I’ve now done two of four sessions on Woolf for a book discussion series at the Brooklyn Public Library. They have been amazing. Preparing to talk about Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse with a group (how big? somewhere between twenty and forty) of adults, some of whom have been reading Woolf since before I was born, others who’ve never read her is thrilling and nerve-wracking. I can do little else on the day of a talk.
But then, to get into a room with other adults who’ve chosen to spend part of their day thinking and talking about a writer is a deeply moving thing and, once we get going, the time takes care of itself.
The conversation I had on Sunday, however, was unlike any other conversation I’ve had about Woolf in all my quarter century of studying her.
Luna Stage, just down the road from me in West Orange, is mounting the New Jersey Premier of Vita and Virginia (Eileen Atkins’ wonderful adaptation of letters to tell the story of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf’s love affair and of their continuing friendship thereafter) and they invited me to give a talkback after one of the performances. Of course, I said yes. A friend and I were already planning to go.
Then they asked me if I would speak with the director and the actresses.
On Sunday, I did.
We planned to talk for an hour, but it quickly grew to two. I did my best to tell them how to pronounce Lytton Strachey and Violet Trefusis. I tried to explain, not as an intellectual, but in ways that would help an actress, what I thought drew these women to each other, how I understood their sexualities and their attraction to each other. By the end of the time, the actresses were more in character than out, “I think I’m jealous…” “I say you don’t get anything done, but you get so much done…”
What a magical thing: to knock on a door, meet a group of strangers, and, within moments be passionately debating what it might have been like to be another woman altogether.
I’m still smiling.
If you’re in the area, I’ll be talking about Between the Acts on Wednesday, 9/19, 3:00-5:00 and about Moments of Being two weeks later, on 10/3. Both of these events are at the Brooklyn Public Library. These discussions are free and open to the public.
My talkback at Luna Stage is after the 3:00 PM performance on Sunday 9/30. The actresses are amazing and tickets are only $25.