The Power of Story...and some Yellow Wallpaper
We've had the pleasure of welcoming a number of talented theatre artists into our PhilaLandmarks houses over the course of the last few years...and we are always in awe watching our historic rooms come to life in the course of these theatrical productions.
This coming Sunday, July 10th, the Physick House will be the site of a new production of "The Yellow Wallpaper" featuring the talented actress Jennifer Summerfield. Jennifer has become a favorite around PhilaLandmarks...well really, she's become part of the family. Among her many talents, she works as a historical interpreter of our own Elizabeth Willing Powel. Most recently she produced and starred in a successful production of Hedda Gabler at the Physick House. She is currently performing at the Constitution Center, in the Bank of America Theatre, during the month of July, in a student-written play called “A Republic, Madam,” about the ratification of the Constitution and the friendship between George Washington and Elizabeth Powel (four times a day, six days a week!). And yes, it's no surprise that Jennifer is playing the part of Eliza!
Before "The Yellow Wallpaper" opens, we thought you'd enjoy hearing a bit about how it all came to be.
We'd also like to give a shout out to Kyle Cassidy, the photographer behind these beautiful photos (and so many others featured on our website). We also wish to take note of this all-female production, with the talented Sam Wend as production manager and Robin Stamey as lighting designer (a character in itself!)
Here in Jennifer's own words... a little background on the production:
"Saying I fell in love with “The Yellow Wallpaper” when I first read it at the age of 18 is perhaps the wrong way to phrase it. I fell under its spell. From the first page, the imagery and energy of the narrator drew me in until I too was trapped by the spiralling pattern of that flamboyant wallpaper. As soon as I'd finished, I found someone to listen to me as I read it aloud; I felt a compulsion to get those images out into the world, to share them and see how they affected others.
Through the years, I've seen adaptations made of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's novella, from film modernizations to operas, but I've always felt the story would be better served to be performed as written, without the introduction of other characters and outside scenes. Part of the power of the story is the sense of isolation the narrator feels, her lack of true contact with a sympathetic mind, and her growing obsession with the hidden meanings within the wallpaper of her prison-like room. And so, when director, Josh Hitchens approached me about performing the story as a one-woman show, I leapt at the opportunity.
The upcoming performances of "The Yellow Wallpaper" at the Physick House will be the second time I've had a hand at producing a Victorian theatrical piece, having co-produced "Hedda Gabler" this past December at the Physick with my husband, Kyle Cassidy, and our company, Laurel Tree Theater. Both pieces, written in the last decade of the 19th Century, have a central female protagonist who is trying to find her place in the world and, in the end, is forced to question the tradional roles of women in marriage and society. In both pieces, the audience is introduced to a seemingly content married couple who have recently moved into a new home, and a husband who only wants to make his wife happy. The truth turns out to be quite different, however. That is what draws me to these stories over and over again.
After performing “The Yellow Wallpaper” in April at an historic home in Germantown, the Physick House was the venue I immediately thought of to bring the production. A “colonial mansion” once owned by a renowned Philadelphia physician – what could be a more perfect setting for this psychological horror story set against a backdrop of 19th Century medical practices and mores? The audience will have the opportunity to go upstairs and see Dr. Physick's medical instruments and be introduced to the world in which my character lives.
It's thrilling to be able to bring this immersive, site-specific experience to theatre-goers. And as a performer, these historic homes have a warmth and life to them that you usually have to try to simulate on a theatrical set. What a luxury it is to be in a perfectly decorated room you don't have to imagine into being. It's simply there for us, a beautiful part of the production. PhilaLandmarks, who operate the Physick House, as well as three other historic homes in the Philadelphia region, have been incredibly welcoming to us. It really does feel like being home."
Tickets and details about location/time etc. can be found HERE!