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Mothers of Drama

Hroswitha of Gandersheim & Hildegard of Bingen

Dulcitius(c. 955-970),Ordo Virtutum (c.1151)


Directed by Lynn Marie Macy; Dramaturgy by Melody Brooks

Thursday, January 17, 2019, 7:00pm

(NY, NY) On Her Shoulders is pleased to present staged readings with music of two plays by the earliest known female dramatists, directed by Lynn Marie Macy on Thursday, January 17, 2019. Doors open at 6:45pm for a 7:00pm start with The Play in Context by Melody Brooks, who situates the scripts in their historical time and place, followed by the readings and a post-performance Q&A with refreshments. Teresa Lotz is Music Consultant.  Admission is by Donation ($10 suggested). The performance is at New Perspectives Studio, 458 W. 37 St. @10th Avenue. R.S.V.P. to

HROSWITHA of Gandersheim (c. 935-1002)(c. 935-1002) is the first known female playwright, and the first recorded European dramatist after the fall of Rome. She was a secular cannoness "which gave her greater freedom than the Benedictine nuns with whom she lived"and is credited with the authorship of eight metrical legends of the saints, six plays, two historical epics, three prose prefaces, several dedications, and a thirty-five line poem on The Revelation of St.; John. The daughter of nobility (Gandersheim only accepted noblewomen), Hroswitha had an extensive and classical education. She wrote in Latin, and in the preface to her collected plays (or Comedies) she acknowledges the influence of Terence, the Roman playwright. She copies his style and subject matter (the allure of sensual love) but turns the originals on their heads with her themes of Christian purity and perseverance. Dulcitius is considered to be the most "comic" of the plays, although modern standards would not agree. Instead they are viewed as precursors to the Medieval Mystery plays that would emerge more than a century later. Her works were lost for almost 500 years before they were found by the German Humanist Conrad Celtis and published in 1501. Additional works were discovered in 1902, eliminating any doubt that they were indeed the creation of this "strong voice" (the Saxon meaning of her name), and a decidedly female voice at that.

HILDEGARD of Bingen (1098-1179) was a German Benedictine abbess, artist, author, composer, mystic, pharmacist, poet, preacher, and theologian. She is also considered to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany. She is best known for three great volumes of visionary theology that detail and then interpret the numerous and ongoing visions she experienced from the age of three. The last volume wasn't completed until Hildegard was in her 70s. Her other works include a variety of musical compositions for use in liturgy, one of the largest bodies of letters (nearly 400) to survive from the Middle Ages, addressed to correspondents ranging from popes to emperors to abbots and abbesses, and including records of many of the sermons she publicly preached in the 1160s and 1170s; two volumes on natural medicine and cures; an invented language called the Lingua ignota ("unknown language"); and various minor works. Her Ordo virtutum is the earliest known musical drama that is not attached to a liturgy, and thus considered to be the oldest surviving morality play. It is the Christian story of sin, confession, repentance, and forgiveness, performed by noblewomen and the nuns of her convent. Most significantly it is the female Virtues who restore the fallen to the community of the faithful, not the male Patriarchs or Prophets. Hildegard composed 82 songs for the piece, but the Devil can only shout and rave. He has no music in him.

LYNN MARIE MACY (Director) most recently directed a staged, costumed reading of her own script: Northanger Abbey, A Romantic Gothic Comedy for Theater 2020 in October 2018. Other directing credits include Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends All for Theater Ten Ten and As You Like It for Minnesota Shakespeare Company. Ms. Macy has also directed her own scripts The Thrice Three Muses and Innocent Diversions, A Christmas Entertainment with Jane Austen & Friends for Distilled Spirits Theatre and Theater Ten Ten. She also recently directed a staged reading of her new script Doubt & Deliberation at Theatre For The New City. The most recent productions of her scripts include The Surprising Measure Of Buried Treasure for The Theater Project in Union, New Jersey and The Color Of Vengeance for NPTC’s Women's Work Short Play Festival, both directed by Sara Berg. Her plays have been staged nationally and internationally.

MELODY BROOKS (Dramaturg) is an award-winning producer/director, founder and Artistic Director of  NPTC. Brooks leads NPTC's Women’s Work Project, which develops short and full-length plays by 12-16 members per year, and produces ON HER SHOULDERS, serving as a regular Director/Dramaturg for the program. She has developed and directed numerous award-winning and acclaimed original and classic plays for NPTC and other companies. Brooks was recently honored as a Trailblazing Woman of Theatre for Artistry & Vision by RhythmColor Associates. She received the "Spirit of Hope Award" in 2015 from Speranza Theatre Company for her support of women theatre artists for more than 25 years, and was named a "Person of the Year" by as a co-founder of 50/50 in 2020: Parity for Women Theatre Artists. She is on the Board of Directors of the League of Professional Theatre Women, and was Co-chair of the triennial LPTW Gilder/Coigney International Theatre Award in 2014 and 2017.

ON HER SHOULDERS was founded in 2013 to present rehearsed, staged readings of plays by women from across the spectrum of time, with contemporary dramaturgs contextualizing them for modern audiences. The program was incorporated into New Perspectives' Women's Work Project in 2014 and continues to strive to make it impossible for producers and theatre companies to deny or ignore the 1,000-year history and value of women's contribution to the theatrical canon. To date the program has presented 45 plays by 35 writers from the years 1668 to 1970. OHS is produced by Melissa Attebery and Melody Brooks. Kristin Heckle is Associate Producer.

NEW PERSPECTIVES THEATRE COMPANY (NPTC) is an award-winning, multi-racial company performing for the last 27 years in Midtown Manhattan, communities throughout NYC, and as of 2015, internationally. The Company’s mission is to develop and produce new plays and playwrights, especially women and people of color; to present classic plays in a style that addresses contemporary issues; and to extend the benefits of theatre to young people and communities in need. Our aim is not to exclude, but to cast a wider net.

The Play in Context, the dramaturgical and scholarly presentation component to the program, is sponsored in part by the League of Professional Theatre Women, a non-profit organization promoting visibility and increasing opportunities for women in theatre since 1982.


This program is made possible, in part, with public funds from the NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.