of our everyday life is lived as “non-being,” or what she calls the “cotton wool” of ordinary experience. But “one’s life is not confined to one’s body and what one says and does,” asserts Woolf, and behind “the cotton wool” of the every day is a hidden pattern. This pattern is revealed in exceptional and infrequent “illuminations, matches struck in the dark,” moments of being.

It is these moments that are revisited in Room a praiseworthy effort to bring Virginia Woolf’s words and advice about writing and reading to broader audiences–though the night I attended, the words were addressed  to, mostl,y a room of women.

Though imaginatively choreographed by Ellen Lauren and Ann Bogart—at times, almost a dance of the body to accompany the dance of Woolf’s mind–this production misses the mark. In transforming Woolf’s writing into a dramatic production, it ignores her philosophy and her own pattern of narration—that moments of being are embedded in the ordinary cotton wool of experience and, therefore, shine all the brighter when they occur.

In this production, moments and polemics combine and are too densely packed to have their effect. Where, one wonders, is the cotton wool, the ordinary stuff of life, to buffer and frame these moments in the experience of the theatergoer? This is not just Woolf’s philosophy but also a principle of drama.

The production begins with Virginia Woolf among us: “Good Evening,” says the cool voice of Ellen Lauren, as she makes her way down the aisle to the stage, tall and lean as Woolf. She asks us to “Imagine a room, your own….” and the stage for the next ninety minutes becomes that material and inner room of the mind so important to women and fiction. It is a room with a closed door that invites women to write.

Originally A Room of One’s Own was a lecture delivered to the women of Newnham and Girton Colleges, Cambridge University, in 1928– the year full equal voting rights would be extended to women in England—and then published in written form, 1929. Given the times, Woolf is always self-conscious about tone as she weaves her arguments against the exclusion of women from education, jobs and the material conditions necessary to the writing of fiction. Sensitive always to how the male audience would “hear” and be persuaded by her lecture—Woolf works by stealth and indirection in arguing and avoids stridency of tone. At times, in Bogart’s production this tone is violated, absorbing didacticism and assertiveness from another time and place.

Nevertheless, we listen attentively to the flight of Woolf’s mind, and her reflections on “what is meant by reality”; how the writer has “a shock-receiving capacity”; the “moments of being” of appreciating a flower “that is the whole” or experiencing revulsion at violence. And, importantly, in portraying Woolf in this production, how memoirs too often are failures because they say, “this is what happened” but “they leave out the person to whom things happened.” In finale, it is asserted that “you cannot write without a room of your own,” and money, a material condition that Woolf would have added to this production.

There were some wonderful moments in this production where Ellen Lauren captured the rapture and the waves in the synchrony of Woolf’s words and her body. What is intriguing about this production is that the actress, and Ann Bogart, the director and founder of the SITI theater company with Tadashi Suzuki, studied photographs of Woolf and created a lexicon of physical structures, what they term “a sort of alphabet.”

As the words of Woolf unfolded during the production, there was a physical score, so that at one moment, we observe Lauren bent sideward over a chair, magically not touching it, and projecting a stillness of mind. At another time, she dances the rapture of Woolf’s words. It is this–the choreography of words, mind and body that speaks to a new kind of acting and direction in Woolf productions (and, hopefully, productions that will involve astute Woolf critics and scholars in the process).

For those living in NYC, there are two more days–through Sunday, March 27—to see this production.

Blogging Woolf readers can save on tickets to Room


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Virginia Woolf’s essay “Street Haunting” has inspired a free 30-minute interactive walking theatrical iPlay that leads participants on a tour of downtown Huntington, W. Virginia.

Written by Matthew Earnest, a New York-based playwright, Street Haunting is presented by Marshall Theatre Alliances.

The performance has been pre-recorded by Marshall University students. To experience it, the audience will walk through the streets of downtown Huntington while listening to specific sections of the play, based on their current location.

Seven downtown locations are on the tour, each chosen to evoke an appropriate atmosphere for the scene. The sights and sounds of each city location become part of the theater experience.

To listen to the performance, playgoers need a cell phone. They can call 304-710-3256 to access the audio. Those with smart phones can get better quality audio by visiting this url: http://myoncell.mobi/13047103256.  Using earbuds is recommended to help eliminate ambient noise.

Locations included in Street Hauntings include:

  1. The Lobby of the Pullman Plaza Hotel
  2. Walking south on 10th Street, then continue walking west on 4th Avenue.
  3. The Village Collection
  4. Pullman Square
  5. Empire Books
  6. Mug & Pia
  7. Return to the Pullman Plaza Hotel

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