Dear Elizabeth: A Play in Letters from Elizabeth Bishop to Robert Lowell and Back Again
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A moving, innovative play based on one of the greatest correspondences in literary history
From 1947 to 1977, Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop exchanged more than four hundred letters. Describing the writing of their poems, their travel and daily illnesses, the pyrotechnics of their romantic relationships, and the profound affection they had for each other, these missives are the most intimate record available of both poets and one of the greatest correspondences in American literature.
The playwright Sarah Ruhl fell in love with these letters and set herself an unusual challenge: to turn this thirty-year exchange into a stage play, and to bring to life the friendship of two writers who were rarely even in the same country. As innovative as it is moving, Dear Elizabeth gives voice to a conversation that lived mostly in writing, illuminating some of the finest poems of the twentieth century and the minds that produced them.
probably know all about the Pulitzer business … I was really surprised … It was very funny here—a reporter from O Globo shouting at me over the telephone, and I kept replying in a cool New Englandy way, “Thank you very much,” and he shouted again, “But dona Elizabetchy, don’t you understand? O Prémio Pulitzer!” Well, one never knows about these things, or how one should feel about them. I am taking the money, or part of it, to buy a high-fidelity victrola. LOWELL I am so delighted by the
He walks over and hands her a manuscript. LOWELL Read Dolphin when you have leisure. I am going to publish, and don’t want advice, except for yours. Lizzie won’t like it. Bishop reads The Dolphin. She looks disapproving. She puts the book down, hard. BISHOP I’ve re-read The Dolphin a good many times now … Please believe that I think it is wonderful poetry. It is also honest poetry—almost. I have one tremendous and awful BUT. If you were any other poet I can think of I certainly wouldn’t
Passion Play: a cycle The Clean House and Other Plays Melancholy Play Late: a cowboy song Eurydice Dead Man’s Cell Phone In the Next Room, or the vibrator play Orlando Stage Kiss NONFICTION 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write A Note About the Author Sarah Ruhl’s plays include In the Next Room, or the vibrator play (Pulitzer Prize finalist; Tony Award nominee for best new play); The Clean House (Pulitzer Prize finalist, 2005; winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize); Passion Play:
MacArthur Fellowship, the Helen Merrill Emerging Playwrights Award, the Whiting Writers’ Award, the PEN American Center Award for a mid-career playwright, the Feminist Press’s Forty Under Forty Award, and the 2010 Lilly Award. She is currently on the faculty at Yale School of Drama and lives in Brooklyn with her family. Faber and Faber, Inc. An affiliate of Farrar, Straus and Giroux 18 West 18th Street, New York 10011 Copyright � 2014 by Sarah Ruhl All rights reserved First edition, 2014
the people here frank, startlingly so, and affectionate, an atmosphere that I just lap up after that dismal winter in Yaddo when I thought my days were numbered. I visited my friend Lota. She wanted me to stay; she offered to build me a studio. I certainly didn’t really want to wander around the world in a drunken daze for the rest of my life. So it’s all fine & dandy. For heaven sakes—please keep me informed about your addresses so I can write to you, and I hope you’ll write to me. I’m probably