Georgetown Presents "Amanuensis," Inspired by Blind Poet Milton and his Daughter-Scribes for "Paradise Lost"
Playwright L M Feldman participated in developmental residency with Georgetown University Theater & Performance Studies Program over the academic year
Washington, DC—The Georgetown University Theater & Performance Studies Program closes its 2017-18 “Past/Present” season with the witty and moving play “Amanuensis” by L M Feldman, directed by Prof. Maya E. Roth April 12-21, 2018 in the Davis Performing Arts Center’s Gonda Theatre.
Artfully told through the eyes of three young sisters, “Amanuensis” imagines the life and relationships of poet John Milton during the seven years he spent writing “Paradise Lost,” the 12-volume epic poem famously transcribed by his mostly illiterate daughters when he was was blind and outcast. Written by an exciting feminist playwright with eloquence, high theatricality, and riotous comedy, this new play “set” during 17th century England’s social volatility—and, too, now—interrogates the relationship between genius and privilege, authorship and history, gender and voice.
As part of her research, director Roth hosted Feldman for a developmental reading with professional actors (including Rick Foucheux, Rocelyn Halili and Amanda Forstrom, among others) in November 2017, and then the Theater & Performance Studies Program hosted the Philadelphia-based playwright for a week’s residency from February 16-22, 2018, during the first week of rehearsals. For the spring residency, Feldman participated in intensive script work with Roth, student cast and dramaturgs, and Davis Center artists, including during rehearsals, and class visits. She will return for the final week of dress rehearsals into opening, and has revised the script three full rounds as part of the process. The production features students participating in myriad ways — from dramaturgs to performers to the associate costume designer, working closely with professional artists. The process is helmed by Roth, who is nationally recognized for new work development and direction with feminist playwrights.
One of the most brilliant of classical Western poets and an ardent supporter of the Puritan-led Commonwealth in England, Milton had three daughters—Anne, Mary, and Deborah— with his first wife Mary Powell. She died just days after the birth of their youngest child, as did his second wife, shortly after. Milton went blind while the girls were still infants and then designated his young daughters as his caretakers and scribes as he composed blank verse in his head. Although he wrote publicly about liberty and equality of opportunity, at home he kept his daughters mostly illiterate and there was a famous falling out. While little is known about the actual interactions between the family members, evidence of the fractious relationships and disinheritance of his daughters is provided posthumously in his will: “All the residue of my estate I leave to the disposal of Elizabeth, my loving wife” (his third wife, married late in his life), while calling his daughters “Unkind children…very undutiful to me.” Ironically, however, the blind poet narrating “Paradise Lost” to loyal daughters became one of the most frequent subjects for male painters across Europe in the centuries to come, a Romantic vision of female helpers to genius men.
Subtitled “a tale, a grapple, a loosely historically inspired feminist fantasia,” Roth notes, “this play delves into historical content as well as the historical gaps… We know so much about the men, and not the women.” Feldman imagines the relationships, finding humor and poignancy in the troubled household —and historical moment—while using savvy classical allusions to Paradise Lost and King Lear.
Showtimes for “Amanuensis” include the following:
Thursday - Saturday, April 12-14 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, April 15 at 2 p.m.
Thursday - Saturday, April 19-21 at 8 p.m.
The GU Theater & Performance Studies Program will host a talkback about themes of the show after the Sunday, April 15 matinee, and the Doyle Engaging Difference Program will host a post-show conversation after the Thursday, April 19 performance. The Davis Performing Arts Center, Gonda Theatre is located on Georgetown University’s main campus at 37th and O Streets, NW in Washington, DC 20057.
$18 GENERAL | $15 FACULTY, STAFF, ALUMNI, SENIOR | $10 STUDENT WITH I.D.
ALL OTHER PERFORMANCES:
$15 GENERAL | $12 FACULTY, STAFF, ALUMNI, SENIOR | $7 STUDENT WITH I.D.
Space-available GU student tickets for opening night on April 12 are free (limit one), I.D. required at pickup. To order, visit performingarts.georgetown.edu or call 202-687-ARTS (2787).
The cast includes Healy Knight as Deborah, Kate Ginna as Mary, Michaela Farrell as Anne, Alex Prout as Milton, Travis Fujita as Thomas, Maddy Rice as Elizabeth, and Jonathan Compo as Young Man.
Design team includes Set Designer Swedian Lie (COL ‘13), Costume Designer Prof. Debra Kim Sivigny, Lighting Designer Kris A. Thompson, Sound Designer Thomas Sowers, and Props Designer Patti Kalil.
L M FELDMAN (PLAYWRIGHT)
Lauren Feldman is a queer, feminist playwright (and circus artist) who loves theatrically adventurous, physically ambitious, intimate, inquisitive, deeply honest plays – usually about outsiders, often about searchers, always about the human connection.
Her plays include ANOTHER KIND OF SILENCE (PlayPenn, O’Neill Finalist, Playwrights Realm Fellowship, Drama League New Directors/New Works Fellowship); AMANUENSIS (Northwoods Ramah Theatre Company commission); THE EGG-LAYERS (Jane Chambers Honorable Mention, O’Neill Finalist, New Georges/Barnard College co-commission, and performed at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in April 2013); A PEOPLE (Jewish Plays Project NYC Residency); GRACE, OR THE ART OF CLIMBING (Denver Center Theatre Company, Nice People Theatre Company, ATCA/Steinberg New Play Award Nomination, Barrymore Nomination, The Kilroys List); several ensemble-devised works, including AND IF YOU LOSE YOUR WAY, OR A FOOD ODYSSEY (The Invisible Dog, New York Innovative Theatre Award Nomination), LADY M (Philadelphia Live Arts Festival), and THE APOCRYPHAL PROJECT (Yale Cabaret), among others; as well as a dozen short plays and an autobiographical solo piece. She has been nominated for the Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwright Award, Wendy Wasserstein Prize, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award. She was awarded an artist grant through the Boomerang Fund and a creation grant from the State of Vermont, and she has been an artist-in-residence at Terra Firma, SPACE at Ryder Farm, the School of Making Thinking, Tofte Lake Center, Montana Artists Refuge, Montana Repertory Theatre, Sewanee University of the South, Cornell University, and Theater Emory/Brave New Works Festival. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, Lauren is also a New Georges Affiliated Artist, a devised-work collaborator, a teacher of playwriting (Bryn Mawr College, McCarter Theatre, PlayPenn), and a freelance dramaturg.
In 2010 Lauren fell in love with theater & circus as a hybrid art form through the feminist, Brooklyn-based ensemble LAVA; soon she began creating theatrical circus duets with Megan Gendell, and her passions led her to the New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA) for full-time professional training. Lauren freelances as a creator/performer of contemporary circus – specializing in duo trapeze with Megan Gendell, solo static trapeze, hand balancing, and partner acrobatics. She has performed in festivals and cabarets from Chicago to San Francisco, Philadelphia to New York City, Riga (Latvia) and beyond, and she is a co-creator/performer of the full-length ensemble circus-theater show TINDER & ASH (SummerStage NYC, TOHU residency, Orchard Project). She coaches at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, and she travels around the country teaching dramaturgical craft to circus artists and dramaturging acts and shows.
Hailing from Miami, Florida, she has lived in seven cities and is now based in Philly – where she is a proud Orbiter 3 playwright and mentor with the Foundry.
PROFESSOR MAYA E. ROTH (DIRECTOR)
Maya E. Roth holds the Della Rosa Distinguished Professorship of Theater at Georgetown and was the founding Artistic Director of the Davis Performing Arts Center (2005-07). As artist and scholar, she specializes in ensemble, feminist plays, and cross-cultural adaptations of classics. She has collaborated closely on the development of new work by an array of playwrights, most intensively Heather Raffo—for whom she served as developmental dramaturg for Noura from its inception at Georgetown through its recent premiere at the Shakespeare Theatre this spring, as well as, earlier, for Raffo’s Fallujah, premiered at Vancouver City Opera. For Georgetown, she has stewarded multiple guest artist residencies in the Davis Center, including for incubation of major new plays, including Moises Kaufman (33 Variations), Timberlake Wertenbaker (Jefferson’s Garden, Jenufa and Galileo’s Daughter), Christine Evans (Trojan Barbie), and Raffo, among others. She has published widely on Wertenbaker, theater of exile, and plays—like Amanuensis—that fuse social and psychic stakes. She has directed myriad readings of new and classic works at festivals and major DC venues, including the Kennedy Center Page-to-Stage Festival, National Museum for Women in the Arts, and Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Since 2007, she has stewarded the Jane Chambers Prize for Women Playwrights on behalf of the Women and Theater Program, stewarding adjudication for more than 300 plays annually that feature significant roles for women through a feminist lens. She is now editing a twin-set anthology of recent winning works from the Jane Chambers Prize. Roth is honored to have won many teaching Awards at Georgetown, including the Dean’s Excellence in Teaching Award, as well as at UC Berkeley.
GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY THEATER & PERFORMANCE STUDIES PROGRAM
Housed in the Davis Performing Arts Center, the Georgetown University Theater & Performance Studies Program features a nationally recognized faculty of leading scholar/artists and professional practitioners who offer a dynamic interdisciplinary major that emphasizes the interaction of artistic and analytic inquiry. The Program has rapidly attracted significant national attention for its distinctive curriculum, which integrates the political and international character of Georgetown, a commitment to social justice, and high-quality, cutting-edge production seasons, including world premieres. In 2012, Backstage selected the Program as one of the top five college theater programs outside of New York City. The Theater & Performance Studies Program provides unique focus on adapting, devising and developing new work, interdisciplinary research-to-performance projects, cross-cultural performance studies, and innovative approaches to design and multi-media, as well as playwriting, directing, dramaturgy, ensemble, and solo performance. The Program invests in a distinctive array of professional partnerships and collaborations, including with Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, with a growing focus on global performance and politics, as represented by international residencies (DAH Teatar, Ping Chong, Timberlake Wertenbaker) and by the establishment of the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, a collaborative initiative with the School of Foreign Service. Each year the Program hosts residencies with guest artists who collaborate deeply with students. Our major prepares students for lives as professional theater artists, scholars, activists and entrepreneurs, as well as for careers in the wider fields of education, cultural criticism, and public service.
Georgetown University, Department of Performing Arts
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