On the Edge: the final years of Virginia Woolf wins NEA award

Posted by on Apr 11, 2014 in Interviews, Media, Playwriting, Writing Tips

Virginia Woolf photoOn the Edge: the final years of Virginia Woolf wins the N.E.A. AWARD


A Note from the Playwright:

Sometimes story ideas may arise from what happens to us in our own lives.  Yet they usually connect with something felt within. I was still acting then and had been cast to play Virginia Woolf in an off-Broadway comedy. I began reading everything I could find by and about Woolf in order to better portray the character. Then one day I just sat down and started writing a drama about her struggle with madness in a world gone mad, i.e., WW II — a story far removed from the life of this baby boomer raised in New Orleans and Texas.  I had long been fascinated by the razor’s edge between creative genius and madness: Van Gogh, Nijinsky, and Virginia Woolf, to name a few.  So this was the theme I chose to explore through her life.  Virginia (later titled On the Edge) had the good fortune to be directed by the legendary Harold Clurman (who launched the plays of Tennessee Williams).  The play went on to win the National Endowment for the Arts Award, but the real reward was the emotional response from the audience.  After one evening’s performance, an older woman, born in Europe, approached me and was crying.  She expressed how grateful she was that I had written of the Krystal Nacht incident. Tears filled her eyes as she held my hand tightly, and said simply, “I was there. I was there. ”

A surprise came when friends would come up after a performance of the play and remark how it reminded them of me.  “It’s so you,” they would say.  I was puzzled.  Wasn’t this a play about novelist Virginia Woolf? Then slowly I realized that though the facts of the story were quite removed from my own life, the emotional content was in some ways parallel.  In other words, the story dealt with themes I felt strongly about—something friends would notice, even if the playwright did not! The themes of Bloomsbury were friendship, integrity, and a devotion to the arts which would form a cornerstone for a civilization, a civilization that would survive Nazi Germany and World War II.

So, even when writing about well-known historical figures like Calamity Jane or Virginia Woolf, I still had to make their journey my own, re-discovering the story through myself.

— Catherine Ann Jones, The Way of Story: the craft & soul of writing

There will be revivals of both Calamity Jane the play and Calamity Jane the Musical in 2014:

Sept 26—Oct 12 San Juan Capistrano, CA: Calamity Jane the Musical,                                                       www.caminorealtheatre.org

Oct 17- 26 Carpenteria, CA: Calamity Jane the Play, plazatheatercarpinteria.com