Alone in the consulting room of Sigmund Freud’s daughter, Anna, a woman comes to terms with a life in the shadows. It is 1925, the woman is Marry “Mabbie” Burlingame – and she is the granddaughter of Louis Tiffany. The play is Maresflied Gardens, a world premier coming to Theatre 33 on the Willamette University campus.
“Her life to me was both tragic and compelling,” says Susan Coromel, Professor of Theatre at Willamette University and Artistic Director of Theatre 33. Coromel wrote and performs the play. “This young girl, who came from powerful families on both sides, would grow up in a Freudian household addicted, for want of a better word, to psychoanalysis, searching her whole life for a cure, and this led to her ultimate undoing.”
Maresfield Gardens has been in development for over a year. It had its premiere reading in April and was presented in a series of staged readings at the juried SpringWorks Festival in Stratford, Canada. It will be the first full production for Theatre 33, a non-profit theatre in collaboration with Willamette University Theatre which brings together established actors and designers in the mid-Willamette Valley as well as students, faculty and graduates of Willamette’s theatre department.
“I was first drawn to the story when I was researching the main character’s mother, Dorothy Burlingham, who was the last child born of Louis Tiffany,” Coromel says. “She left her husband in 1921 when she was 30 years old, took their four children and traveled to Europe, finally arriving in 1925 on the doorstep of Sigmund Freud. Her relationship to psychoanalysis and Freud’s daughter, Anna, was what I originally thought my play would be about. But the more I researched, I discovered the story I really wanted to tell was of Dorothy’s oldest daughter.”
Producing the play will be Willamette University guest artist, Tom Nabhan, an actor who has appeared in numerous local and region plays, commercials and films. Nabhan is enthusiastic about the quality of the work done at Theatre 33. “Production values are top-tier professional, and the student actors amaze me with their training and ability,” he says. “That is the reason Willamette’s Theatre Dept. was named the best BA College of liberal arts theatre department in the nation by On Stage, a national theatre blog last year.”
Calling Maresfield Gardens a “nuanced, interesting, subtle, tragic, bold and profound” work of art, Nabhan says, “What I love most about it, apart from it being a wonderful and compelling story, is I have watched it grow, page by page, seen it crafted into its first staged reading, traveled to Canada to see it revised and performed at the SpringWorks Festival in Stratford.” Now, he says, “director Rod Ceballos is putting the finishing touches on it as it works toward our company’s first world premiere full performance.”
The first draft of the play was finished a year ago now, according to Coromel. Of the numerous workshops, insights and discoveries along the way she reflects, “It has been an incredible and rewarding journey.”
Nabhan says Theatre 33 is a unique, young, growing company. This summer it has expanded performances and is compensating all artists who work with it, including actors, tech staff, directors, playwrights. It provides students with paid internships as they work alongside professional actors and directors. “We really appreciate the relationship we have built with the university,” Nabhan says, “and the support from our sponsors, donors, and our audience.”
For a powerful story about relationships and control, and a quest to find ones own way no matter what, Salem audiences seeking a production of original vision need look no further than this innovative staging.
World premier of a play
by Susan Coromel
August 11 – 14
Putnam Studio in the
M. Lee Pelton Theatre
Willamette University Campus