Q&A: New Groundswell Festival

Jane Spidell and Sarah Kitz discuss the workshop production of Susanna Fournier's With Individual Desire at the New Groundswell Festival

Presented by Nightwood Theatre

Jane Spidell and Sarah Kitz in the workshop production of Susanna Fournier's With Individual Desire.

Nightwood Theatre's popular festival of new works returns to launch the company's 2014/15 season from September 8 to 14 in the historic Distillery District. Featuring the work of more than 50 women over seven days, the festival includes workshop productions of Obeah Opera by Nicole Brooks (directed by Weyni Mengesha) and With Individual Desire by Susanna Fournier, as well as a National Play Reading Series, and late-night Saloon Salons on topical themes.

Directed by Kelli Fox, and presented by LadyParts Theatre, With Individual Desire is a theatrical imagining of the relationship between famed bad-girl American poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and her mother Cora. Fournier’s play centres around the two months they spent together in a secluded farmhouse near Dorset after Millay fled Paris with a secret. We caught up with performers Jane Spidell and Sarah Kitz to find out more about their involvement in this exciting workshop.

Theatromania: Tell us about Susanna Fournier's With Individual Desire. How would you describe this work in a few sentences?

JS: Susanna's use of language is a fun challenge in that it's a mix of the character's own words as they wrote them themselves and her own take on the characters' means of expression. It's a curious blending of heightened and casual text. What looks formal on the page must be spoken within the context of an intimate and loving relationship. It's good brain exercise.

SK: With Individual Desire is an imaginative leap we’re making in a very well documented life. Susanna’s script takes the details of Vincent’s life and smashes them against questions that resonate for many women and artists. What is the nature of creating? What is the nature of lineage? Does family supersede art or vice versa? Can we have it all? How? What does that mean?

Theatromania: Who are your characters and can you relate to them at all?

JS: I'm Cora, the devoted mother of Edna Millay, and a well-rounded and educated and independent woman. I don't know if she was "ahead of her time" but she certainly didn't seem to need to subscribe to the traditional role of wife-mother. She has daughters and was divorced, we have that in common. She was avid about food and herbs as medicine, we also have that in common. She fiercely loves her daughter and is her biggest champion, we also share that instinct. She has this need to control, whether it's unwitting or not, that I hope I don't share, however. I think I'd have enjoyed her company a lot.

SK: There is so much of Vincent in me. I think it’s the age I’m at and the questions I’m asking of myself and my work. I believe uncertainty is necessary in art; I think that’s what makes it exciting and dangerous and alive. It’s also a hard way to live, as Vincent’s life shows us. There’s a lot of material in this show that is close to my life, which is a testament to both Susanna’s immense talent for writing terribly real conflict, and how little the female narrative has changed.

Theatromania: Have you learned anything significant from this experience?

JS: The names and medicinal properties of a few herbs... and cocktails!

SK: I want to live in 1922 Paris. I want to collaborate further on this project with this exceptional team. There needs to be a Susanna Fournier festival of plays soon!

Theatromania: What excites you most about this year's New Groundswell Festival?

JS: The chance to support a new work by an interesting playwright, and watch the collaboration between three passionate women actualize an idea from conception to the page to a first attempt to fill a stage. Those three being Susanna, Sarah Kitz and Kelli Fox, who are the brains and the braun behind Lady Parts' inaugural production which is With Individual Desire.

SK: The extraordinary array of female talent and voices assembled.

The New Groundswell Festival runs from September 8 to 14 in the Historic Distillery District, 9 Trinity Street, third floor. Workshop productions are $20 (plus HST) each, tickets are on sale now. Door sales are cash only. With Individual Desire is available as part of Nightwood’s 2014/15 Season Pass. Visit nightwoodtheatre.net for more information.

Show Dates: 
Mon, 2014-09-08 - Sun, 2014-09-14


So glad you enjoyed the show! We are also excited to see it in its final form.
Thanks for reading.

Congratulations to all involved in this production. I saw it last night with my daughter and we were both incredibly moved by it, each of us finding our own truths in both female characters in different ways. Remarkably written, performed, directed and staged - we went on a journey together with the actors which is what the theatre experience should be. I can't wait to see this again in its final form.

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