The Drowning Girls
by Beth Graham, Charlie Tomlinson, and Daniela Vlaskalic
Directed by Jon Harvey
July 16 – August 1, 2015
Studio 101 @ Spring Street Studios
“Over and done with before you’ve had a chance to catch your breath”
Mildred’s Umbrella Theatre Company was proud to present the regional premiere of The Drowning Girls, a modern interpretation and poetic retelling of the “Brides in the Bath” slayings in 20th century England. The work also examines the lengthy history of misogyny and domestic abuse in modern civilization.
Originally produced in Canada for the Edmonton Fringe Festival, the work will debut in Houston July 16, 2015, and will run for 11 performances through August 1 at Studio 101 in Houston’s First Ward Arts District. In line with MU’s mission to promote and support the work of women, the play, written by three female playwrights, illustrates how far women have come in the fight for equality in the past 100 years.
The characters, Alice Burnham, Margaret Lofty and Bessie Mundy, recreate through poetic and graphic language the almost ritualistic, psychological abuse they suffered at the hands of their common husband and murderer George Joseph Smith. In memoriam of these victims, MU will mount this production on the 100-year anniversary of Smith’s trial and execution. For more information, click here to read an article about the actual events.
MU Company Member and Director Jonathan Harvey, former artistic director of The Fan Factory, directed the moody, experimental production, for which he was determined to secure production rights over a three-year period.
Combining the weight of the historical struggle for women’s rights with poetic, evocative language, this work speaks to the audience on levels that will provoke a deep, visceral experience, according to Harvey. “The blend of style, tone, and content can give a good piece wings to create magic on the stage,” he explains. “For Mildred’s, it should be dark, intelligent, and feature strong female roles for this theater company’s impressive ensemble of actresses, and The Drowning Girls is a dramatic achievement on all fronts.”
“Drowning Girls’ story of three women who have been murdered by their husband in the same grisly style, welcoming the audience into their purgatory to tell us their tale, is dark, unapologetic and challenges audiences to explore the shadows of our existence,” Harvey continues. “This is the kind of storytelling Mildred’s excels at and for which we’ve come to be known.”
The all-female cast featured Patricia Duran (member of Actor’s Equity Association and MU company member), Courtney Lomelo (acclaimed local film and stage actress) and Miranda Herbert (last seen in The Catastrophic Theatre’s premiere of Will Eno’s MIDDLETOWN).
The set, designed and engineered by Jodi Bobrovsky (Stages Repertory Theatre and Moore’s Opera House prop and set designer), was technically challenging, involving three bath tubs with running water, and original music was scored by Andy McWilliams, local musician for The Scattered Pages and Brunson Theatre Project. Greg Starbird (lights) and Lindsay Burns (costumes), both MU fixtures, rounded out the design team.
“Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company consistently and bravely produces work with difficult subject matter, and continues to be one of the few theatrical companies in Houston that tackles such work with serious artistry,” says Artistic Director Jennifer Decker. “It is important that artists have the opportunity to work on a theatrical production that is meaningful to our community and has the potential to significantly impact our society. To paraphrase our namesake, Mildred’s work is a cause, a loud clash, a restitution.”
REVIEWS & PRESS:
“BWW Interviews: Jennifer Decker and Jon Harvey Dive In With The Drowning Girls“ – Natalie de la Garza, Broadway World, June 29, 2015
“Domestic violence is the root of Drowning Girls“ – Joseph Campana, Houston Chronicle, July 10, 2015
“BWW Reviews: Mildred’s Umbrella and the Grim Sister Wives of The Drowning Girls Reinvigorate The Stage” – Katricia Lang, Broadway World, July 22, 2015
“Waterlogged Wives of Bath in The Drowning Girls at Mildred’s Umbrella” – Allison Considine, American Theatre, July 23, 2015
“MU’s The Drowning Girls“ – John DeMers, Houston Arts Week, July 25, 2015
Interview on Deadbeat, KPFT, July 25, 2015
Cast and Crew
Alice: Courtney Lomelo
Bessie: Patricia Duran*
Margaret: Miranda Herbert
Director: Jon Harvey
Stage Manager: Rod Todd
Production Manager: Jennifer Decker
Light Design: Greg Starbird
Costume Design: Lindsay Burns
Sound Design: Andy McWilliams
Set Design: Jodi Bobrovsky
Set Construction: Drew Hoovler
Tech Crew: Bree Bridger & Tori Dominguez
Box Office Manager: Dennis Draper
Content Consultant: Alycia Harvey