J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Mrs. Murray’s Medium in Gloucester

In 1795, two years after the Boston’s first theater opened on Federal Street, it hosted its first play “Written by a Citizen of the United States.”

The anonymous author of The Medium: or, Happy Tea-Party (the subtitle later changed to Virtue Triumphant) was Judith Sargent Murray, already busy as an essayist. Boston Literary History states:
Murray suffered through the hastily rehearsed performance and then had to cope with a potentially damaging review that implied that the author was her husband John Murray, a Universalist minister. Beyond the brouhaha that followed, the play is worthy of study because it conveys Murray’s feminist outlook, especially in the character of Eliza Clairville. Notably, because Eliza wants her marriage to be a union of equals, she refuses to marry the man she loves until she reaches personal financial stability.
Despite that early experience, Murray wrote two more plays. The second, The Traveler Return’d, also has a notably independent and intellectual female lead. Murray published them in her collection The Gleaner, but they didn’t stick around in the repertoire of American drama.

This month the North Shore Folklore Theatre is mounting the first-ever theatrical revival of The Medium in Murray’s home town of Gloucester. The performances will take place at the Magnolia Library & Community Center on Lexington Avenue on weekends from Friday, 4 December, through Sunday, 20 December. Check this webpage for times and tickets, or buy season tickets to the North Shore Folklore Theatre here.

1 comment:

Henry Allen said...

Thank you for posting about our wonderful production! We opened Friday to a resounding and emphatic standing ovation!
Two more weekends to catch this historically important play. Not to be missed!
Fri & Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm - the play runs a little over 2 hours.
Please spread the word! www.NorthShoreFolk.org