mysterious & eerie tales from Sarah Orne Jewett
Sarah Orne Jewett was a 19th century, New England regional writer, who lived in South Berwick Maine. She was considered to be one of the best regional writers of her time and due to her popularity, her work was published in notable magazines such as the Atlantic Monthly. She is best known for her stories about 19th c. New England life where she highlights not only the landscape, but its peculiar people. Jewett's descriptive style was called by her editor, William Dean Howells "...an uncommon feeling for talk-I hear your people." Her stories often entail women's lives and their relationships and her most notable works are The Country of Pointed Firs and the White Heron. Miss Jewett mentored Willa Cather and after a series of unsuccessful novels, Jewett advised her to write about what and where she knew. Miss Cather took her advice and in 1913, wrote O Pioneers!.
Though she was not encouraged to venture into the Gothic genre by her editor, Miss Jewett did write a collection of Gothic short stories. For the most part, the main characters are female and they deal with different themes such as curses, immortality, ghosts, and death and feature, as their backdrop the shadowy and eerie nuances of New England's landscape: abandoned mansions and farmhouses, lonely hilltops and marshes, odd, colorful "Yankees" and natives. Miss Jewett was a fan of Edgar Alan Poe and at times adapted his themes into stories of her own. In turn, the 20th century writers, Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft borrowed and expanded on some of her work.
For my show, Gothic Victorian Tales by Candlelight, I've adapted three of Miss Jewett's short stories into a theatrical storytelling presentation. You may ask, What is Theatrical Storytelling? It's certainly not a dramatic reading of a story, where the performer reads a story to the audience. For me, theatrical storytelling is where the performer adapts the story, memorizes it and then acts it out for the audience in a theatrical setting. And I do just that! This show includes a small set and some appropriate lighting to create an eerie atmosphere. Perfect for March & the Fall months.
In my presentation, the audience will meet a father and daughter embroiled in a family curse, a stranger who comes to a small town and lives in the local haunted house, and a very old woman with a mysterious past. These stories are not scary but more eerie, suspenseful and mysterious. The audience doesn't have to believe in the supernatural to be entertained. Miss Jewett, always kept open the possibility of a logical explanation in her writing, leaving it up to the reader to make up their mind. Enjoying this show requires only a willingness to listen to a great story!
"Rita Parisi's presentation of Gothic Victorian Tales by Candlelight is transporting. She enters the room as Sarah Orne Jewett in period dress, silently evoking Jewett's time and place. She speaks as Jewett, the storyteller, and as Jewett's characters, and is so true, so effortless in her delivery that Rita is, in turn, each of them. Against a simple backdrop and so few props, what Rita does is no less than magical, no less mysterious and mystical than Jewett's work itself."
-Susan Odencrantz, audience member, Cape Elizabeth ME
"This afternoon at the Whittier Home Museum, Rita portrayed author Sarah Orne Jewett and performed the essence of three of her Gothic tales - some of which inspired Lovecraft. A stunning, riveting performance with a voice you don't want to relinquish!"
-Edith Maxwell, author of the Quaker Midwife Series of books