Costuming, setting and properties
will reflect the period in which Wheatley lived. The frontispiece of the 1773 publication of
her writings is the most famous image of Wheatley, and the image that the
costume should be based upon. It
features Wheatley in a solid-colored dress (bodice attached to skirt) in a
silhouette that would have been appropriate for the late 18th
century and her status in society; a fichu with modest trim draped over her
shoulders; a close cap with ruched fabric as the trim; and a choker
necklace. The setting of this play will
be a domestic space that functions as both a sitting room for guests and a
study. The properties within that space
will also be reflective of the period and consist of pieces that Wheatley may
have kept near her while she wrote.
I would like to employ projections of
images that offer the audience a sense of the moment in Phillis’s biographical
timeline and where she is physically located at each section of her story. Any audio elements that would enhance this
understanding would be used as well.
The intention of this piece is to examine
and appreciate the strength of Phillis Wheatley, using the solo performance
dramatic form. The internal conflict
that must have existed within this woman is astounding; being a highly educated
slave, during a period where independence was being sought by some of the same
people who were actively enslaving other humans could not have been easy for
Phillis. Her work has been criticized by
some as condoning slavery and by others who argue that her work expressed her
disapproval of slavery.
she didn’t leave behind any personal diaries or write an autobiography, writing
a play from her perspective does present a challenge. Her surviving works and the records of her correspondence
offer a wealth of knowledge about what fueled her artistic expression and the
type of impression she made on her contemporaries. Although Phillis Wheatley did not explicitly
state her thoughts toward the matter, I believe that her poetry implies some of
her political beliefs. This is what I
hope to extract from her work in order to create this solo performance piece.