For many years, the life and work of Anaïs Nin has inspired one genre of work in particular: the stage play, whether it be musical, dance, spoken word, or a combination of all of these elements. Lately the pace seems to have picked up: there are at least three plays worthy of mention, and most certainly others about which we have yet to hear.
Recently, we posted a notice for the reading of a play written by Doraine Poretz, entitled Anaïs Nin: Woman of the Dream, the script of which was read publicly by the actors in August 2010. The play, which incorporates the novel format of having Nin at different stages of her life onstage together, during which times they interact and sometimes clash about her life’s direction as compared with her young and idealistic visions. Characters from Nin’s diaries appear as well: Henry and June Miller, Gonzalo Moré, and her father, Joaquín Nin. According to Poretz, the reading was a smashing success, and there are plans to fully produce the play in the near future. We will keep you updated on new developments.
David Stallings’ Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell was a selection at the 2008 New York International Fringe Festival, where it received good reviews. Now, Stallings is presenting a reading of the play at 7:30pm Sunday, Sept. 26th, 2010 at Time Out New York Lounge @ New World Stages, located at 340 W. 50th St- NY, NY 10019. Thomas March’ s review of the play for A Café in Space, Vol. 6, 2009, is excerpted below:
Waiting for Nin in the afterlife, on a darkened island near Hades, are several exemplary women whose relationships with the men they loved have become legendary—Andromeda, Heloise, Queen Victoria, and Cleopatra. Each has spent eternity (thus far) longing for and awaiting the man she loved in life. Joan of Arc longs to meet the God whose voice she has come to rely on for guidance and for a sense of her own purpose.
When Anaïs Nin (Shelly Feldman) arrives on the island, she is surprised to find these great women languishing. Armed with her diaries, the most basic insights of psychoanalysis, and 20th Century pharmacology, Nin leaves the island’s inhabitants humbled, liberated—and sometimes destroyed. Feldman’s Nin is not merely a believable impersonation—and it is certainly that. Feldman captures the assurance and fervent urgency of Nin’s sensitivity and sympathy, manifested here in an impulse to free others from self-destructive, self-limiting desires.
Aly Wirth’s Heloise is the emotional foundation of the play, which opens with Heloise’s child-like sadistic teasing of Andromeda. It is Heloise whom Nin helps the most, reminding her of her own beauty and enabling her to recognize the love for Andromeda that has replaced her love for Abelard. Wirth must cover an emotional range that begins with brassy domination, proceeds through tender vulnerability, and ends in a profound disappointment that, shored up by her renewed faith in herself, she prevents from developing into despair and resignation. That’s a lot for any actor to manage, and the anguished silence of her pain commands just as much attention as her exuberant glee.
In his treatment of Anaïs Nin, Stallings has dramatized an important aspect of the process of self-actualization that Nin explored throughout her life—the difficulty of fashioning an approach to self-analysis that does not begin and end in self-regard. Stallings’ Nin quickly realizes the failures of her own understanding and, after first abandoning the Diary, rediscovers the value of what she can offer and realizes the value (or at least inevitability) of paths not her own. Faced with failure and, in some cases, just a simple unwillingness (or inability) to accept the freedom she offers, Nin learns that, however well-intentioned it may be, the imposition of the will—the forced revelation of the “truth” she offers—can have violent, destructive consequences.
Ultimately, those who are free when the play ends are those who can accept the painful fact that liberation from destructive habits does not always bring relief from pain—at least not at first. The freedom to see yourself clearly—and to love yourself fully—also allows you to see the truth about those who love you (or don’t). To love yourself only in terms of another’s love is to be lost in that other’s absence, trapped in an old identity that can only groan at its unraveling seams.
This is a play worth perfecting, as it offers a more thoughtful and subtle psychic landscape than its broad strokes might at first suggest.
Yet another play, An Erotic Evening with Anaïs Nin, is set to begin a run at the Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601, from September 10th to October 16th, written by Michael Phillips (@MPhillipswrites). According to the web site (found here), the plot of the play is as follows:
Anais lived a public life; her diary was exhaustive and complete. But one weekend in the early 1950’s, while Anaïs was living in Los Angeles, she traveled to Arizona. No one, not even her closest friends ever knew why she went there.
The play is set on that missing weekend, at a mental institution, where June is a patient after attempting suicide. Anaïs, through conversations with June, a doctor and an imaginary Henry, the Henry Miller she knew in the early 1930’s, tries to work out why June asked for her and no one else, how she feels about Henry, about June, and if June is still in love with her. It is an emotional, shattering journey of secrets, seduction and betrayal.
To see a video of Phillips and the actress Sonia Maslovskaya (@lylyth79), who portrays Nin, discussing the play, click here. The video reveals fascinating insight of the creative process and how Nin still inspires art. It is well worth watching.
A Café in Space will be reviewing the play, and we will post the review on this blog as well as in Vol. 8, which comes out in February 2011.