The latest incarnation of Monique Fowler’s “The Other Life”
debuted at The Cell Theater on Sunday evening.
Fowler’s play is a tribute to Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell’s
friendship, featuring Fowler (left) as Bishop and John Wojda as Lowell. The script draws from the first decade of
letters in the highly acclaimed collection "Words in Air: The Complete
Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell," (ed. Thomas
Travisano) and weaves in fragments of their poems.
If poetry is a dying art form, the letter is a relic. The letters of Bishop and Lowell frolic between gossip, visits to Pound in the hospital or to Hemingway’s
swimming pool, and personal distresses including Bishop’s battle with alcohol
While Bishop sits at Yaddo, the artists' colony, “blowing bubbles,”Lowell carries her poem, “The Armadillo” around in his wallet. Bishop reacted with cool rationality to Lowell's romantic longings. In a notable letter Lowell wrote, “I assumed that [it] would be a matter of time before I proposed and I half believed that you would accept…The possible alternatives that life allows us are very few…But asking you is the one might have been for me, the one towering change, the other life that might have been had.” While romance is always intriguing, the substance of this relationship was defined by pen and ink. The physical distance dividing Bishop and Lowell distinguished their camaraderie and even devotion, which comes through particularly well in this dramatic reading.
In addition to coupling the letters with lines from their
poetry, Monique Fowler included an outstanding variety of slides that were projected
behind the actors throughout the performance.
The photographs revealed the poets themselves, the scrawl of their
writing, and the ever-captivating views of New England seaports. The harbor shots served as a
reminder of the distance between the poets with Bishop writing from Brazil while Lowell
-- Elizabeth Powers Howort