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New Perspectives Theatre Company Presents Reading of SAPHO OF LESBOS

On Her Shoulders is pleased to present a staged reading of Sappho of Lesbos by Estelle Anna Lewis, directed by Lynn Marie Macy on Wednesday, January 22, 2020. Doors open at 6:45pm for a 7:00pm start with The Play in Context by Emily Rainbow Davis, who situates the script in its historical time and place, followed by the reading and a post-performance Q&A with refreshments.

Admission is by Donation ($10 suggested). The performance is at New Perspectives Studio, 458 West 37 Street @10th Avenue. R.S.V.P. to OnHerShouldersReservations@gmail.com.

ESTELLE ANNA BLANCHE ROBINSON LEWIS was born in April, 1824 near Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of John Robinson, a wealthy planter from Cuba of English and Spanish descent. A precocious student and writer, Lewis translated sections of Virgil's Aeneid into English verse and published a book of original poems, Records of the Heart, while still in school at Emma Willard's Female Seminary in Troy, New York. In 1841, she married Sydney Lewis and moved to his home in Brooklyn, where they became central figures in the New York literary scene and grew close to Edgar Allan Poe. Poe praised Lewis' writing and became something of a mentor to her. Divorced in 1858, Lewis lived abroad and continued to write poetry and drama under the pseudonym "Stella." She read at the Vatican Library and the Bibliothèque Imperiale, and lived for the last decades of her life in London, where she took a house in Bedford Square and studied frequently at the British Museum.

While in Italy in 1863, she wrote her tragedy of Helémah, or the Fall of Montezuma, which was published on her return to the United States the next year. Encouraged by the success of that play, Lewis then wrote her most ambitious work, a dramatization in verse of Sappho's life. Appearing in 1868, it was widely reviewed in England, the U.S., and France, translated into modern Greek, and staged in Athens (although there is no evidence it was ever staged in English.) Sappho: A Tragedy in Five Acts, was immensely popular, going through six editions between 1875 and 1881. In the complexity of characterization, and perhaps because of her previous work in translating Virgil, Lewis creates a Sappho that later scholarly research would support-a woman of keen intelligence, charms, and genius and also with volatile passions, unappeasable longing, frailties of ego, and an imperious will. Regarding Sappho's success, Lewis wrote that "the British press has placed me on a plane with Shakespeare - the highest position accorded to a woman since the Greeks seated Sappho by the side of Homer on the pinnacle of fame." Her last work was a series of sonnets in defense of Edgar Allan Poe. The French poet Alphonse de Lamartine called her the "Female Petrarch," and Poe "the rival of Sappho." She died in London on November 24, 1880.

The Play in Context, the dramaturgical and scholarly presentation component to the program, is sponsored in part by the League of Professional Theatre Women, a non-profit organization promoting visibility and increasing opportunities for women in theatre since 1982. www.theatrewomen.org


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