Where have I been? Have I done ANYTHING in the last twelve months? The answer is yes. Yes, I have done many things since February 2016 that have gone unblogged. Although none quite as exciting as having two productions back to back.
I’m working on a few projects right now. One of them revisits an old obsession and the subject of my undergraduate Women’s Studies thesis of a mere twenty years ago: the literary friendship of two Russian women writers at the height of the Stalinist Terror.
The Russian poet Anna Akhmatova gained fame at a young age for her spare and striking poems. Later in life she was deeply affected by Stalin’s purges and the horrors of World War II. She created monuments in verse to the post-Revolutionary suffering of her country and people. Requiem, a cycle of poems about the purges and the arrest of her son, never saw publication in Russia in her lifetime.
Lydia Chukovskaya, poet, editor, and uncompromising critic of the Great Terror, began meeting with Akhmatova in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) in 1938. They became close friends and literary partners. Chukovskaya helped to select and edit Akhmatova’s works for publication, and memorized many of the subversive verses that Akhmatova didn’t dare write down, let alone publish.
Writing as an act of protest under a repressive regime—an attempt to hold on to our humanity when it’s being forcibly stripped away—has always held enormous power for me. I’ve worked on and off on this story for a couple decades, and now it’s finally crystalized. Could this have anything to do with the times we’re living in? I say go now and memorize a whole bunch of your favorite poems, just in case.