About George Eliot and A Most Dangerous Woman
Some time ago, I read my first George Eliot novel, and I’ve been hooked ever since. The more I learned about the writer, the more fascinated I became by the paradoxes of her extraordinary world.
Critics of the 19th century placed George Eliot on a level with Shakespeare. And because she led the life every liberated woman dreams of, I thought, “Now here is a woman feminists must adore!”
Alas, I was wrong.
In the 20th century, feminist critics found fault, bordering on betrayal. In their eyes, Eliot lived one life—and wrote another. In her biography, Kathryn Hughes describes “the puzzle about Eliot” that bothered these critics: “While in her most intimate and habitual life she flouted orthodox social roles, her politics and her novels dealt with the status quo, with life as it is rather than how it might be.”
But in fact, Eliot (née Mary Anne Evans) never forgot that her own extraordinary life was the exception. And, much to her credit, she continued to write about ordinary women and their limited lives. Eliot, who was notoriously unattractive, saw beneath the veneer of Victorian society and the face people present to the world. Her novels cleverly expose how gender expectations stifle the development, and the promise, of men and women alike. And if that isn’t feminist, I don’t know what is.
In the play, I explore the unusual circumstances of Evans’ life and the brave, difficult choices she made—not least of these her decision to reveal herself as the real George Eliot. But I also hope to shed light on her work. Her novels often strike a modern reader as nostalgic and conservative. However, there is a subversive streak in all of them. Many of Eliot’s characters are spiritually severed from the society she renders so realistically. And, like their creator, they find true affinities—true happiness—outside the hearth and home they’re born into.
A century and a half later, we continue to wrestle with the same issues: the importance of female beauty, the definition of marriage, the consequences of revealing to our families who we really are.
Did Eliot hide behind her pseudonym and George Henry Lewes’s protectiveness? Or did she wisely conceal her identity from a critical and unforgiving society? A Most Dangerous Woman is about a figure misunderstood both then and now—a woman with a lifelong desire for legitimacy, determined to fulfill that need on her own terms.
About The Eleventh Hour and the Term "Armistice"
Years of entrenched fighting. Dangerous new high-tech weapons. Debilitating combat trauma. An inconclusive ending and partisan politics in its wake. World War I not only set the stage for wars of the 21st century, in many ways it defines the modern world as we know it.
The war began in 1914 and lasted four years. The U.S., however, wouldn't enter the war until 1917, providing weary Allied forces with two million bodies -- and little in the way of combat experience. But the bodies were enough. Just seven months later, the long, indecisive war came to an end. President Wilson, a Democrat, had insisted on "peace without victory." According to the terms of the armistice (from the Latin words for 'stopping of arms'), fighting would simply end: no victors, no losers -- only a long-awaited peace after a loss of more than 9 million lives around the world.
And then, in the United States, the controversy began. Shortly after the armistice, a Republican-led Congress began to investigate expenditures related to the war. Their goal? To embarrass President Wilson, a Democrat, and regain the White House in 1920. The Eleventh Hour is based on the combative, highly partisan hearings that resulted. Nearly all of the testimony found in the play is taken directly from records of the 66th Congress. Though statements have been conflated, the names of the soldiers who testify all come from transcripts of the hearings
The script combines fictional characters with many real figures of the period. It would be difficult to invent Alvan Fuller, a Boston congressman and canny car salesman. (He later earned some renown as the governor who refused to pardon Sacco and Venzetti.) And Lady Clementine, a strident Scotswoman, did offer her estate as a convalescent home for British officers. Medical doctors, puzzled by an outbreak of 'cowardice,' sent soldiers there to recover. The strange new ailment, soon to be named 'shell shock,' is better known today as a form of combat stress.
About "As You Loathe It"
A Work in Progress
"As You Loathe It," written in rhymed (heroic) couplets, was originally composed as a one-act and produced by Stageworks/Hudson (Laura Margolis, Artistic Director). Thanks to a recent grant, it is currently being developed into a full-length play.
Christopher Marlowe is seething in his grave, bitter with anxiety over his rival Shakespeare’s influence. Kit wants recognition, and Will is more than happy to give it. Sort of.
Awarded Individual Artist's Grant/Commission by the New York State Council for the Arts (NYSCA) to develop As You Loathe It into a full-length script.
Produced by Stageworks/Hudson, Annual Festival of New One-Act Plays, Directed by Laura Margolis
"A classic and a treasure."
~J. Peter Bergman, Berkshire Bright Focus