NEW YORK — Several months ago, when I was appearing in “Women on the Verge of HRT” at the Irish Arts Center, Marie Jones (author of “Stones in his Pockets” and “Women on the Verge”) went into a bookstore and asked where was the section that included work by Irish women. The clerk paused for a moment and then said, “Madam, there are no Irish women playwrights!”
“The Whisperers” was actually written by two Irish women … it was begun in 1752 and was finished almost 200 years later by another Irish woman who recognized the quality of the work.
Frances Brinsley Sheridan was, even in the opinion of the critics of her time, one of the best writers alive in the 18th century. However, because she was a woman, she had great difficulty getting her work produced, and her son, Richard B. Sheridan, literally stole many of her characters, plots and even entire scenes from her plays and used them in “School for Scandal” and “The Rivals.”
Mrs. Malaprop originated in “The Whisperers” and came from Richard’s mother’s pen. Richard Brinsley Sheridan lives on today as one of the greatest playwrights of his era and his mother’s work, which is now recognized by literary scholars to be superior, is literally unknown.
Our goal is to bring to public attention the writings of this gifted woman and the many Irish and Irish American women who are now writing in the U.S. and Ireland. There are Irish women, now and in the past, who have created quality work that deserves recognition. We hope to bring to these women the bravos their work has long deserved.
The U.S. premiere of Frances Sheridan’s “A Trip To Bath” as completed by Elizabeth Kuti and directed by Obie award winner Arthur French is indeed something to talk about!
Under the new title of ‘The Whisperers,” the play has spanned two centuries in its journey to completion. Written by Sheridan in the mid-18th century, it is believed that the play was still an unfinished work at the time of her death. With only three acts in existence, contemporary Irish writer and actor Elizabeth Kuti decided to complete the work, developing the plot and characters in the manner of the original script.
The result? A free-wheeling comedy of manners that, centering around a pair of unscrupulous fortune hunters bent on seducing two rich but innocent lovers, manages to combine 18th century wickedness and wit with 20th century attitudes to the sexual power of money and the market value of sex.
There will be a post-performance discussion with the cast and director. A reception and full Irish tea will follow each performance.
“The Whisperers” is part of a series of mainstage productions and workshop performances presented during the month of March and titled Shadowed Voices: Female Playwrights of Ireland Heard! The series is an opportunity for American audiences to see a wide variety of works, written by Irish women, that captures the nuances of the female experience in Ireland over the centuries.