THE YELLOW WALLPAPER
June 10 & 11, 2016 7:30
DiMenna Center, 450 W 37th St, New York, NY 10018
By Whitney George
Text by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
WORLD PREMIERE. Based on the proto-feminist short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ (2016) tells the story of a woman’s descent into madness through her obsession with a wallpaper. Told through a series of thirteen personal diary entries, the narrator suffers from postpartum depression. After separated from her newborn, John, her husband and physician confines her to the top floor of a summer estate in an effort to remedy her troubles. Cruel and unbending, John refuses to let her leave this room, covered with peeling yellow wallpaper. She writes in a diary to spite him, and finds strange solace, security, and strength in a woman that appears in the wallpaper.
Presented in the first person, the story is a collection of journal entries written by a woman whose physician husband (John) has rented an old mansion for the summer. Forgoing other rooms in the house, the couple moves into the upstairs nursery. As a form of treatment, the unnamed woman is forbidden from working, and is encouraged to eat well and get plenty of exercise and air, so she can recuperate from what he calls a "temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency", a diagnosis common to women in that period. She hides her journal from her husband and his sister the housekeeper, fearful of being reproached for overworking herself. The room's windows are barred to prevent children from climbing through them, and there is a gate across the top of the stairs, though she and her husband have access to the rest of the house and its adjoining estate.
The story depicts the effect of under stimulation on the narrator's mental health and her descent into psychosis. With nothing to stimulate her, she becomes obsessed by the pattern and color of the wallpaper. "It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw – not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things. But there is something else about that paper – the smell! ... The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell."
In the end, she imagines there are women creeping around behind the patterns of the wallpaper and comes to believe she is one of them. She locks herself in the room, now the only place she feels safe, refusing to leave when the summer rental is up. "For outside you have to creep on the ground, and everything is green instead of yellow. But here I can creep smoothly on the floor, and my shoulder just fits in that long smooch around the wall, so I cannot lose my way."
Denise Crawfort, Victoria
Ryan Hill, John
Christine Duncan, The Woman
Whitney George, Conductor
Victoria Benson, Director
The Curiosity Cabinet