Sunday, February 13, 2000

I cannot tell! Suffice to say, is one of the words the Knights of Ni cannot hear!

Dear Mr. Sanders:

I am writing this letter hoping you will engage with me in the production of Susan Glaspell's one - act play “Trifles”. The significance of this play is that it is a true story of a death of a farmer, Mr. John Wright, by his wife, Mrs. Minnie Wright. The plot exposes issues of gender, isolation, and domestic violence. The persona of “Trifles” also reveals the early twentieth century rural America through the characters' dialect, clothing, performance and the setting's environment. I propose to assist you in the production of this play in the following manner: (Introduction to Norton, pp 653-663, 2006)
Lewis Hale is a middle-aged neighborly farmer to the Wright family. His persona weathers the life of farming. Mr. Hale presents himself a sort of a rough around the edges type, who is honest, and 'tells it as it is', and not a man to hasten into judgment. Mr. Hale was the first person to encounter the crime scene earlier the previous day. His initial visit was for the purpose of convincing John Wright to a party telephone line. He sets the scene by reviewing the events of the previous day to the county attorney Mr. Henderson. He summarizes Mrs. Wright as acting “queer”, when he found John Wright in bed with a noose around his neck. (Introduction to Norton, pp 653-663, 2006)
Mrs. Hale, Lewis's wife, is a presently plump, matronly, and a person that is intuitive in nature. Her reason to be at the crime scene is to collect articles for the imprisoned Minnie Wright. She initially presents to the scene cautiously and observant; while after time, her intuitiveness unveils the clues such as the newly baked bread, not being in the bread box, the sloppy needle work in the quilt pieces, the broken bird cage, and the discovery of the dead canary with its neck wrung. It was Mrs. Hale who knew Minnie in her youth, a time when Minnie wore “pretty clothes” and was “lively”, a time when her name was “Minnie Foster”, “one of the town's girls singing in the choir.” She also was the one who realized that being married to John Wright and isolated without family had brought changes to Minnie.
George Henderson is younger than the other characters. He is the county attorney who is the investigator and will be prosecuting Minnie Wright. His persona is more of arrogance, hast, recklessness, and quickness to judge; therefore, he misses vital details that produce clues to the crime, clues that came from Minnie's 'trifle' kitchen and details that arrived from his conversations with Mr. Hale, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters. (Introduction to Norton, pp 653-663, 2006)
Henry Peters is a sheriff of this rural township. The day before, he was summoned to Wright's farm house by Mr Hale. He found John's body, arrested Minnie, and secured the crime scene. His part of the investigation is minimal, since the case was turned over to Mr. Henderson. In the morning of the investigation, Mr. Peters sends one of his deputies to start a fire in the stove and warm the house.
Mrs. Peters is the sheriff's wife. She is a thin wiry woman that has a nervous manner about her. Her purpose is to assist Mrs. Hale in gathering items to bring back to Minnie at the jail-house. Mrs. Peters does not know Minnie as well as Mrs. Hale does; therefore, she has no understanding of how Minne's life changed from vitality to hopelessness. She does understand rage and loneliness. When she was young, she witness her kitten being savagely killed by a hatchet from a neighborhood boy. Sometime after her marriage to Mr. Peters, she suffered a loss of their two year old child while living in a Dakota country side. Even though Mrs. Peters initially leaned more toward the side of caution over prejustice, by the end she understands the life Minnie Wright had with John Wright was nothing but abusive and proceeds to help Mrs. Hale conceal the evidence at hand. (Introduction to Norton, pp 653-663, 2006)
The difference of the sexes and the role they play gives this play its dimension. Men at this time were usually analytical, aggressive, rough and self–centered. The early twentieth century woman represented the family orientation, intuitiveness, sensitivity and compassion. This is demonstrated in the beginning scene where the men portrayed their leadership and dominance by entering the farmhouse's kitchen first while conversing among themselves about the case at hand, while the women followed slowly afterwards quietly standing by the open kitchen door. Another example of this difference is that women are only addressed as Mrs. and not by their first name. The woman's sphere is wonderfully described through sheriff Peter quote in the play: “Nothing here but kitchen things.” Men ignored the women's world, the kitchen; therefore, they looked for clues in all the wrong places.
Although the characters in the play have a vital impact into the development of the plot, I intend to maintain the integrity of the American rural twentieth century environment. To do this, the costumes, staging, and lighting needs to portray the rural life during that time, although emphasis on the kitchen decor will be in the confines of the Wright's. (Introduction to Norton, pp 653-663, 2006)
The clothing of the characters does convey the rural, early twentieth century America. The women characters are dressed in long ankle length skirts and long-sleeved cotton blouses. Since the season is winter, the women's outer-wear consists of a long Winter wool coats, simple wool hats, and zip-up boots. The farmer, Mr. Hall, will be clothed in coveralls and a long-sleeved wool undershirt. The sheriff will wear a simple wool pants with attached suspenders and long-sleeved cotton shirt. The county attorney will be dressed in a simple wool suit and a simple-looking tie. All the men's Winter outer-wear will be short wool winter coats, along with felt rimmed hats and galoshes. (Introduction to Norton, pp 653-663, 2006)
Since all the performance take place in a gloomy unkempt kitchen setting, my proposal would be to have essential props to create that ambiance; however, it should influence the era's rural farmhouse's kitchen that represents wear and tear over the years. The back drop should be colored with a drab off white. This either can be painted on wood or material which ever you prefer. A cast iron pot belly stove is essential for the initial scene. There needs to be good size cast iron sink with one open shelve underneath to arrange iron pots and pans . On the side of the sink, there should a metal pail fill with water and a metal ladle resting inside and a wash bowl. There needs to be one towel roll smudged with coal resting by the sink and one white towel to cover raising bread on the table. A bread loaf and bread box should be seated on a open shelf underneath the cupboard. There also needs to be a small simple wooden table with two wooden chairs. The chairs should be stable enough for an actor to stand on. A wooden cupboard is needed to contain a couple of leaking canning jars and one intact canning jar filled with cherry preserve. A damaged old metal bird cage with the door hinge bent outward should be enclosed in the wooden cupboard. One important item is a narrow wooden stand with one shelf to place the quilting basket containing quilt pieces and sewing material. A stuffed canary is needed for a prop, as well as a decorated box for its tomb. Lastly, a door strategically place for the main entrance used by the actors and actresses and two-side entrances with or without doors in order for the acting crew can come and go accordingly. (Introduction to Norton, pp 653-663, 2006)
Since this is a simple old farm house kitchen, I believe a single hanging light bulb should give the kitchen its final touch; however, I would present it as old and worn to match the ambiance of the kitchen. (Introduction to Norton, pp 653-663, 2006)
I will direct the play as it was intended in its original form. I see no need to alter the performance and direction of the actors and actresses. I believe once you have chosen the correct cast for this play the dialogue indicates the actions of the character and the direction they obviously need to go. There is much to be said about how “Trifles” exposes guilt verse innocence and the ability to sympathize with Mrs. Wright purely through the dialect and actions of the cast, especially Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale. Dialogue is the main vehicle used to describe the life and personality of two absent main characters Minnie Wright (the murderer) and John Wright (the murdered) who are not seen on stage and yet their images take center stage in the plot. (Introduction to Norton, pp 653-663, 2006)
In the past, I have found that audiences do appreciate one-act presentations mostly due to the following reasons: (1) The plays are short and focuses on a single environment; (2) The characters are limited in number; (3) The characters' personalities are developed at a very quick pace.
“Trifles” is an excellent example of a good murder mystery with its progressive twist and turns in the plot. I believe the audience will truly enjoy this one-act murder mystery. Thank you for your time and consideration. (Introduction to Norton, pp 653-663, 2006)

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