Mary Wollstonecraft lived at a time when it was nearly impossible for women to feel any sense of power or to be the arbiter of their own wills. She emerged from a difficult childhood, persevered, broke norms and sanctions on what was acceptable, set up a school, fell in love with an American, had a child, Fanny, out of wedlock, traveled, conducted business, twice attempted suicide, made for herself a nominal but essential career as a writer, met and married Godwin, had another child, Mary, and died at 38.
Wollstonecraft Live! begins in the Unitarian Chapel on Newington Green, London’s oldest place of dissenting worship, which Mary attended in the 1780s while she ran a school for girls next door in an attempt to support herself, her best friend, and two of her sisters. Inside the church the audience watches a scene from a fictional Hollywood biopic of her life in which she debates democracy with key historical male figures of the time, such as Paine, Price, and Godwin. The audience members are then led outside where Newington Green has transformed into a film set bisected by tracks.
On the Green, 8 characters: 3 Mary’s, (The Actor Cast as) Godwin, Boom Operator, Sound Mixer, Assistant Director, and Casting Director interact with each other, and t he story of her life reveals itself through contemporary dialogue involving rehearsals for the film and the setting up of the tracking shot. The Mary’s are modern reincarnations as well as ghostly incarnations of Mary who utter words from her letters and prose . The Actor Cast as Godwin rehearses his lines for his role in the film thus providing a grief-stricken, insightful narration largely constructed from Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman, his biography of Mary . Extras are then chosen from the audience as t he critical tracking shot between Wollstonecraft and (William) Godwin is filmed and sparks a turning point in their love affair.
This fragmented vision of her, the films and theatrical loops, spars with conventional notions of narrative, folding time over and over to create a Jackson Pollock-like historical drama squeezed through the nose of Being John Malkovich.
Newington Green is a regeneration area with a vibrant community, members of which will be invited to take part in the live and recorded performance. Passers-by will also witness the event. Surrounding shop-fronts, church, balconies, and windows are integrated into the performance. Fragments & Monuments will project the film of the live 2005 performance of Wollstonecraft Live! at Newington Green in 2006.
Text by Kaethe Fine (c) 2005