MIA DILLON, Tony-nominated for her performance in "Crimes of the Heart," is a member of The Theatre Artists Workshop where my plays are receiving their initial development. She is an amazing actor, without vanity, intense in the simplicity of her work, and very intelligent. On top of all these qualities, she's insightful and helpful. Not only did she appear as Old Judith at the National Arts Club recently, when "Judith Shakespeare Has Her Say" was presented, but she was a catalyst for the play's creation.
When Mark Graham and I had an early version of "Shakespeare Rising" read to the TAW membership, Mia pointed out a great flaw in the funeral scene that ends Act I. She said that Judith and her sister would have to be included in the group of mourners. Even though they were children, they would not have been left out of the family group at the grave. When I protested that I was trying to avoid the use of more child actors than was absolutely necessary, she said, "Put a wig and a dress on Bartek and have him walk in the procession!" (I'm sure Bartek, the fifteen year old boy in our cast, would have loved that!) But I don't think she really meant that literally. What she meant was that I was being terribly inauthentic if I didn't include the two Shakespeare girls in the funeral for their brother--or provide a very good reason why they weren't there.
Providing reasons and explanations can be deadly in a play. A play has to unfold with a feeling of inevitability, I think. I think, as well, that the playwright has to cast a spell on the audience, much like a dream-state. Explanations interrupt both of these elements: inevitability, the spell. The funeral scene ending Act I of "Shakespeare Rising" does not include the presence of Judith or Susanna, but so much is going on, I don't think the audience is too concerned about them. However, Mia was right. Some explanation needed to be made somewhere. In the next play of the trilogy.
"Judith Shakespeare Has Her Say" shows that Judith had fallen deathly ill at the same time as her poor twin brother, and the family left Susanna behind to watch over her while they followed Hamnet's body to his grave. They even thought it possible Susanna would rush in with news of Judith's death, and the twins could be buried together. The fact that Judith was the twin who did not die shapes the entire second play. Hamnet's illness and death are historical facts. Judith's sickness is a germ fostered by the imagination and by Mia's suggestion. Thank you.