Experimenting on the Stage

Meet literature-theatre major Thalia Wolff.

September 22, 2022

Hometown: Poulsbo, Washington

Thesis advisers: Profs. Kate Bredeson [theatre] and Catherine Witt [French]

Thesis: “‘At This Point the Audience Must No Longer Know What is Happening’: Postdramatic Memory and the Embodiment of Ambiguous Loss in Marguerite Duras’s Savannah Bay (1982-3)”

What it’s about: In the play Savannah Bay, two women struggle to collectively reconstruct the incomprehensible traces of a traumatic event which ties them together: a history of love and loss, the mythic origins of an intergenerational bond of suffering and survival. I close-read the original, experimental 1982 script; compare it with the more streamlined 1983 production text; and describe my process directing the original script on the Reed College stage.

What it’s really about: Linear, straightforward storytelling might not be the way to embody experiences which aren’t experienced or processed in a linear, straightforward way.

Influential professor: Prof. Tamara Metz’s clear, iterative approach to writing assignments and thoughtful feedback helped me in everything from literary close readings to psychology research papers. The way she worked to promote an ethics of care and collaboration in the classroom was inspiring and informative to my practice as a theatre director.

Influential book: In Mad Love and War, a stirring collection of poetry by Joy Harjo, unfolds in a spiraling structure, reflecting the transformation of memory into an always active, imaginatively and collectively developing subject.

Concept that blew my mind: The rhizome as a literary concept. The idea of a mode of representation that defied the simplicity of linear causative logic and explored the nonhierarchical interconnectedness of all things spoke to my experience of the world and to my favorite forms of meaning-making through art.

Cool stuff: I led two playwriting workshops, directed three plays, including two original musicals, translated a play from French with Prof. Kate Bredeson, and received the David Eddings Literature and Language Scholarship.

What’s next: I’m spending the summer as a teaching artist intern at Seattle Children’s Theatre, then moving to Maine in the fall for a company management apprenticeship with Portland Stage. As long as I’m working with others in an imaginative and experimental context, in the spirit of helping others and in a manner that promotes personal lifelong learning, I’ll be on the right track.