Kathleen Cahill, who has an MFA in Musical Theater and Opera writing from NYU, has written numerous plays, libretti, and screen plays, has won many awards and is also a writer and editor for Masterpiece Theater. The world premiere of her play, Charm will be presented by Salt Lake Acting Company April 14-May 9. A panel discussion of Margaret Fuller’s life and the position of women will be held at 5:00 p.m., after the Sunday Matinee on April 25.
Free as the famous Transcendentalists may have been in their passion for natural feeling, they were hideabound concerning their feelings for independent women—or so Kathleen Cahill would have it in her play about the iconic–if obscure—Margaret Fuller. Fuller was not just a journalist but the first female foreign correspondent for the New York Tribune under the legendary Horace Greeley—and was a war correspondent at that. She was a book reviewer, as well, and she authored the seminal book Women in the Nineteenth Century. She was also a reformer who fought not only for women’s rights but for abolition and prison reform. She was the first editor of the Transcendental publication The Dial, and was the friend and associate of such formidable—and famous— writers as Thoreau, Emerson, and Hawthorne.
How could such a woman have sunk into obscurity so instantly and completely upon her death? Why is it that only scholars of feminism or transcendentalism know her name? And who was this intense and intensely intelligent writer and thinker who braved custom and criticism alike in the name of freedom of thought and action.
These are questions that rise to the surface in SLAC’s latest play, Charm. Dramatist Cahill presents Fuller as a plain woman who preferred honesty to subterfuge, outspokenness to charm, yet who managed to charm nearly all of the famous thinkers of her day and served as muse to one. In alternating scenes, Fuller trades barbs and philosophy, with Emerson, fans the flames of jealousy in the bosom of Emerson’s wife, flirts with and arouses sexual self-knowledge in the breast of Thoreau, while her attempts at seduction serve as inspiration to the repressed Hawthorn and she becomes his unwitting muse. To further describe the plays action would be to spoil it. Suffice it to say that Fuller’s life is the very stuff of theater, providing a heady mix of the comic, the dramatic, the ironic, that alternately dazzles, pains and amuses us, leaving us breathless in the process. Which is precisely what occurs in the able hands of Kathleen Cahill and SLAC.
Don’t miss Charm. You’ll be more than merely charmed, that I guarantee.