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Meet Pamela Sterling

Welcome to our second feature on Pamela Sterling, writer and performer of Louisa May Alcott: The Power of a Woman, an upcoming free, special event in Now & Then's 3rd season. This solo, staged reading performance will take place Saturday, September 7 at 2PM.

John Perovich (JP): What have been the challenges in developing the script? The performance?

Pamela Sterling (PS): Alcott’s life was so full, so complicated and so multi-faceted. Even though she died comparatively young at the age of 56, she lived many lives in that time. I knew finding a specific focus was important, and when I did, it was helpful----but also frustrating at times. Kind of like in the play where Louisa is packing for a journey, and is trying to decide what to take and what to discard. Deciding what is the most useful, and what is just fun. There were sections that I had great fun performing, but some had to go as they did not really move the story forward.

I hope the audience will realize that this “performance” on Saturday will not be memorized and is still a work in progress. I feel I have finally found a fleshed out and accessible (yet also hope ambiguous and mysterious) “container" for the play. But I am still tweaking, still cutting, still adjusting. One thing I know will be a challenge will be memorizing the script----even though I wrote it. I have never done a solo play before. The closest was a Beckett two hander where my character did the majority of talking. But I still had a partner and someone else on stage with me. This time I am completely alone. I am also looking forward to having a director. Although I have had great help from a few colleagues, none of them has had the time to devote to questioning my performance the way a full-time director will.

JP: What do you hope audiences experience and learn from the performance?

PS: I hope the audience will experience relatable aspects of Alcott’s life that are still relevant over 100 years after her death. Her challenges as a woman and as an artist, as a daughter and a sister. I hope audiences will recognize certain parallels in her life that are still issues today; sexual harassment, civil rights, the balance of family and career.

As a writer myself, I found many parallels to my own struggles as an artist that I hope most artists in the audience will also recognize. I hope audiences will find themselves relating in personal ways that may be unique only to them. I also hope they will learn some things about Louisa May Alcott they may not have known before.

JP: What’s next for the play? I believe you’re performing it in New England this fall. Could you provide us with some details.

I will be traveling to the Catskills in upstate New York on September 17 to rehearse a full production of the play that will be presented at the Open Eye Theatre in Margaretville, NY, directed by my good friend and Artistic Director, Amie Brockway Henson. I am very excited to be appearing at the Margaretville Cauliflower Festival on September 18! Yes. Cauliflower Festival. I will be appearing as Louisa May with another actress who is playing Emily Dickinson in The Belle of Amherst at the Open Eye September 21 -23. My show performs October 3 – 6.

After the “world premiere” in NY, I hope to tour the Valley of the Sun, and beyond. I would love to perform at Orchard House, where the Alcott family lived in Concord, Massachusetts. I will be exploring opportunities for solo festivals. I created this play for myself so I could take it on the road and hope it can help support me in my old age.

JP: Finally, there are many artists out there who I know are interested in developing solo shows that they can perform themselves. What advice do you have for these artists?

PS: I think it is important for all writers to work with a director and/or a dramaturge, but especially when creating a solo show. An outside eye and ear are necessary. But I would also encourage writers not to rush to staging. I had written several drafts before I felt ready to work with someone else. I knew the script would change once I did, and it has. Each time for the better. But I think it was important for me to be confident in what I wanted the play to be and do before I was ready to understand what advice to accept and what to discard from another person.

There is no one “right way” to write a solo show, just as there is no “right way” to create any piece of art. I think you could treat the relationship with your character like a loving relationship. You must feel passion and excitement. You immerse yourself and dive deeply, come up for air, look about you, “Mari Kondo” your story----discard that which is not useful and does not give you joy and keep that which does----immerse yourself again, and repeat. Wait for the “click” that tells you that you are “done.” Or as "done" as any of us are with a play. It may take a while. It took me 6 years. But it may not. I think you will know when you have finished with your work, and when it is time to let yourself and your play rest for a while.

Louisa May Alcott: The Power of a Woman by Pamela Sterling will be presented this Saturday, September 7 at 2PM. Tickets are free and RSVPs can be made by visiting our box office.