If you wish to convey the idea
that I have unconsciously lied: that is one thing.
And there is a prettier and safer way to state it.
My failure, then, is just that I did not provide you evidence
on which to base your theories.
But, in consequence must I be a liar?
I am Patience Worth.
I strut to teach ye I be me.
IMAGES FROM DEVELOPMENTAL WORKSHOPS AT CCAD
Pearl Curran was a housewife in early twentieth century St Louis. She was also the operator of a Ouija board through which Patience Worth, a long-dead early British colonist and thwarted authoress, spoke. Over the course of two decades, a remarkably prolific Patience dictated (and, with the help of Pearl’s husband John, published) millions of words in books, poems, and plays through Pearl’s Ouija board and ultimately through Pearl’s own voice. Over Pearl’s long career as a medium and lecturer, Patience regaled throngs of curious visitors, believers and nonbelievers alike, with cryptic, extemporaneous bon mots. Patience carried on a love affair with a local newspaper editor; Pearl demurred that she was merely the transporting vessel. Patience adopted a child; childless Pearl was delighted.
Plumbing the rich archival holdings of the Missouri Historical Society, Patience Worth explores fragmented identity, sublimated love affairs, a nagging desire for fame, and the limits of credulity.
IMAGES FROM PRODUCTION
Patience Worth was developed in staged reading at Available Light Theatre (Columbus, OH) in January 2014 and at Tristan Bates Theatre (London, UK) in August 2013. In January 2015, Schlueter was awarded an $18,000 grant to develop an immersive projection environment for the piece at the Motion Capture Lab at the Advanced Computing Center for Arts and Design. It was also supported by a $7,600 grant from the Greater Columbus Arts Council.
Patience Worth premiered March 9-12, 2017 at the Kranzberg Arts Center in St. Louis, Missouri and was remounted at the Barnett Theatre in Columbus Ohio May 19-20, 2017.
Written by Jennifer Schlueter
Directed by Jennifer Schlueter and Sarah Ware
Featuring Emily Bach, Christina Ritter, Mandy Fox, Christopher Roche, and Kevin McClatchy
Production Stage Manager: Sheree L. Greco
Animations and Projection Design: Vita Berezina-Blackburn
Projections Design and Development: John Luna
Scenic Design: Brad Steinmetz
Costume Design: Kristine Kearney
Sound Design and Composition: Caitlyn Trevor
Lighting Design: Eric Elz and Sarah Lawler
ABOUT THE PLAY
In keeping with the for/word company’s creative technique, Patience Worth is built out of material written by and about its central characters, including Pearl Curran’s “Rosa Alvaro,” Irene Hickman’s I Knew Patience Worth, Emily Grant Hutchings’s Where Do We Go From Here?, Irving Litvag’s Singer in the Shadows, Walter Prince’s The Case of Patience Worth, William Marion Reedy’s “My Flirtation With Patience Worth,” Daniel B. Shea’s Patience of Pearl, Casper Yost’s Patience Worth: A Psychic Mystery, and the extensive Pearl Curran/Patience Worth collection at the Missouri Historical Society.
For more information about the process of building this play, read my essay in Theatre Survey. For more information on Pearl Curran, read Gioia Diliberto’s Smithsonian Magazinearticle.