“Chances are you’ve never heard of Hazel Ellis. And why should you? The Irish actress-playwright only wrote two plays, and after her second, Women Without Men, was produced by Dublin’s Gate Theater in 1938, she dropped off the theatrical stage Although well-received, the play was not published and never revived until the Mint Theater Company’s vigilant artistic director, Jonathan Bank, unearthed it for this excellent Off Broadway production. Mint has evolved into more of a rescue clinic for lost and forgotten plays, a surprising number of them written by women. Even in the company of playwrights like Rachel Crothers and Susan Glaspell, Hazel Ellis is a real find.” – Marilyn Stasio, Variety
Mint Theater Company (Jonathan Bank, Producing Artistic Director) will continue the highly popular Silver Lining Streaming Series with the on-demand streaming of the three-camera archival recording (filmed in HD!) of Women Without Men by Hazel Ellis, directed by Jenn Thompson beginning Monday, February 22nd, and continuing through March 21st. The price of admission is FREE. To receive a password, visit MintTheater.org. Closed captioning is available for all of Mint’s upcoming streaming productions.
Katie Roche by Teresa Deevy will continue through March 28th only.
Women Without Men explores the clash of conflicting natures and petty competitions that erupt amongst the cloistered teaching staff of an all-girls boarding school. Jenn Thompson directed an all-female cast that included Mary Bacon, Joyce Cohen, Shannon Harrington, Kate Middleton, Aedin Moloney, Alexa Shae Niziak, Kellie Overbey, Dee Pelletier, Beatrice Tulchin, Emily Walton, and Amelia White. Women Without Men was also designed by women: Vicki R. Davis will provide scenic design; Martha Halley, costume design; Traci Klainer Polimeni, lighting design; and Jane Shaw, sound design.
A workplace drama laced with biting humor, Hazel Ellis’s Women Without Men is set in the teacher’s lounge of a private girls boarding school in Ireland in the 1930’s. Jean Wade is an enthusiastic young teacher new to the school, where she soon finds herself popular with the students and at odds with her quarrelsome colleagues — especially the antagonistic Miss Connor. When Miss Connor’s life’s work — a history of “beautiful acts” through the ages — is found torn to shreds, Jean is the most likely suspect. With the evidence mounting against her and animosity in the air, will Jean fight for her career, or will she be beaten by the pettiness and jealousy that thrives in the school’s cloistered environment?
Mint’s production of Women Without Men was its first in 77 years—and its American Premiere. Notably, it continued Mint’s concerted effort to produce the work of forgotten female dramatists. “Although the Mint Theater Company is justly lauded for its rehabilitation of forgotten works — the group’s mission is to bring ‘new vitality to worthy but neglected plays’ — I don’t think Jonathan Bank’s outfit gets enough credit for its unwavering dedication to women writers. If I have some issues with the conservative way the productions are staged, I have none with the group’s dedication and fairness. The Mint made its reputation with shows by the likes of Harley Granville-Barker, J.B. Priestley and A.A. Milne, but for me, it’s the plays written by women that have resonated the most. Maybe because the pay-off is sweeter: These women had descended into an obscurity even more pitch-black than that of the male writers produced by the Mint — if it’s hard for female writers to make it to the stage, it’s even harder for their works to be revived,” said Elisabeth Vincentelli in The New York Post. Mint is proud to offer long forgotten plays from Lillian Hellman and Teresa Deevy in addition to Ellis during the Silver Lining Streaming Series.
Hazel Ellis began her theatrical career in the 1930s as a member of the acting ensemble of the Gate Theatre in Dublin. Her first play as author—a study of Lord Byron titled Portrait in Marble—opened at the Gate in 1936. Reviewing that production, The Irish Times noted, “Dublin is able to welcome a good play by a new Irish author — a sufficiently rare occurrence, and one which suggests that Irish drama is about to take a turn for the better.” Her only other play, Women Without Men, was produced only once in 1938 at the Gate Theatre. “Here is a very young author and this is her second play, yet she had the wisdom to give us one of the finest pieces of true realism we have seen in Dublin,” wrote The Irish Tatler and Sketch. The Evening Herald echoed the praise: “Clever characterization, witty dialogue and a serious vein go to make Women Without Men one of the outstanding successes of the present season.” Despite acclaim, the play was never published or revived prior to the Mint production.
Mint has been investing in creating professionally shot and edited full length, three-camera archival recordings filmed in HD since 2013. No Zoom boxes or Computer Generated Imagery – these are professional quality, high-definition recordings of live performances, captured in the theater with live audiences.
“One of the few welcome surprises of 2020 was the announcement by New York’s Mint Theater that it had spent the preceding seven years taping broadcast-ready three-camera archival videos of its off-Broadway productions, and that in lieu of live performances during the pandemic, it would stream these videos for free. As regular readers of this column know, the Mint specializes in small-house revivals of unjustly forgotten 20th-century plays. I have been reviewing one or two of its shows most seasons for the past decade and a half, and each one I’ve seen has been well chosen and flawlessly acted and staged. No other theater company in America has a more consistently high record of artistic quality. The Mint will be webcasting five more shows between now and June, and my plan is to watch and review them all. The company’s motto is ‘Lost Plays Found Here,’ and I have relished all of the 14 scripts, none of which I had previously seen or read, that Jonathan Bank, the Mint’s producing artistic director, has exhumed and brought to my attention since 2005. To be able to see such shows in your home, especially now, is an amazing, heart-easing luxury—one that won’t cost you a cent,” wrote Terry Teachout in The Wall Street Journal, January 7, 2021.
The “Silver” of the Silver Lining Streaming Series also refers to the Mint’s Silver Anniversary: twenty-five years of unearthing and preserving forgotten plays. Upcoming full length archival recordings streaming on demand will include Yours Unfaithfully by Miles Malleson, directed by Jonathan Bank (3/22 to 5/16); A Picture of Autumn by N.C Hunter, directed by Gus Kaikkonen (3/29 to 5/23); and The Fatal Weakness by George Kelly, directed by Jesse Marchese (5/17 to 6/13), all at Mint’s virtual theater, MintTheater.org.
Mint was awarded an OBIE Award for “combining the excitement of discovery with the richness of tradition” and a special Drama Desk Award for “unearthing, presenting and preserving forgotten plays of merit.”
To learn more about Mint’s On Demand Streaming, go to minttheater.org. The price of admission is FREE. To receive a password, visit MintTheater.org.
For more information, including photos and videos of all previous Mint productions, visit minttheater.org.