Cast Set for U.S. Premiere, Age of Arousal, Victorian Tale of Progressive Women

News   Cast Set for U.S. Premiere, Age of Arousal, Victorian Tale of Progressive Women
Casting has been announced for the U.S. premiere of Linda Griffiths' "fantasia," Age of Arousal, to play Dec. 5-Jan. 6, 2008, at Philadelphia's The Wilma Theater.

The Canadian play inspired by George Gissing's Victorian novel, "The Odd Women," will be directed by Wilma co-artistic director Blanka Zizka and feature a cast including Eric Martin Brown, Monique Fowler, Krista Hoeppner, Mary Martello – a recipient of multiple Barrymore Awards and nominations — Larisa Polonsky and Roxanne Wellington.

Opening night is Dec. 12. Actress-playwright Griffiths' plays include Maggie & Pierre — a hit that toured Off-Broadway — Chronic, Alien Creature and The Duchess: a.k.a Wallis Simpson.

The play was acclaimed at the Enbridge playRites Festival, Canada's major new play festival.

"Age of Arousal explores a boldly uncensored world of loosened corsets as five Victorian women pursue a new age where erotic and economic freedom will reign supreme," according to The Wilma.

It's "set in England in the late 19th century when a population imbalance leaves the country flooded with half a million more women than men. The Women's Suffrage Movement is invigorated by the rise in numbers as non-married 'Odd Women' fight with passion, clarity, and confusion for sexual and financial independence. Determined to make women rich, a formerly militant Suffragette and her devoted protégée battle for equal opportunity and enlist female students to master the technology of the male-dominated workplace." The creative team includes set designer Matthew Saunders, costume designer Janus Stefanowicz, lighting designer Russell H. Champa and composer and sound designer Troy Herion, who will compose original music for the production.

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Playwright Griffiths describes Age of Arousal as "wildly inspired" by "The Odd Women."

Gissing described his title characters as "odd in the sense that they do not make a match as we say 'an odd glove.'"

George Orwell called the novel "one of the best in English," and it has also been called the most important novel published in Britain in the 1890s.

When Griffiths discovered Gissing's novel in a used-book store, "it prompted her to undertake an investigation of the women's suffrage movement that she'd long put off," according to The Wilma. "These are my philosophical ancestors," Griffiths stated. "I always wanted to know more about them but was too lazy to find out more until I read 'The Odd Women.' I knew I wasn't going to do a conventional adaptation. I've taken his basic characters and situation, and leapt off a cliff I was dying to leap off."

She explains that Age of Arousal is less a "historical play" than a "fantasia" — "a dream of Victorian England. It is stuffed with historical facts and modern/Victorian issues, but the world created is unreal. Everyone in this play is on the brink of tumultuous change. They're not dry historical figures, but sexual and lubricious, explosive and contradictory."

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