by Susan Glaspell
Directed by Majel Cuza
Part of the Alcyone Festival 08
Loosely based on the murder of John Hossack, which Glaspell covered while working as a journalist, the story centers on the investigation of the murder of John Wright. Due to the nature of the murder, strangulation in bed, the primary suspect in the investigation is Mr. Wright’s wife, Minnie, who is in custody as the play begins. The county attorney George Henderson and sheriff Henry Peters know that they cannot convict Mrs. Wright without a motive, so they bring neighboring farmer Lewis Hale, who discovered the crime, to Wrights' farmhouse in an effort to find evidence against Mrs. Wright. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters join the men in order to pick up a few things for Mrs. Wright, and when they arrive, they remain in the kitchen and find themselves discussing Mrs. Wright's life. Mrs. Hale, a friend of Mrs. Wright's before marriage, quickly realizes that Mr. Wright was an oppressive husband. The two women find that Mrs. Wright had been quilting, but that her most recent piece stood out because the sewing was “queer” and “all over the place”. The women also find a broken birdcage, and Mrs. Hale recalls that about a year earlier, a man came around selling canaries. She tells Mrs. Peters, that a songbird would have been a perfect companion for a lonely Minnie Wright. They realize that their guesswork is correct when they discover a fancy box hidden amongst the quilt pieces, containing a strangled canary wrapped in silk. When the men return, the women silently agree to keep the bird hidden from the men, thus thwarting their chances of finding a motive. The two women aided by their knowledge of female ritual and psychology are able to solve the motive mystery, while the men fail their investigation as they dismiss the women’s observations as “trifles”.
Featuring: Douglas Bowman, Clarissa Gregg, Whitney Hayes, Nick Staten, Jeff Wade
Susan Glaspell (1876 – 1948) was a bestselling novelist and a Pulitzer prize winning playwright. She was a founding member of the Provincetown Players, one of the most important collaboratives in the development of modern drama in the United States. Her novels and plays are committed to developing deep, sympathetic characters, to understanding "life" in its complexity. Though realism was the medium of her fiction, she was also greatly interested in philosophy and religion. Many of her characters make principled stands. Glaspell was highly regarded during her own time, and was well known as both a playwright and novelist. Several of her novels were bestsellers.