Shalom Life | April 24, 2014

Shaw Festival Review Series: A MAN AND SOME WOMEN

Canadian YA novelist, Hermine Steinberg, reviews Githa Sowerby's recently discovered play 'A Man and Some Women'.

By: Hermine Steinberg

Published: June 18th, 2012 in Culture » Stage » Reviews

Shaw Festival Review Series: A MAN AND SOME WOMEN

A Man and Some Women, now playing at the Court House Theater in Niagara-on-the-lake, will not ‘wow’ you, but it should give you pause. For me, it was one of those plays that you appreciated for its acting and writing as you were watching, but did not feel it was extraordinary in any way- until you began thinking about it. It then held on to me and did not let go until I realized that there was so much subtext in the writing and in the development of most of the characters, it was like receiving a coded message from the past.

The author, Githa Sowerby, has been referred to as a “forgotten voice” that has recently been reinstated. She was once considered the greatest dramatist of her time; a celebrity and a feminist hero. But her flame seemed to die out as quickly and poignantly as it first burst onto the scene.

Her first play, Rutherford & Son, was a family drama that criticized industrialized, capitalist life in the early 1900s. It originally opened at the Royal Court Theater in England and instantly put Sowerby on the map. The playwright was named as KG Sowerby, deliberately deceiving the critics into believing it was written by a man. The critics raved and believed it reflected the concerns of their age in a profound way. People lined up and when it was discovered that Sowerby was a woman, the critics could not retract what they wrote without being ridiculed. Rutherford & Son went on to be produced all over the world and was translated into almost every European language. Sowerby went on to write other plays but with the arrival of World War One and her refusal to promote herself through the media, she slid back into obscurity. Sowerby sealed her own fate when she decided to destroy all her personal materials and photos later in her life. It was only when Patricia Riley decided to go “Looking for Githa” (published in 2009), did the world rediscover who she was and what she contributed to the dramatic world.

Githa, who died in 1970 aged 93, wrote seven plays and more than 20 children's books during her lifetime. She was an exception in many ways. She came from a wealthy family but became a member of the Fabian Society; a socialist group primarily working to achieve social reforms, especially for workers. The apple of her father’s eye and elevated to the status of hostess and confident in his home (to the detriment of her relationship with her own mother), Githa became a feminist and in many ways rejected traditional family life. She did not marry until she was 35 years old and did not want children, although she did become pregnant and ended up having a daughter, Joan, who was largely raised by a nanny. Despite the fact that she was never able to bond with her daughter, and perhaps ironically, it was Joan who saved whatever memorabilia she could lay her hands on and agreed to help Patricia Riley resurrect her mother, earning her a place in history among the early feminist heroes of the 20th century.

A Man and Some Women was one of the found treasures in the hat box of memories Joan had guarded for many years – an unpublished play that was only produced a few times in 1914.

Just as in Rutherford & Son, A Man and Some Women appears to have strong autobiographical elements within it. The plot revolves around Richard Shannon who has inherited a business and obligations that have led to his enslavement and oppression. A large part of his burden is due to the women he allowed to define his life, starting with his mother who has just passed away, his two sisters, and his wife. His only comfort and relief comes from his cousin and friend, Jessica, who is financially self-sufficient, and a young boy who became his charge due to a set of unseemly circumstances.

Everyone is bound together by obligation, duty, tradition, love, and fear. Gender issues are clearly at the forefront of this play, but accurately illustrate how both men and women are diminished by roles that are assigned to them and ignore individual strengths, interests, and weaknesses. It is also about family secrets that toxify relationships and disempower both the holders of the secret and the ones who are excluded from knowledge that deeply impact their lives.

Anton Yelchin and Zooey Deschanel Slated for ‘The Driftless Area’ Anton Yelchin and Zooey Deschanel Slated for ‘The Driftless Area’ TrendingSarah Silverman Apologizes in Advance For Swastika Doodle Sarah Silverman Apologizes in Advance For Swastika Doodle TrendingMural, Mural on the Wall Brings Animations to Life for Your Children Mural, Mural on the Wall Brings Animations to Life for Your Children Trending
 

Arabs and Israelis Find Togetherness with Soccer

April 24, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Arabs and Israelis Find Togetherness with Soccer

After Hapoel Petah Tikva lost many of its players to Israel's national squad, the founder decided to recruit Arab villagers, creating a positive atmosphere among Arabs and Israelis in the process

Read More

American University To Honor Israeli Professors for Achievements in Suicide Prevention

April 24, 2014 | By Miles Rosenblatt
American University To Honor Israeli Professors for Achievements in Suicide Prevention

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will be presenting its annual Research Award to two researchers, Professor Gary Diamond of Ben Gurion University and Professor Guy Diamond of Drexel University

Read More

Jewish Wrestler to be Honored at Holocaust Memorial Ceremony

April 24, 2014 | By Ynet News
Jewish Wrestler to be Honored at Holocaust Memorial Ceremony

Jonas Eckstein, a Bratislava-born wrestler, saved thousands of Jews from persecution during the Holocaust

Read More

Maccabi Tel Aviv in Euroleague Final Four

April 24, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Maccabi Tel Aviv in Euroleague Final Four

The team is seeking its 6th European championship after beating Emporio Armani Milan last night

Read More

Breakthrough Jew - DJ Tennis

April 24, 2014 | By Sarah Bauder
Breakthrough Jew - DJ Tennis

Manfredi Romano aka DJ Tennis is the co-founder of techno and house label, Life and Death.

Read More

Scarlett Johansson to Join Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’

April 24, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Scarlett Johansson to Join Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’

ScarJo and Lupito Nyong'o are in negotiations to join Jon Favreau's live action/CG hybrid film.

Read More

Lenny Kravitz to Release ‘Strut’, His Tenth Studio Album

April 24, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Lenny Kravitz to Release ‘Strut’, His Tenth Studio Album

Kravitz plans to release the album in September through his own record imprint

Read More

Judd Apatow’s ‘The Simpsons’ Episode Will Air After 24 Years

April 24, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Judd Apatow’s ‘The Simpsons’ Episode Will Air After 24 Years

Before Apatow became famous for 'The 40 Year Old Virgin', he submitted a script to 'The Simpsons' in 1990.

Read More

More Headlines