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Archive for the ‘Sarah Ruhl’ Category

10494743_10204389846052378_5999798882152243917_nSarah Ruhl’s stage version of Virginia Woolf’s gender-bending novel Orlando (1928) is coming to Akron, Ohio, in conjunction with the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland.

New World Performance Laboratory’s production will be on stage Aug. 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, and 16 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 10 at 2 p.m., at the Balch Street Theatre, 220 South Balch St.

Staging yesterday and today

The play, which I saw in New York in 2010 and at this year’s Woolf conference in Chicago, is playful, inventive and full of energy. The staging of each production I saw were quite different, so I am curious to see what this version will be like. It is directed by NWPL co-artistic director James Slowiak and featuring company members Jairo Cuesta and Debora Totti along with local actors Rosilyn Jentner and India Burton as Orlando. Ticket prices range from $7.50 to $15. Get tickets here.

Come to a garden party

Virginia Woolf Lawn Party Fundraiser will take place Sunday, Aug. 17, from 4-8 p.m. The $25 cost includes wine, buffet, entertainment and a silent auction. Guests are invited to wear their Bloomsbury best to the event, which will be held at 111 Overwood Rd., Akron. Call 330-867-3299 for reservations.

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There are mysteries to be solved in the world of Woolf. And Virginia Woolf scholars have their magnifying glasses out.

The 24th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf: Writing the World, held in Chicago June 5-8, was the fifth I’ve attended. And, as always, what struck me most was that, as always, there are new things to learn about Woolf and her contemporaries.

Robyn Byrd of Northern Illinois University, one of the graduate assistants who helped organize the conference.

Robyn Byrd of Northern Illinois University, one of the graduate assistants who helped organize the conference and who was on hand throughout the week.

This time, the new things were steeped in mystery, mysteries that such scholars as Suzanne Bellamy of the University of Sydney, Julie Vandivere of Bloomsburg University, Susan Wegener of Southern Connecticut State University, and Denise Ayo of the University of Notre Dame are busy uncovering.

Mystery number one: Woolf’s sentences

Suzanne Bellamy, a visual artist from Australia, kicked off the mysteries as part of a panel chaired by Judith Allen titled “Propaganda, Codebreakers, and Spies.”

Bellamy, appearing remotely via video and Skype, covered the codebreaker piece of the panel in her discussion of Edith Rickert, a Chaucer scholar who had what Bellamy called “a cypher brain.” Rickert worked as a codebreaker in both world wars. She also supervised a student thesis at the University of Chicago that has prompted Bellamy to do some further sleuthing.

The 1930 thesis, written by Elizabeth McKee and titled “A Study of the Style of Mrs Virginia Woolf with Special Emphasis on her Thought Patterns,” was the first academic piece done on Woolf, as it predates Ruth Gruber‘s 1934 work, Virginia Woolf: The Will to Create as a Woman. McKee’s thesis focused on Woolf’s sentence structure. Without computers, McKee analyzed Woolf’s sentences and worked up complicated graphs that illustrated her findings. According to McKee’s research, Woolf wrote two kinds of sentences: groping sentences searching for clarity and descriptive sentences where every word has meaning.

Suzanne Bellamy via Skype with Judith Allen and Patrizia Muscogiuri

Suzanne Bellamy via Skype with Judith Allen and Patrizia Muscogiuri

Once Bellamy discovered McKee’s work, she was intrigued by the connections it helped her make between code breaking, sentence structure and modernism. But she remains mystified by the lack of available information about what McKee did after she graduated from the University of Chicago in 1930.

Bellamy continues to investigate that mystery so she can flesh out McKee’s story for her doctoral work on early textual readings of Woolf. In it, she focuses on McKee’s work and the work of three other early Woolf scholars, two Americans and two Australians.

Mystery number two: Pepita’s origins

I can’t even brush the surface of the complicated story of paternity, deception, inheritance and intrigue that Julie Vandivere presented in a panel on “Vita, Pepita and Orlando.” Vandivere took on Pepita de Oliva, grandmother of Vita Sackville-West and the subject of Vita’s book, Pepita.

In her research, Vandivere works to uncover the marital history of Pepita and the true heir to Knole House and the Sackville fortune. Along the way, documents turned up missing — destroyed or stolen by Pepita or the Sackville-Wests — no one knows, or at least, I don’t. As a result, the true story is missing as well. But Vandivere, using her language skills as a comparative literature specialist, continues working to track them down.

Mystery number three: Woolf’s anti-Semitism

Banuta Rubess of the University of Toronto presents "You're Invited: Performing 'Mrs. Dalloway'."

Banuta Rubess of the University of Toronto presents “You’re Invited: Performing ‘Mrs. Dalloway’.”

In her private writings, Woolf revealed her anti-Semitic feelings. But were her anti-Semitic scenes in The Years more of the same? Or did she purposefully create them to make her readers aware of their own biases at a time when fascism and tyranny were abroad and at home?

Susan Wegener worked to unravel that mystery in her paper, “Processing Prejudice: Writing Woolf’s Jewish World.” By doing a close reading of key scenes in The Years  traditionally seen as anti-Semitic, Wegeman argued that Woolf  created those scenes to reveal stereotypical anti-Semitism.

By the time the novel was published in 1938, Wegener maintained, Woolf was already defining herself by her husband Leaonard’s Jewishness. As a result, she said, “Woolf was aware of her racial biases and processed them in her text.”

Mystery number four: Woolf’s edits

Denise Ayo teased out a mystery with a similar feel in her paper, “Staging (Self-)Censorship: Virginia Woolf’s `Women Must Weep.'” In it, she compared the chopped-up version of Three Guineas that appeared in the May and June 1938 issues of the Atlantic Monthly under the title “Women Must Weep — Or Unite Against War” to the actual text from which they derived.

Denise Ayo

Denise Ayo

She noted that the Atlantic Monthly version is not just an excerpt of Three Guineas. Nor is it a condensation or summary of sorts. Instead, it leaves out material without using ellipsis and includes text that is not in the published version. Its prose is fragmented, leaving words and thoughts hanging.  It contains contradictory meanings. And its organizational structure is disjointed.

So was Woolf temporarily off her mark when she sent her piece to the Atlantic? Did she wearily submit to a bad edit job? Or, once again, was the hash that is “Women Must Weep” done for a purpose?

Ayo argued for the latter. In Three Guineas Woolf complained that journalism was a “mincing machine,” so in her Atlantic piece she did the mincing herself to make a point, Ayo maintained.

According to her, “Woolf meant to communicate to Atlantic Monthly readers that the integrity of her message had been corrupted” by periodical culture that cannot accept a feminist pacifist approach to the world.

No mystery about the depth, breadth of the conference

The conference, sponsored by Loyola and Northern Illinois universities, and attended by more than 200 common readers, students, faculty and independent scholars from around the world, boasted about 63 sessions.

Conference organizers and their graduate assistants: Sarah Polen, Diana Swanson, Pamela Caughie and Katie Dyson.

Conference organizers and their graduate assistants: Sarah Polen, Diana Swanson, Pamela Caughie and Katie Dyson.

That doesn’t include special events — such as a performance of Sara Ruhl’s Orlando pulled off by students after just three weeks of rehearsals — or “Performing Woolf: ‘A Mark on the Wall'” by Adrianne Krstansky of Brandeis and Abigail Killeen of Bowdoin College.

The conference also included a thought-provoking keynote roundtable discussion on Woolf and violence with Mark Hussey of Pace, Ashley Foster of CUNY, Sarah Cole of Columbia, Christine Froula of Northwestern, and Jean Mills of John Jay College and keynotes by Maud Ellman of the University of Chicago and Tuzyline Allan of Baruch College.

The Virginia Woolf Players line up to read Woolf.

The Virginia Woolf Players line up to read Woolf.

The social finale for most conference participants was the Saturday night banquet, preceded by drinks and appetizers in the Mundelein Hall Courtyard and topped off by the traditional readings of favorite Woolf passages by the Virginia Woolf Players.

Stalwarts stayed on for Saturday morning sessions before packing up and heading out to home countries ranging from the UK to Japan.

More conference links

 

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An Interview with Sarah Ruhl, who adapted Orlando for the stage

Orlando, the film, on YouTube

Female Filmmaker Friday: Orlando (1992): A post about the film

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Photo credit: Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance

Sara Ruhl’s Orlando is on stage at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Penn., April 28 through May 1, the Muhlenberg Weekly reports.

Performances on April 28-30 are at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, May 1, at 7 p.m. in the Dorothy Hess Baker Theatre, in the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for patrons 17 and under. Call 484-664-3333 or visit the website for tickets.

Read more about Ruhl’s adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando on Blogging Woolf:

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Lovely coincidences were a big part of the day when I saw Sara Ruhl’s stage adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando in New York City earlier this month.

The first coincidence was that I already had a one-day trip to New York City planned for the last weekend of the production. So while my traveling companions went off to see the Saturday matinee of Promises, Promises on Broadway, I headed to East 13th Street and the Classic Stage Company to see Orlando.

When I got there, I waited for the second lovely coincidence, which was the fact that I was attending the performance with Vinny Ciarlariello, a NYU graduate student with whom I had worked at the University of Akron’s student newspaper last year.

Vinny Ciarlariello outside the Classic Stage Company

But before Vinny arrived, the third lovely coincidence walked up. Anne Fernald, professor of English at Fordham, editor of the upcoming Cambridge University Press edition of Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and blogger over at Fernham, was there to see the show and headline a post-performance Q&A session.

Afterwards, it was no coincidence that Anne, Vinny and I agreed that Ruhl’s adaptation was absolutely brilliant.

Here’s what I loved about it:

  • The artful simplicity of the production, which used a lighted portable model to depict Orlando’s huge estate and a huge billowing square of white cloth to simulate the frozen Thames.
  • The fantastic huge gilt-framed mirror that hung above the stage, reflecting the performance below and offering a unique perspective of it as well.

    Anne Fernald after her Q&A

  • The insightful performance of Francesca Faridany in the title role and her perfect blend of humor and intensity.
  • The lyrical dialogue, which was 90 percent Woolf.
  • The simple all-white costumes, which managed to convey the gender changes of Orlando and the actors who played multiple roles.
  • The fun of the golden wedding band hoop skirt that Orlando wore over her regular costume when the Victorian urge to marry overtook her.
  • The artful “skating” of Annika Boras, who played Sasha. And her gorgeous wine velvet costume, complete with soft-soled flat suede boots.
  • The venue, which was intimate and immediate.
  • The fact that when it was over, I wanted to see the entire performance again.

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More reviews of Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando are in, some of them not as glowing as the New York Times version published Sept. 23. Read on.

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A slide show of photos from the production is available on the NYT website.

The New York Times is in love with Orlando. And so are a lot of people.

After being alerted to the NYT rave review of Sara Ruhl’s adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando, I checked out the article online. While there, I noticed it was the most e-mailed article in the theater section. No doubt.

Charles Isherwood’s review, which notes that most of the dialogue in the production comes directly from Woolf’s novel, praises Ruhl’s adaptation for its mix of  “stately elegance and quirky humor in roughly equal doses,” its “elegant, minimal set,” its “subtle blend of drama and dance” and its lively story, among other things.

However, Isherwood also notes that the stage version is best appreciated by those who have an intimate knowledge of the novel.

That is good news for Woolf lovers who have the chance to grab a seat in the Classic Stage Company‘s East 13th Street theatre between now and Oct. 17, when the production closes.

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