Eleemosynary – Continuing the 39th Season with a “Blessing!”

In its continual attempt to produce an ever widening selection of traditional and contemporary theatre, Independent Players continues its 39th Season with the poignant play Eleemosynary, by Lee Blessing, Fridays and Saturdays, March 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 2017 at the Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division Street, Elgin. Curtain time is 8 PM.

The title, Eleemosynary which may seem illusive, is derived from the Greek word for “alms” and in English is defined as “charitable.” In this play, Blessing examines the subtle and often perilous relationship between three remarkable women—a young girl, her mother and her grandmother. The three women are:  the grandmother, Dorothea, who has sought to assert her independence through strong-willed eccentricity; her brilliant daughter Artie (Artemis), who has fled the stifling domination by her mother; and Artie’s daughter, Echo, a child of exceptional intellect and sensitivity whom Artie has abandoned to an upbringing by Dorothea.

As the play begins, Dorothea has suffered a stroke, and although Echo has reestablished contact with her mother, it is only through lengthy telephone conversations, during which real issues are skirted and their talk is mostly about the precocious Echo’s single-minded domination of a national spelling contest.  In the end, after Dorothea’s death, both Artie and Echo come to accept their mutual need and summon the courage to try, at last, to build a life together—despite the risks this holds for them after so many years of alienation and estrangement.

This is the first ever IP production of a play by Lee Blessing, but he has written a number of well-known plays including Two Rooms, Fortinbras, The Scottish Play and A Walk in the Woods. He is a lifelong Midwesterner who was born in Minneapolis, was schooled in Minnetonka and at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis) before earning a BA in English from Reed College in Portland, Oregon.  After graduating, he toured Russia where he found information for his best known work A Walk in the Woods which earned him nominations for both a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize.  Six of his plays have been staged at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in Waterford Connecticut during the prestigious National Playwrights Conference.  Four others were premiered at the highly regarded Actors Theatre of Louisville.  Eleemosynary  had its premiere in St. Paul, MN where the critics said “It’s a funny, perceptive and eloquently written play” (St. Paul Pioneer Press) and “It is a simply wonderful job of playwriting—one of the best I’ve seen in years!” (Minneapolis Star and Tribune).  As recently as 2013, his play Courting Harry was premiered in St. Paul, MN His plays have garnered seven “Great American Play Awards” and three American Theatre Critics Awards. Over the years, he taught playwriting at the prestigious Iowa Playwrights Workshop and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop (at the University of Iowa) and we believe he currently serves as Head of the graduate playwriting program at Rutgers University.

This production is directed by Larry Boller a perennial favorite director with IP.  The cast of three includes newcomers Sarah Bartley and Lisa Schmela and veteran “player” Marge Uhlarik-Boller.  Tickets will go on sale on February 1, 2017 at independentplayers.org.