Two of history’s greatest poets struggle to survive each other
FringeArts and Orbiter 3 present The Brownings, an immoderate re-telling of the great love of the 19th century. Ostensibly set in Florence during the 1840s, where Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning eloped after their secret courtship and marriage, the pair write, love, hate, slam dope, and have weird sex all while bickering over who the better poet is. “I imagined their years in Italy as one long writer’s retreat, with all the horror that notion implies,” playwright Sam Henderson told FringeArts in an interview back in August.
Despite the show’s historical grounding, Henderson has taken certain liberties with the particulars of the couple’s story to spin a more nuanced story that eschews biographical nitpicking in favor of something far more accessible. “As I wrote, I noticed I didn’t really care about the historical Brownings at all. I much preferred these other two characters: two great artists, inextricable from each other and in permanent conflict, yearning for a reconciliation that’ll never come.”
It’s the characters’ inextricable connection—in life and in the cultural mind—that fuels this conflict, something that’s well reflected in Henderson’s interpretation of the setting: “For me, the setting of this play is the inside of a head, and we’re watching a divided mind, viciously at war with itself.”
The Brownings is the latest show from the highly acclaimed, self-sustaining producing playwright’s collective Orbiter 3. Focused on sustainability and empowering the playwright as lead artist, this radical experiment in new play theater embraces administrative and fiscal responsibility in the pursuit of the artistic growth of its members. Past productions include Peaceable Kingdom (2017), I Am Not My Motherland (2016), and Moon Man Walk (2015). This production marks FringeArts’ first partnership with Orbiter 3, and as another organization dedicated to aiding emerging artists in the realization of their vision, the pairing could not be a better fit.
This bawdy, rudely comic exploration of the purpose of art and the nature of love runs from November 29 - December 9 at FringeArts’ waterfront headquarters, 140 N Columbus Blvd. (at Race St.). Tickets cost $15 for students and are available by phone at 215-413-1318 or online at FringeArts.com.
The Brownings by Sam Henderson/Orbiter 3
Written by: Sam Henderson
Directed by: Harriet Power
Performers: James Ijames, David Ingram, Charlotte Northeast