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New Perspectives Theatre Company Presents Reading of GABRIEL (1839)

The On Her Shoulders program introduces women playwrights from the past to contemporary audiences.

On Her Shoulders will present a virtual reading of Gabriel (1839) by George Sand via NPTC's YouTube Channel: NewPerspectivesTC.

The script has been newly translated and adapted by Lynn Marie Macy, who also directs. Melody Brooks provides dramaturgy via The Play in Context, which situates the script in its historical time and place. The broadcast begins at 2:00pm on Saturday, February 27 and will be available through midnight on March 3, 2021. Admission is by Donation. R.S.V.P. to OnHerShouldersReservations@gmail.com.

George Sand was born Armandine Aurore Lucille Dupin in Paris on July 1, 1804 into a quasi noble family. After her father's death, Sand, move with her mother and grandmother to Nohant, France. At the age of fourteen, she was sent to a convent school, but her grandmother called her home, fearing she was becoming too drawn to mysticism. This mystical bent would resurface in Sand's later writing, and is particularly evident in Gabriel. Back on the estate, Sand was encouraged by her tutor to wear men's clothing while horseback riding, and she galloped through the countryside in trousers and a loose shirt, free, wild, and in love with nature.

The image of Sand riding free on horseback mirrors the opening image we hear of Gabriel, and the equation of freedom with horseback riding is repeated throughout the play. In time, Sand would become as notorious for her cross-dressing as she was celebrated for her literary achievements. For Sand, however, wearing men's clothing was a statement about freedom and power, and not about her sexual identity. A string of male lovers would later earn her the appellation of "slut" in more conventional circles.

At nineteen she married the illegitimate though acknowledged son of a baron and was therefore regarded socially as a "Baroness", an ironical contrast to her Republican political views. In 1830 Sand moved to Paris in search of independence and love, leaving her husband and two children behind. She began writing to earn her living and fell in with a literary crowd, including Jules Sandeau, who became her lover. They collaborated on articles and signed them collectively "J. Sand." When the affair ended and she published her first novel independently in 1832, she took as her pen name "George Sand." That novel, Indiana, brought her immediate fame and is a passionate protest against the social conventions that bind a wife to her husband against her will. It was the beginning of a career that would make Sand the most popular writer (of any gender) in Europe until her death in 1876 and beyond.

Although best known for her novels, Sand was no stranger to the Theatre. She acted in her own plays and other people's. She directed actors at every level, from Sarah Bernhardt to enthusiastic amateurs. She designed sets and made costumes, and was familiar with stage lighting and scene changes. Gabriel is one of Sand's earliest plays and it was originally published in serial form as a "play for reading". Sand was unsuccessful in getting it produced, and even tried adapting it in 1850 to be less controversial and gave it a conventional ending. It was not translated into English until 1992 and remained obscure outside of France. In the play, the handsome, heroic heir to a vast estate, raised as a man to follow a man's pursuits and to despise women, is devastated to learn at the age of sixteen that "he" is in fact a "she". Gabriel courageously refuses to give up her male privileges, and her tragic struggle to work and fight and love in all the ways she knows how offers a window into the obstacles faced by Sand herself.


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