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A person sitting and reading a book with a pile of open books next to them.



Lazaridis Hall, Tom Patterson Theatre
Thursday, August 11, 2022
5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Play By the Book

Dramatic readings of exciting plays, offering new perspectives and voices expanding the classical canon.

O, Happy Solitude by Erika Ritter

In the mid 1920s, a brash young female reporter named Maurine Dallas Watkins dominated the front pages of the Chicago Tribune with her articles about a string of spousal homicides by disaffected wives and their sensational trials that followed. Soon after, Maurine turned her Tribune columns into an equally brash hit play, Chicago, which ran for months on Broadway in 1927.

By the mid 1950s, Maurine had become a hermit-like figure who remained resolutely out of the public eye—or any eyes, including her own. Outside her apartment, she wore heavy layers of veiling over her entire head. Even indoors, she kept her face covered. Apart from rare appearances at the religious institutions she supported with donations, she saw no one except her aged mother. As well, she paid her agent to make sure Chicago was never staged again—or, worse, fall into the hands of director Bob Fosse, to be turned into a musical.

What had happened to drive an outgoing, ambitious creative force like Maurine Watkins into self-imposed, self-denying solitary confinement?

In O, Happy Solitude an inquisitive graduate student from the Yale School of Drama turns up at Maurine’s door, in search of answers to the riddle of this elusive, reclusive playwright. What unravels between the two of them—and Maurine’s mother—on a summer afternoon in Jacksonville Florida in 1968 is speculative. But, as plausible fiction, is surely no stranger than whatever hidden truths Maurine Watkins took with her to her grave, only a year later.

Support for Play by the Book is generously provided by The Dorothy Strelsin Foundation.

Support for The Meighen Forum is generously provided by Kelly & Michael Meighen and The T.R. Meighen Family Foundation.

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