THE LADY AND THE GYPSY is a romantic drama of a woman who is married to one man but loves another. It is based on the true story of 19th century actress and playwright Anna Cora Mowatt. She was hypnotized as a medical aid for her tuberculosis and when under hypnosis, another personality emerged called The Gypsy. A highly theatrical piece with Edgar Allan Poe as narrator, the play shows Lily (as she was called) as a high society lady who is forced to work when her husband essentially goes blind and loses his fortune. She becomes America’s first female elocutionist, writes self-help books, novels, biographies, the play Fashion, and finally goes on stage as an actress. Edgar Allen Poe saw her play Fashion about 9 times and wrote a review of it. The play has a unit set and a cast of 3 women and 4 men. All but three actors play multiple roles. The play won the Jack Morrison Fellowship, funded by the Kennedy Center and was given a staged reading at the Shenandoah Valley Playwrights Retreat. It was later produced at the University of Maine.

A Play in Two Acts by Leroy Clark


CHARACTERS

Lily
James Mowatt
Epes Sargent
Dr. William Channing, Mr. Crisp
Mr. Edgar Allan Poe, Dr. Mott, Mr. Simpson, Dr. Hammond
Mrs. Bleeker, Mrs. Jewels, Mrs. Barry
Julia, Mrs. Dyott

The approach to the play should be highly theatrical in staging and costuming. The play takes place over a period of years from 1834 to 1845 primarily in the Mowatt apartment with a few other locales such as the stage of the Park Theatre using the same set. No attempt at literal settings is intended. A unit set is suggested that will allow for a few minor changes in furniture. In addition to the three leading roles the casting should involve two women and two men who play multiple roles.

There is a rectangular raked platform, placed at an angle with the downstage corner left of center. Up right is the entrance on a small platform one step up, which leads us from the outside to inside. Up stage is a large archway leading up two steps to an alcove and off to other rooms. In the alcove is a sideboard. On the raked platform is a chair and an end table down right. Further upstage is a chaise lounge. Stage left is a desk and a chair. At the opening of the play a tub center stage is hidden by a folding screen. After the first scene, the tub is removed. There are no walls. Entrances are indicated by door frames.

Downstage of the raked platform represents a street. There is a street lamp stage left. Changes in locale and time should be suggested by changes in lighting. Blackouts between scenes should be avoided.

Although the play takes place over many years, with the exception of Lily, costumes do not need to change. Actors playing multiple characters can wear one basic costume and add a vest, a hat, a coat, a moustache, an overskirt, or use a hand props to suggest a different character.