basically ended (Kate) Chopin
's career," says Laura Leffler McCabe of Savage Umbrella Theater
. "The critics slammed it. They hated
it. They praised her style, but the subject was too much ahead of its time. It was sort of a lost book until the 1960s."
Savage Umbrella is teaming with 3AM Productions
for a stage adaptation of Chopin's 1899 novel, which depicted a woman agonizing against the strains and conventions of marriage and motherhood. In its day, the subject matter was simply too hot to touch.
"The book is beautiful," Leffler-McCabe says when asked why she decided to take on the project as writer and director. "It's this proto-modernist text full of slice-of-life details and conversations, along with these really lyrical expressive passages of a character in turmoil."
The show, which boasts a cast of more than a dozen, was company-created, and incorporates music and movement to do justice to a story that begins in a woman's heart, then radiates with seismic repercussions into the world around her.
"We started workshopping with the cast back in September," says Leffler-McCabe. "We cussed a lot, fought some, danced, experimented, and honed in on something that gets to the heart of what Chopin was trying to do."
More than a century later, Chopin's fictional wife and mother would certainly have options other than the bleak course she finally took. But it remains a relevant work, ripe for reinterpretation. Times may change, but our essential restlessness does not.
The Awakening plays April 2-17 at the Gremlin Theatre, 2400 University Avenue, St. Paul. For tickets call 612.339.0207.