Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Rights (and Wrongs) - a play

I've just found out about The Rights (and Wrongs) of Mary Wollstonecraft, a clever play written by Douglas Pendergrass -- not only a man, but an American, to boot! Well, if he is trying to atone for Imlay,  he has done it with style. This is as lovely a treat as you are likely to come across today.

Better yet, the play actually made it to the stage. It was produced in February 2009, by the same audacious man, not in New York, but so far off Broadway it falls into another state, namely North Carolina. (What would the British equivalent be? Exeter, perhaps, or Carlisle.) There are photos of the play, showing its marvellous costumes.

The synopsis of this romantic-historic-comic drama:
The story begins on January 8, 1796; London, England, during an afternoon tea at Mary Hays' house, when Mary Wollstonecraft is reintroduced to William Godwin...
When Godwin and Wollstonecraft become lovers, the complications arise out of the catch-22 –like logic trap created by their own devices. Godwin, a 42-year-old celibate, is a popular philosopher-writer in his own right, who is known for published opinions arguing against the institution of marriage, stating flatly, that “marriage is folly; the worst of all monopolies.”
Wollstonecraft is also on record as preferring “independence” to marriage. When the couple finds they are expecting, they have to decide whether or not they can socially survive sticking to their principles, and not marry. Can they practice what they preach? 

The play is largely told by Mary Shelley. Thomas Holcraft comes into it too, and Sarah Siddons, and Amelia Opie (I'm partial to her). There's a four-minute video taster and a few gems from the script, to wit:

Act 2, Scene 2
Godwin: “I have a world.  You need a world. I want you to have mine.”
Wollstonecraft: (smiling) “You will give me your world.  Where will you live?”
Well, well. What a delight! Mr Pendergrass, why does your website give us no easy way to contact you? Who are you? Why did you decide to write about Mary?  One of the reviews by a local newspaper says:
While penning his first full-length play, Pendergrass felt what he described as “a sense of duty and responsibility” to the subject of his piece. He notes in his program that “Mary has not been remembered and appreciated as well as she should have been.”
Indeed, sir, indeed. Hence this blog.

[See also the New Zealand play The Silver Ship.]

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