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Two one-act plays by Susan Glaspell to hit stage Oct. 5-8

Barry McNamara
MONMOUTH, Ill. – The Monmouth College Department of Theatre will present two one-act plays by pioneer feminist playwright Susan Glaspell Oct. 5-8 at the Fusion Theatre in downtown Monmouth, 230 S. Main St.

Titled “Pieces of Glaspell,” the evening will feature two of Glaspell’s plays that deal with murder – Trifles and Woman’s Honor. The plays will be directed by theatre major Amanda Grissom ’19 of Eldridge, Iowa, who grew up not far from Glaspell’s hometown. A recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, Glaspell hailed from Davenport, Iowa, and she worked for a time for the Des Moines Daily News.

Trifles is a classic murder mystery based on a real-life case Glaspell covered while working as a reporter for the Daily News. Woman’s Honor is a satirical piece about an attractive young man accused of murder who chooses to suffer for a crime he did not commit rather than spoil the honor of the woman with whom he’d spent the night of the murder and who could give him an alibi.

While Trifles is a more serious play, Grissom said Woman’s Honor is “lighthearted and funny, but it’s still making statements about women in society and what their perceived roles are.”

“The interesting thing about doing these two shows together is they have similar subjects ... but they are presented in such different ways,” said Grissom. “It’s an opportunity to have this conversation with stark contrasts so audiences will get different points of view on the same kinds of things.”

Trifles was first performed in 1916, and Woman’s Honor premiered two years later.

“Even though these shows are from a hundred years ago, Susan still has really important things to say that we need to hear today and we need to engage in and see today,” said Grissom. “I’m excited that her work gets to live on, and I get to be a part of sharing (it).”

Grissom said she enjoys the challenge of directing a play.

“I really love analyzing a play and figuring out what the playwright wants to say and then I get to put my own creative twist on it,” she said.

Grissom called immersing herself in plays “this strange amount of time when I’m not myself, but I’m the most myself I’ve ever been. ... It’s this freeing experience of just stepping outside of myself.”

Grissom said she was excited to follow her passion for theatre at Monmouth College.

“On my campus visit, I got a free ticket to see their production of Frankenstein, and it was so powerful and so beautifully done that I left thinking I had to be a part of this theatre department,” she said.

Grissom has done “a little bit of everything” while pursuing her theatre major, including working in the set shop and various acting roles, in addition to work as a dramaturg, props designer and as the director for multiple productions.

“That’s one of the nice things about a small school,” she said. “You can have so many opportunities.”

An English minor, Grissom said she hopes to use that discipline to secure a day job in a field such as editing or tutoring while she continues to pursue her passion for the stage.

“In the evenings, I want to do anything in theatre,” she said. “I will be the person who sweeps the stage. I will be the person who strings the lights. I’ll be the person acting. I’ll do whatever needs to be done to further theatre.”

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Monmouth College will present “Pieces of Glaspell,” featuring Susan Glaspell’s one-act plays Trifles and Woman’s Honor, at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5-7 and at 2 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Fusion Theatre, 230 S. Main St. Tickets can be purchased online at Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and students, and $6 for students and faculty with a Monmouth College ID. Season tickets, which provide a 20 percent discount, are also available.