A few years back, Canadian playwright Carole Fréchette stood at a turning point. She had reached a place in her personal and professional life where she could choose many different paths, but the only path she wanted to pursue was forbidden. The struggle reminded her of the French folk tale “Bluebeard", written over 300 years ago by Charles Perrault, in which a young lady is warned by her husband that she can open all the doors in the castle, except one.
“As soon as I read ‘Bluebeard’ again, I knew I wanted to write a play based on this simple story, and I knew that it was going to begin with a woman standing in front of a closed door,” remembers Carole. “Yes, of course, ‘Bluebeard’ was an inspiration, but what attracted me was the beauty of this tale, its simplicity. It brings us characters that we find inside ourselves, that speak of our anguish, fears and buried desires.
The play Carole Fréchette wrote inspired by her own anguish, fear and desire is The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs. Described by The Globe and Mail as a “Little Gem”, the play will be staged for the first time in Washington DC at Spooky Action Theater, directed by Helen Murray, Artistic Director of The Hub Theatre. On stage, five Washington actors, Michael Kevin Darnall, Carolyn Kashner, Tuyet Thi Pham, Casie Platt and Mindy Shaw, tell the tale of Grace, a young woman named after a princess who finds herself irresistibly drawn to a mysterious and forbidden room. She has everything—a mansion filled with lavish rooms, a maid servant, an adoring husband who makes no demands except one … she cannot go into the small room at the top of the stairs.
"Certainly, we can see Grace as a woman oppressed by her domineering husband, but this is not all that interested me. What I was drawn to from the beginning is the 'forbidden', represented by the closed door, and the desire to enter it," says Carole. "The conflict I wanted to explore was not so much the conflict between Grace and her husband, but the more painful one, her own conflict. Grace is divided between her desire to live in the comfort offered by the man she loves and her need to put herself in danger to confront a mystery and the truth.
Carole Fréchette has written fifteen plays, which have been translated into twenty languages and staged all over the world, from Montréal to Reykjavik, and Paris to Tokyo. Fréchette was awarded the Governor General’s Award twice and also received the Chalmers Award. She is the 2002 winner of the Siminovitch Prize, a prestigious award that celebrates each year an acknowledged leader in Canadian theatre whose work is transformative and influential. Despite her international recognition, she is seldom staged in the US, which makes Spooky Action's production a unique opportunity for Washington audiences.
"My plays are often presented in Europe, Latin America, Canada, even in Asia, but rarely in the US, " says Carole. "It is a mystery why that happens, because I still feel that my writing belongs to North America, to a style of life, a reality, a view of the world which is closer to those living in Boston or Washington DC than to people in Ushuaia, in the Land of Fire (!), where one of my plays is being presented now."
THE SMALL ROOM AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS
by Carole Fréchette, translated by John Murrell
Directed by Helen Murray, artistic director of The Hub Theatre
Featuring Michael Kevin Darnall, Carolyn Kashner, Tuyet Thi Pham, Casie Platt and Mindy Shaw
Set Design - Jonathan Dahm Robertson
Lighting Design - Brittany Shemuga
Costume Design - Amy MacDonald
Sound Design - David Crandall
Props Design - Amy Kellett
May 17 - June 10, 2018
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