"WOMEN OF SPOON RIVER holds a lot of significance and meaning" Accesibly Live
"The acting is SUPERB!" Riverting Riffs
ABOUT THE PLAY
The Women of Spoon River: Their Voices from the Hill is a one-woman show performed by the talented Lee Meriwether. A star of stage, screen and television, Lee is well-known not only for winning the title of Miss America in 1955, but for memorable roles like “Catwoman” in BATMAN (1966), her eight year run as Betty in BARNABY JONES opposite Buddy Ebsen, Lilly Munster in THE NEW MUNSTERS, “Ruth Martin” in the soap opera All My Children and many others. Lee began her career at Theatre West understudying all the women in the original Broadway production of Spoon River Anthology. Now she returns to Theatre West to probe more deeply into the lives of the women in the Midwestern community evoked by Edgar Lee Masters in his 1915 literary masterpiece.
Photos from the original production by the
Theatre Department at
Indiana University Southeast
Paul W. Ogle Cultural and Community Center
New Albany, Indiana
May 7 & 8, 2010
All photos: Rebekkah Meixner
"For a mesmerizingly haunting 60 minutes of compelling “live” theatre, offered by an agelessly stunning respected stage actress of stage and screen… do take the time to meet the soulful and troubled women of “Spoon River”! Tolucan Times
Theatre West Presents WOMEN OF SPOON RIVER Their Voices From The Hill with
adapted by Lee Meriwether with Jim Hessleman
from “SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY” by Edgar Lee Masters
~ Join Ms. Meriwether after the show for a Question and Answer Session ~
the song “Women From the Hill”
by Lee Meriwether
aranged by Kenneth Atkins
lights by Yancey Dunham
stage manager - Roger Cruz
TW executive director - John Gallogly
Women of Spoon River, Their Voices from the Hill – A World Premiere
Lee Meriwether in “Women of Spoon River: Their Voices from the Hill” at Theatre West.
This chilling new one-woman play was conceived by its star, Lee Meriwether, and Jim Hesselman, who also artfully directs the production. Continued from the 1915 volume of poems by Edgar Lee Masters… then titled “Spoon River Anthology,” we are privy to the innermost feelings of the ladies who lived there. The original adaption with a full cast, ran here at Theatre West 40 years ago, and then moved to Broadway (starring Betty Garrett and Joyce Van Patten… with Meriwether understudying both roles). This production is gut-wrenchingly performed “solo” by Lee Meriwether, as she reveals the secrets, hearts and souls of 26 of the deceased women who lived in the small Illinois town of Spoon River. Issues including marriage, lust, death, insanity, regrets, passion, childbirth and more… dramatically unfold. Difficult to properly summarize for you- and monumentally challenging for its solo star to enact- this is a worthy and reminiscent, though mind-bendingly complex, journey. She hopes to tour the play on college campuses. You’ll surely recognize the lovely Meriwether (Miss America in 1955) from her illustrious career. She was nominated for both Emmy and Golden Globes for her stint on “Barnaby Jones,” worked on “Mission Impossible,” played Catwoman in “Batman” in 1966, and has been featured in countless stage shows and musicals. She currently plays Ruth Martin on TV’s “All My Children.” Lee is a wonderful actress and a class act! Moody lighting by Yancey Dunham and music by Kenneth Atkins perfectly set the mood for this eerie telling. For a mesmerizingly haunting 60 minutes of compelling “live” theatre, offered by an agelessly stunning respected stage actress of stage and screen… do take the time to meet the soulful and troubled women of “Spoon River”!
This production is an adaptation of Spoon River Anthology, a book of short poems written by Edgar Lee Masters in 1916 and a staple in high school and collegiate English departments across America. In this newly adapted version, Women of Spoon River: Their Voices From The Hill, the famed Lee Meriwether portrays the women of Spoon River, a fictional town in the mid-western United States that is inspired by an actual body of water of the same name. This is not however, Ms Meriwether’s first time in Spoon River. She was part of the original Theatre West workshop in 1962 and understudied three leading ladies in the subsequent Broadway production. This new take on Spoon River is an obvious labor of love as evidenced by the commitment to the work and intention of touring colleges and universities across the United States.
Ms. Meriwether portrays twenty-six characters young and old with an approach that alleviates any confusion as to who is who. Each character has her own specific demeanor and physicality as they are skillfully brought back from the dead and onto the stage in a series of moving vignettes. At first the vignettes stand alone but as they progress, the relationships between characters becomes apparent and the play becomes whole. The variation among the characters is astounding and it includes socialites, widowers, and many differing personality types, each narrating their own interesting story. The audience is allowed into the mind of each character as they recount their lives from beyond the grave, sometimes even reflecting on their own demise. While some appear innocent, others have tasted suicide, murder, conspiracy and scandal as the women of Spoon River paint a picture of the sometimes harsh realities of life, and eventually death, in their small town. A single-hander such as this is a tough feat for any actor to handle, but with an experienced and well seasoned performer such as Lee Meriwether at the helm, both the quality and integrity of the work are well maintained. The acting is superb and the pacing just right to keep the audience interested.
The set suggests a graveyard setting with several dead trees placed around the space. Props for the piece are cleverly hidden among the branches and utilized at the appropriate times in order to accentuate the characters. The trees are situated around and behind a series of chairs that also double as gravestones. The lighting is mood-reflective, adapting to each personality type and effectively mirroring the sentiment and weight of each character. At times it is a little dim, but this does not detract from the experience. It is recommend that you sit in the front half of the theater to ensure that everything can be seen and heard, as there are no microphones in use.
The Women of Spoon River: Their Voices From The Hill is highly recommended for students of American English, especially those studying Spoon River Anthology. Adults of all ages will appreciate the production but children will most likely not understand the complexities of the characters and the underlying messages of the piece so it is best to get a babysitter for this one.
The production runs roughly 55 minutes and is followed by a Q & A with Lee Meriwether. Show dates run through February 13th every Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. Theatre West is in Hollywood, CA and offers free parking in a lot across the street.
Theatre West presents Lee Meriwether in WOMEN OF SPOON RIVER-THEIR VOICES FROM THE HILL, a solo show that highlights some of the women that once lived in the community of Spoon River, Illinois, and makes its world premier.
The play opens at a cemetery on a hill overlooking this village set in the heart of the Prairie State. Among the many tombstones and markers that dot this quiet section are the sprints of a brood of those that existed in this hamlet from not so many generations before. Lee starts off as a visitor to the hill, and among each marker, she transfers herself representing these women. Many were hard working souls that raised a multitude of children and taught each one well. Then there were the ones that lived and died too soon if not by natural causes, then by another's making. There were others that lived within Spoon Riverlater to leave to live their lives to the fullest and perhaps not full enough, only to return in body only. In spite of their lives and their passings, one element that all hold in common; They make up just a small yet unique part of a township that time didn't necessarily forget.
Lee and Jim Hesselman (who also directs) adapted this one person showcase based upon the poems of Edgar Lee Master that compiled his writings into the work, Spoon River Anthology, first published in 1915 and is based upon the village of Lewistown, Illinois where the actual Spoon River flows. The stage setting itself consists of a dozen or so wooden "sweet shop" chairs lined up in a semi rectangle, acting as the markers of the village's final resting place. Within an hour's stage time, Lee morphs her own being into these many characters through voice and movement, mostly for only a few minutes each. The notion here is their lives are expressed only to what their epitaphs etched upon their markers read. So as these beings come back to live, only a thumbnail sketch is acted upon, suggesting that much of their life stories had died with them. With this simplicity of the setting, Lee shows that these woman were sweet in their own rights, while others were heroines, victims, achievers, and individuals that make what Spoon River was, and perhaps is. The content she speaks upon is earthly. But because this sample only highlights twenty six women folk, the fascination of these females begins to peak, only to move on to the next person as one would witness while moving from one grave to the next. And although it's more of a drama that any other genre, it does hold a musical number entitled Woman From The Hill (composed by Lee and arranged by Kenneth Atkins) that introduces these ladies whose personalities remain, even though their sprints dwell in another place.
For a production that clocks in at less than one hour, WOMEN OF SPOON RIVER holds a lot of significance and meaning. And even to this day, such communities as Spoon Liver still exist in middle America, where each settlement hosts its own final resting place that contain a multitude of stories and fables. It may not be the "eight million stories in the naked city", but just a handful of legends that really matter! This show is highly recommended!