This video was produced and directed by Eric Sack
It was shot in the Public Access Studio in Lowell Massachusetts
Synopsis of Performance
Kate Snodgrass’ play, Haiku, is about three women-- Nell, the mother and her two children, Louise, the younger daughter, and Billie, the elder,-- their particular idiosyncrasies, and complex relationships. The action takes place in Nell’s living room; the time is the present, but there are flashbacks to her daughters’ childhood, the images of which suggest Louise’s problems without labeling them. Nell is a writer who has published a few non-fiction books and, most recently, a book of haiku poetry. As the play opens, Nell describes scenes from their past and Louise, who has a bandage on her forehead and wears a helmet, spontaneously and orally composes haiku, using some of the images from her mother’s discourse. Nell writes them down with the use of a magnifying glass, as her eyesight is worsening. The first mother-daughter confrontation comes when Nell attempts to give Louise a pill and Louise refuses claiming she’s not “ready to go back,” meaning to the medicated state in which she doesn’t compose poetry.
Their struggle is interrupted by Billie’s arrival. Her intent in coming is to persuade her mother to institutionalize Louise and come to live with her and her husband. In the course of their conversation, Nell reveals that Louise is the true author of the poetry published under Nell’s name. She argues passionately that Louise is better; Billie disagrees. Louise’s disorder, whether autism or some other form of mental disability, takes center stage. As Nell and Billie’s argument accelerates, Louise becomes increasingly agitated and begins screaming and beating her head. Her outburst initiates a denouement wherein Billie agrees to remain for a while with her mother and sister.
The interactions among the characters raise profound, even unanswerable, questions, about the possible relationship between creativity and illness and about family dynamics, e.g. symbiotic mother-daughter bonding, sibling tensions, group delusions. Is Louise, for example, a genius in full possession of mysterious, poetic powers? Mentally ill? Both? Is
Nell a wonderful mother who seeks only to foster her daughter’s well-being or is she
overprotective and manipulative? Does Billie’s agreeing to stay mean she is falling back into the unhealthy and delusional family nexus, or is it a gesture of love and support? Is this play, then, about a dysfunctional family in a downward spiral, or does it show hope in bringing them all together in their display of caring for one another? In her “Notes on Production,” Snodgrass writes, “It is my feeling that the play is weakest when the production tries to “answer” the questions that the script raises. The last moment in the play is meant to be ambiguous.