In spring of 2020 – in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – theatres across Chicago were shut down, Court included. Our production of Caryl Churchill’s Fen was halted, the theatre was closed, and we had to get creative. We knew that we didn’t want to abandon Churchill’s rich text, but we knew that we’d have to find a new way to engage with it. Enter: the Theatre & Thought series.
Theatre & Thought was a series of discussions conducted between Fen‘s Production Dramaturg, Derek Matson, and a number of experts: Dr. Siân Adiseshiah, Mary Chamberlain, and Director Vanessa Stalling. In these chats, we get a glimpse into Churchill’s artistic style, the history of the Fens, and the questions preceding a rehearsal process. Each of these conversations sheds light on a different facet of this production, and each of them is a useful tool to understanding one of Churchill’s most ambitious works.
Below are three excerpts that (literally) set the stage for this production and, when you purchase a ticket to Fen, you will be given access to the full recording of each discussion.
After a years-long hiatus, we can’t wait to join you in the Fens.
Dr. Siân Adiseshiah
Dr. Siân Adiseshiah is a Senior Lecturer in English and Drama at Loughborough University in the UK and author of Churchill’s Socialism: Political Resistance in the Plays of Caryl Churchill. This text was then used by Derek Matson in his dramaturgy for Court’s production of Fen. Below is a brief excerpt from their conversation, in which they discuss what makes Caryl Churchill such a unique theatrical voice.
Mary Chamberlain is a novelist, historian, and author of the international bestseller The Dressmaker’s War. Chamberlain’s first book, the highly acclaimed Fenwomen: A Portrait of Women in an English Village was the first to be published by Virago Press in 1975, and was an inspiration for Caryl Churchill’s award-winning play Fen. In their Theatre & Thought discussion, Derek Matson and Mary Chamberlain outline the storied history of the Fens themselves, Mary Chamberlain’s personal history to this region, and the inspiration for her seminal text, Fenwomen.
Vanessa Stalling is the director of Court Theatre’s production of Fen, having most recently directed Titanic: Scenes from The British Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry, 1912 and Photograph 51 at Court. Here, Derek Matson and Vanessa talk through the dramaturgical scaffolding of the play, the moments that might be challenging, and the moments that are particularly exciting.