Apr. 11th, 2017

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This past weekend I got a chance to see the production of Mrs. Packard by Emily Mann with the Bridge Repertory Theatre. I wanted to go because Eric Cheung was in it and I enjoy watching him act, but it was also a play that was relevant to my interests-- it took place in the 1850's and was about a woman who'd been unfairly committed to a mental institution because of her outspoken views that challenged those of her husband. Obviously I'm very interested in the feminist issues of that time period, so I was excited to see what it was about and how they would do it.

Overall I enjoyed the production very much. It took place in this gorgeous open-room theater at the Multicultural Arts Center in Cambridge, with elaborate crenellated architecture and a beautiful balcony ringing around the top of it. The set and costumes were lovely, in low-key grays and blues, and the space was shaped by large curtains that they pushed in and out to make frames. It was clearly a very professional production, with high acting quality, direction, and production value all around, though not all of the actors were exactly to my taste. The woman playing Mrs. Packard, while clearly talented, didn't appeal to me. She was very broad and without a lot of emotional levels-- she was kind of at eleven for the entire performance with little variation. I also noticed that Mr. Packard was played by the guy who read for Lord Brockton at the very first ever reading of Mrs. Hawking part one that happened at my grad school and was organized by my teachers. As for the script, overall I enjoyed the story, though I would say it was a bit heavy handed with its ideas, full of people talking alternately how absurd and how important it was for women to be able to speak their minds, depending on which side of the argument they represented.

It also spurred a lot of thoughts about how I wanted to incorporate mental health abuses as an issue in the Mrs. Hawking plays. The idea that a woman can be committed for behaving what the men in her life believe is "strange" or "inappropriate" is definitely a good source of threat for those stories. Honestly it's probably something Mrs. Hawking has specifically been concerned about that causes her to so carefully hide her activities. I actually already have an idea for utilizing it, though not until parts five and six. Those are a way off, but in watching Mrs. Packard it got me thinking about how I want to execute on those concepts. I am not going in the same direction as Mrs. Packard takes, but I hope it make it meaningful and really invoke the horror that a woman could be committed against her will, not because she's mad, but because she doesn't obey or conform.


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