The Mint’s next production, Women Without Men, will begin performances January 30th and continue through March 26th at Stage II space at New York City Center (131 West 55th Street).

Hazel Ellis’s Women Without Men will be directed by Jenn Thompson (Abundance, The Late Christopher Bean, The Eccentricities of A Nightingale). The play explores the clash of conflicting natures and petty competitions that erupt amongst the cloistered teaching staff of an all-girls boarding school.

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 has never been published or revived.

Mint’s production of Women Without Men will be its first in 77 years—and its American Premiere! Notably, it will also continue 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, I don’t think Jonathan Bank’s outfit gets enough credit for its unwavering dedication to women writers,” wrote Elizabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post in 2012. “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.” In the past Mint Theater has produced plays by Cicely Hamilton, Susan Glaspell, Rachel Crothers, Githa Sowerby, Teresa Deevy, and others. Hazel Ellis joins the list of extraordinary — but shamefully neglected — female playwrights.

By Maya Cantu

The author of two “remarkably fine” plays marked by their “subtle characterization” (The Tatler) and “delicacy of treatment” (The Dublin Opinion), Hazel Ellis cut a bright swath through the Irish theatre, during her brief career as a playwright. Starting as an actress with the Gate Theatre, Ellis enjoyed great successes with her richly observed ensemble dramas Portrait in Marble (1936) and Women Without Men (1938), before virtually disappearing from the Dublin stage at the age of thirty.

The daughter of Arthur B. Ellis and his wife Florence, Hazel Beatrice Ellis was born in 1909 in Rathmines, a middle-class South Dublin neighborhood where her father worked as a solicitor. As a teenager, she attended the French School of Bray, in suburban Dublin. A private girls’ boarding school respected for the quality of its liberal arts and musical education, strictly run by its small female staff, the French School later supplied Ellis with the imaginative basis for Women Without Men. After graduating from the French School, Ellis attended Trinity College. “A young, attractive, golden haired girl” (as described by The Evening Mail), the soft-spoken Ellis blossomed as an actress with Trinity’s Elizabethan Society Players, playing Ophelia in Hamlet.

In 1929, Ellis became a company member of Dublin’s Gate Theatre. Earning particularly strong praise for her comic acting, Ellis appeared in supporting roles in a wide variety of plays at the Gate: ranging from The Cherry Orchard and Denis Johnston’s Expressionist satire The Old Lady Says No!, to Mary Manning’s comedy of manners Youth’s the Season and a tongue-in-cheek revival of the melodrama Sweeney Todd.

In 1936, Ellis stunned the Dublin theatre world with her emergence as a playwright. As an Evening Mail profile described her, “Miss Ellis is so quiet and unassuming that nobody would have expected that beneath it all, she was quietly arranging the substance of her play.” Portrait in Marble traced Lord Byron’s relationships with his wife and his mistress, Lady Caroline Lamb, as well as his friendship with the Irish poet Thomas Moore. The period drama impressed critics as the twenty-five year old actress’s first effort: “Portrait in Marble has none of the patchiness and uncertainty that one associates with a first attempt…its admirable clearness and skill might be envied by a more experienced playwright,” observed The Irish Times.

Ellis continued to develop her craft with the innovative, all-female Women Without Men. Set in the fictional Malyn Park Private School, Women Without Men joined Christa Winsloe’s 1930 German play Mädchen in Uniform (or Girls in Uniform; produced at the Gate in 1934) and Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour in the popular 1930s’ genre of girls’ school dramas, while setting off Ellis’s distinctive voice as a chronicler of Dublin women. The Evening Herald observed, “Clever characterization, witty dialogue, and a serious vein running through six scenes to make Women Without Men one of the outstanding success of the present season at the Gate Theatre.

Seemingly on the verge of a major playwriting career, Ellis transitioned into more domestic pursuits. In 1937, Ellis married Terence Dunne, an actor, bass-baritone, and Dublin businessman. Widowed in 1947, Hazel Dunne remarried Terance Noble, a one-time producer who mounted the Irish premiere of The Glass Menagerie before becoming successful as a hypnotherapist in the Dublin suburbs. Now known as a “Dalkey housewife” (as she was described in The Irish Independent), Hazel Noble made occasional acting appearances (she played Paulina in a local production of The Winter’s Tale in 1968) and became involved in animal rights activism, as secretary of the Irish Council Against Blood Sports. She spent her final days in Mill Hill, England, where she died after a long illness on April 10th, 1989.


Director: Jenn Thompson
Sets: Vicki R. Davis
Costumes: Martha Hally
Lights: Traci Klainer Polimeni
Sound: Jane Shaw
Dialects & Dramaturgy: Amy Stoller
Production Manager: Chris Batstone


Mary Bacon
Joyce Cohen
Shannon Harrington
Kate Middleton
Aedin Moloney
Alexa Shae Niziak
Kellie Overbey
Dee Pelletier
Beatrice Tulchin
Emily Walton
Amelia White