Mere Trifles by Susan Glaspell, et al.

Theatre Unbound, St. Paul, MN 2017

In collaboration with Executive Director Anne Bertram at Theatre Unbound, I curated an evening of short plays to be in conversation with Susan Glaspell’s Trifles, for its’ 100th anniversary; I directed all four pieces. We commissioned Minnesota playwrights Rhiana Yazzie and Maxie Rockymore to write new pieces that picked up Glaspell’s themes, and we capped off the evening with Lynne Nottage’s Poof!. (Pictured above: Nicole Goeden as Mrs. Peters and Delinda Oogie Pushetonequa as Mrs. Hale)

Trifles introduces us to three women, not just one, who discover their agency and their ability in moments of profound crisis. Glaspell made a radical decision to put women at the center of her narrative one hundred years ago; Rhiana Yazzie’s A Few Pearls and Maxie Rockymore’s Bang Bang Check continue to do so as they refract Glaspell’s themes through contemporary lenses. In Lynn Nottage’s Poof!, Loureen literally discovers the strength of her own voice.

Susan Glaspell cofounded the Provincetown Players with George Cram Cook in 1915, and after Eugene O’Neill, she was the company’s most prolific writer. With John Reed, she played a pivotal role in the Patterson Silk Strike Pageant at Madison Square Garden in 1913. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1931, yet even among the theatre nerds, her name recognition is low.

Trifles is not a victim story; it is about as far from Extremities, The Burning Bed and other victim-of-the-week narratives as we can get. It is about a woman who has been victimized, but it also asks, like its hefty big brother, Julius Caesar, whether there is such a thing as a moral murder.

All four plays explore not just the collateral damage inflicted by the patriarchy across an American century and across cultures, but also the power and confidence that women discover when they worry over ‘trifles.’

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Young directors simply must from time to time be hired by a theatrical institution, if only to correct its inevitable tendency to fossilize.
– Tyrone Guthrie

You lie, in faith, for you are called plain Kate,
And bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst;
But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom,
Kate of Kate Hall, my super-dainty Kate,
For dainties are all Kates, and therefore, Kate,
Take this of me, Kate of my consolation…
--The Taming of the Shrew, Act II, scene i