The Suitcase under the Bed, so named for the place where all of Teresa Deevy’s writing was stored for decades, prior to the launch of Mint Theater Company’s “Deevy Project”, features four short plays, three of which will be the World Premieres. Deevy, thanks in part to the Mint, is now recognized as “One of Ireland’s best and most neglected dramatists.” (Irish Times)

“One of Ireland’s best and most neglected dramatists.” (Irish Times)

Another name for this evening of short plays might be “Three Proposals and a Break-up.” Each of Deevy’s four plays casts an unsentimental eye on the idea of marriage. One of the plays is even set against the backdrop of a wedding: “I was thinking of my marriage day when I was looking at them two, says Mrs. Marks in The King of Spain’s Daughter. “It is a thought would sadden anyone.”

Teresa Deevy had six plays produced by the Abbey Theatre between 1930 and 1936, and then the Abbey turned its back on her. Deevy’s next and perhaps best play (Wife to James Whelan) was rejected, effectively ending her career as an Abbey playwright.  “I must just make an opening elsewhere,” she wrote to a friend, and then began to write for the radio—a remarkable turn of events, given that she was completely deaf.  She lost her hearing due to an illness in her late teens and was never able to hear her beautifully-crafted dialogue spoken.

In 2010, Mint Theater Company re-introduced author Teresa Deevy to the world with our acclaimed production of Wife to James Whelan, the first of three full productions we gave this brilliant Irish woman. Deevy—a deaf playwright who turned to writing when her dreams of teaching were dashed after losing her hearing at the age of twenty—ended her career writing plays for the radio.

Mint has received worldwide recognition for our effort to restore Teresa Deevy to her proper place in the canon of Irish dramatic literature. Fintan O’Toole, one of Ireland’s leading public intellectuals and drama critics, acknowledged the importance of both Deevy and Mint’s exploration of her work in the pages of the Irish Times in 2013:

Deevy was the great white hope of the Abbey in the mid-1930s. Katie Roche was included alongside the staples of O’Casey and Synge on the Abbey’s tour of the US in 1937. And then she was simply dropped, suddenly and without explanation. Deevy’s next play, Holiday House, was accepted by the Abbey but then shelved, and she was never told why.

That breach has never been properly repaired. The Abbey has twice staged Katie Roche in recent decades… But there has been no coherent exploration of Deevy’s work as a whole by any Irish company. Instead, the Mint Theatre in New York, which specialises in rediscovering lost work, has engaged in what it calls the Teresa Deevy Project.

There are good reasons, both social and artistic, why Irish theatre should pay attention to this project.

This summer, Mint will resume our Teresa Deevy Project with The Suitcase Under the Bed, so named for the location where Deevy’s writing was stored for decades, prior to Mint’s Artistic Director Jonathan Bank’s arrival at the Deevy family home in Waterford in 2010.

Suitcase… will feature the world premiere of three plays: Holiday House, In the Cellar of My Friend, , and Strange Birth. The evening will also include Deevy’s best-known one-act, The King of Spain’s Daughter.

THE KING OF SPAIN’S DAUGHTER
“Annie Kinsella was born with romance in her soul,” the Irish Independent wrote when The King of Spain’s Daughter premiered at the Abbey in 1935. “To her, life was the splendid glowing vision of a poet…yet she lived among peasants who saw her romanticism as wildness and folly, and merely called her liar when the splendor of her imagination gave the semblance of reality to her dreams.”

“One of the best known and most highly esteemed of Teresa Deevy’s plays. And rightly so. For Annie Kinsella…is one of the author’s most striking creations.” (Irish Writing, 1948)

“Has in it all the subtlety and delicacy that are the fine hallmark of Miss Deevy’s work.” (Irish Press, 1952)

 

STRANGE BIRTH (World Premiere)
Sara Meade works at a small rooming house where she observes with determined detachment the heartache of each resident; a caution against falling in love herself. Suddenly the day’s post brings a letter that challenges her resolve.

This delicate, sweet play was published twice but has never been staged. A review in Irish Writing said it “shows the author in full mastery of her powers.”

 

HOLIDAY HOUSE (World Premiere)

It’s August at the seaside and the family is arriving for the summer holiday. Derrick expects to be the center of attention, the one thing they all have in common. There will be Doris to whom he was once engaged, Jil to whom he is now married, and his brother Neil, now married to Doris.

“Of course Mother takes it for granted always that people are happy, and that everyone loves seeing everyone else,—but they don’t, not always.”

 

IN THE CELLAR OF MY FRIEND (World Premiere)

Belle believes that she and Barney came to an understanding last night, but she arrives at his home this morning to a great surprise and a new understanding. A hint of mysticism adds to the mystery of this haunting play.

TERESA DEEVY
(1894-1963)

Teresa Deevy was born on January 21, 1894 at Landscape, her family’s home in Waterford. Nicknamed Tessa, she was the youngest of 13 children. Her father died when she was two, so Tessa formed an especially close bond with her mother.  Mrs. Deevy fostered young Tessa’s imagination, encouraging her to make up stories about the people and things she saw about the house. Details were important- the way light fell across a door frame, the difference between an August morning and an October afternoon—all these made a difference. This stayed with Tessa throughout her writing life.

In 1913, Tessa enrolled at University College, Dublin. She wanted to become a teacher, but after a few months she was struck by a mysterious illness. Her ears rang; she would suddenly get so dizzy so couldn’t stand up; her head throbbed. Doctors eventually diagnosed her with Meniere’s disease, an incurable condition caused by fluid imbalance in the inner ear. Meniere’s can cause deafness, and by 1914, at the age of 20, Tessa had completely lost her hearing.

She was sent to London to study lip-reading. To practice, she went to the theater.  Night after night, she sat in the front row, entranced. The plays of Shaw and Chekhov were her favorite. She admired their richly drawn characters, finely crafted dialogue, and serious themes. Long ago, her mother had encouraged her to write stories. Now Tessa knew how she wanted to tell them.  She decided to become a playwright.

It was an unusual ambition. Tessa had no theatrical connections. As a woman and as a person who was deaf, she didn’t fit the then-typical image of a playwright.  But she was undaunted. Tessa had a quiet genius for understanding the intricacies of the human heart. Her plays would show not only a distinct gift for dialogue, but an uncanny appreciation for meaning hidden between the lines. Years after her death, Tessa’s nephew Jack would recall her striking ability to read people’s thoughts even before they spoke them—a sixth sense perhaps heightened by her deafness.

In 1925, at age 31, Tessa finally felt ready to send her plays to the Abbey, Ireland’s national theater. They were rejected, but one reader had been particularly impressed. This was Lennox Robinson, the Abbey’s managing director and a playwright himself. (Mint audiences may remember his Is Life Worth Living? from 2009). He encouraged Tessa to keep writing.

In 1930, at Robinson’s urging, the Abbey accepted Tessa’s Reapers, a sweeping family epic set in a rural “big house.” In 1932, Tessa won first prize in the Abbey’s new play contest with Temporal Powers (seen at the Mint in 2011). After seeing Temporal Powers, author Frank O’Connor sent Tessa this note: “When I saw Reapers, I knew something was happening. When I saw your new play, I realized it had happened with a vengeance.”

The years from 1930 to 1936 were among the happiest in Tessa’s life. She moved to Dublin with her sister, Nell, who served as a companion and interpreter. She had six plays produced at the Abbey and was considered one of Ireland’s most promising playwrights. Her most popular play, Katie Roche (1936), about an illegitimate servant girl who longs to achieve greatness, was produced in Dublin and London and was included in the Abbey’s 1937 American tour. It was also published in Victor Gollancz’s influential anthology “Famous Plays”.

Then, in the 1940’s, the Abbey mysteriously turned down Tessa’s next play, Wife to James Whelan (seen at the Mint in 2010).   Tessa’s career at the Abbey was effectively over, though they continued to revive some of her older work (Katie Roche was revived five times during her lifetime) and they produced her one act Light Falling at their experimental space, the Peacock, in 1948.  (Light Falling was read at the Mint’s benefit in 2010).  Deevy eventually managed to find other venues for her new work:  Wife to James Whelan was produced at Dublin’s tiny Studio Theatre in 1956, Light Falling was the curtain-raiser for Jack McGowran’s production of Shadow of A Gunman at London’s Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith in 1957. Meanwhile, to support herself, Tessa turned her attention to the burgeoning field of radio. Between 1938 and 1946, she wrote over a dozen plays for the B.B.C. and Radio Éireann, as well as adapted her stage plays for broadcast.  She supervised rehearsals by reading the actors’ lips and amazed everyone with her precise orchestration of sound.

Teresa’s beloved sister Nell died in February 1954.  Without Nell as her interpreter, Tessa could not survive in Dublin. Heartbroken, she returned home to Landscape.  Tessa was now removed from the center of Ireland’s artistic life, but she was not yet forgotten.  In October 1954, she was elected to the Irish Academy of Letters, Ireland’s highest literary honor, though without Nell the triumph was bittersweet.

Gradually, as the years passed, people forgot Tessa. Many Waterford townsfolk weren’t aware she was a playwright. To them, she was a sweet old lady on a bicycle who wore mismatched socks. Poet Sean Dunn recalled her eccentric reputation:

“In the Fifties, she was a thin woman on a bicycle, her gray hair tucked under one of an assortment of strange hats.  She rode through the streets of Waterford and those who knew her tensed as she passed in case a car might hit her.  She heard nothing and just cycled on with the nonchalance of a girl cycling along a country lane. Her clothes never seemed to match. She was seen wearing sandals or runners even in the middle of winter.  Some people thought she’d once written plays. Others knew it, but it was a long time ago.”

In her final years, Tessa’s vertigo—a recurrent symptom of Meniere’s—worsened.   Hardly able to stand on her own, and losing her eyesight, she was moved to Maypark Nursing Home. She died there on January 19, 1963.  James Cheasty, a poet and one of Tessa’s protégés, wrote in her obituary for the Irish Independent:

“Teresa Deevy is dead, but she will not be forgotten.  Those of us who were her friends can never forget her kindness and her great humanity.  For remembrance among the general public she has left behind her work, which is monumental.”

Cast

Ellen Adair
Gina Costigan
Sarah Nicole Deaver
Cynthia Mace
Aidan Redmond
Colin Ryan
A.J. Shively

Creatives

  • Directing Jonathan Bank
  • Sets Vicki R. Davis
  • Costumes Andrew Varga
  • Lights Zach Blane
  • Sound Jane Shaw
  • Props Joshua Yocom
  • Dialects & Dramaturgy Amy Stoller
  • Casting Stephanie Klapper, CSA
  • Production Stage Manager Pamela Edington
  • Stage Manager Jeff Meyers
  • Production Manager Adam Gabel
  • Asst Director Samuel-James DeMattio
  • Illustration Stefano Imbert
  • Graphics Hey Jude Design, Inc.
  • Advertising The Pekoe Group
  • Press David Gersten & Associates

Brunch with Jacqui Deevy

TBD

**Please note, the pre-show talk and brunch with Jacqui Deevy has changed dates. New date will be announced soon.

Brunch and pre-show talk with Jacqui Deevy before matinee performance of Suitcase

Jacqui is Teresa’s grandniece, literary executor and keeper of the flame – a role she inherited from her father.  Jacqui grew up in Waterford, living in the Landscape, the Deevy family home for more than 125 years, where Teresa was born and lived. Jacqui will share her thoughts on the the plays included in The Suitcase Under the Bed and tell stories of the Deevy family.

When: TBD at noon

Where: West Bank Cafe, 407 West 42nd Street

Cost: $89.75 – includes brunch and matinee ticket
$40.00 – brunch only (call the number below to book)

Reserve by calling: 212.315.0231