The hushed sound of women whispering in the kitchen. The scratching of a quill on a rare piece of parchment in harsh frontier America. How clearly the forgotten voices of nineteenth century women writers sound in the Public Media Foundation's radio play series! And how fortunate I have been as a playwright to learn from those voices and ultimately to add my own.
The Scribbling Women plays allowed me a series of joys. First, came the re-discovery of Susan Glaspell's "A Jury of Her Peers" with its kitchen sounds addressing the solitude and community of 19th century women. I also discovered Caroline Kirkland's "The Schoolmaster's Progress," in which Eastern establishment-trained women with their Noah Webster dictionaries in tow journeyed into the rough, muddy backwoods to spread learning to the Westward-pushing settlers.
Second, I was able to add my voice to theirs in adapting these works for radio. I am always in search of the too rare experience of writing for the ear; to help blow the dust off these classics was a further pleasure.
Third, I was given the gift of excellent directors and a sophisticated studio in which the sounds of these pieces were swirled into the rare auditory pleasure of the radio play. I find radio the most pleasureable arena in which to work, particularly in our visually overloaded society. The audience sits, listens; the imagination is released.
The fourth gift, however was the most unexpected. Traveling to participate in a workshop with Greenwich Public School System teachers, I was impressed by the workshop's thoughtfulness and scholarship concerning these early American writers. I was delighted to realize that these radio plays, heard so briefly over the air waves, would now find continued life in the classroom, where they would address so many issues important to our contemporary thinking. And that the sensitivity and insight of these teachers gathered on this particular Saturday would be added to an already rich experience, making it fuller and deeper.
Valerie Henderson has packaged all of this in a neat bundle of art and scholarship--a gift to all of us who have been part of this series and especially to future students who can now learn the beauty of the word, "listen".
Photo L to R: Judy Braha, Jim Nutter, Director Martin Jenkins, Kristin Wold