A One-Act about Jean Rosenthal
- 2019, Reading at the Highlands Inn, Bethlehem, NH and in Portland, ME.
The play opens in April 1969, after the final dress rehearsal for Martha Graham’s 35th season opener at the City Center. Legendary lighting designer Jean Rosenthal, dying of cancer, arrived in an ambulance and on a gurney for the final lighting check. She has just left to return to the hospital. Her life partner and lighting assistant, Miki (Marion) Kinsella, is alone on the stage. A lighting technician, Ben, notices her behavior and expresses his concern. Miki is agitated and displacing her anger on Martha Graham for allowing Jean to attend the rehearsal. Jean has forbidden Miki to talk about her disease or her dying, and Miki's grief and resentment have reached the breaking point. Ben leaves Miki with a pint of whiskey. She turns on the ghost light, lies down on the stage, and falls asleep.
The ghost of a healthy, younger Jean shows up, and Miki challenges her over what she perceives as excessive loyalty to Martha Graham. Jean’s explanations only exacerbate Miki’s rage, and, in desperation, Jean, pulls the plug on the ghost light and retreats to the shadows. In the darkness, the women begin again, and this time, Miki is able to understand the forces that have shaped her partner and her choices. She arrives at an appreciation of the quality of her partner’s defects, and Jean is able to show her love for Miki the best way she knows how.
The play is a reflection on denial and dying, intimacy and artists, seeing and being seen, and—of course—on light.
*Includes the essay, "Notes on Jean Rosenthal’s Approach to Lighting Design" by Mitchell Jakubka, with resource links.
2 women, 40’s and 50’s; 1 man, 60’s
Single set (bare stage)