Campbell House Museum is artfully decorated for A Room Of One’s Own‘s nightly pre-show reception. Always elegant, the various rooms have cozy fires going, and books and letters are arranged for audience perusal. (We later heard many of these materials were sourced specifically for the show by star and producer Naomi Wright, who exhaustively researched her role as Virigina Woolf.)
After tea and historically appropriate 1928-era appetizers are served, the audience is gathered in the upstairs sitting room, while cellist Cheryl O plays in the hallway. The main event for the evening is a historical re-enactment of a seminal speech by Woolf, the early feminist writer, who exceeded expectations when she was asked to address the historical society at Cambridge’s all-girl Girton College (it has since become co-ed) on the topic of “women in fiction.” The speech went on to become the basis for one of Woolf’s best-known books, A Room of One’s Own, and a rallying cry for the feminist movement.
The idea outlined in the speech is a simple concept that Woolf drives home with subtle variations over her hour-long address: women, she says, won’t be able to achieve great things as writers or creators of any kind until they have free time, “some money, and a room of one’s own.”
Introduced by Girton’s “head girl” (a charming cameo by Kayla Lorette), Wright-as-Woolf takes the podium and quickly reels us in. It’s a one-woman show from there on in, with the occasional musical flourish from the hallway. The speech, with its bitingly sarcastic stories of waist-coated “beetles” shooing Woolf out of libraries and off lawns where men were welcome to relax, lives and dies by its delivery. Wright is exceptional throughout; her accent and mannerisms as Woolf are impeccable. It’s a role totally unlike others we’ve seen her in, such as the practical wife in The Ugly One. (Wright is in Theatre Smash’s remount of The Ugly One in January.)
Wright’s mining of the wit and the bile, the exhortations and the encouragement in Woolf’s speech is engrossing, and it’s a shame the run is limited to two weeks. It’s an inspiring address to writers of any genre and to students of any gender.