To Celebrate Canada’s Sesquicentennial, we present Penn Kemp’s new play, THE TRIUMPH OF TERESA HARRIS!
With many thanks to our sponsors:
I believe I have a little of the ‘Bedouin Arab’ in me. –Teresa Harris
Our main character is Teresa Harris, b.1839, Eldon House, London. d. 1928, Wick House, Berkshire, England. She tells her amazing life story from her home in Eldon House. Born the youngest of a prosperous pioneer family intent on bettering itself, Teresa married a wealthy Englishman who promised to carry her off to foreign parts she had dreamed of all her life. Teresa’s story emerges through her own voice and that of her protective mother and her two husbands. Both men offered Teresa escape from the ordinary domestic constraint for a woman of her time and position in colonial London society.
How does a young Victorian woman escape the confines of colonial London and become one of the great explorers of her time? What conditioning does she carry with her about class, culture? These questions have great relevance to our time and place.
Research reveals that Teresa and her second husband George Littledale were the greatest English explorers of their period, travelling further into Asia than any Westerner had. Hers is an historical life as mediated through my imagination. The play is fiction but details come from THROUGH A LAND OF EXTREMES: THE LITTLEDALES OF CENTRAL ASIA, a book about Teresa and St. George Littledale that was researched and written by Elizabeth and Nicholas Clinch. As well, I was inspired by THE ELDON HOUSE DIARIES (Champlain Society,1994), especially those of Teresa`s mother, Amelia. My own visits to beautiful Eldon House brought the era alive. See http://www.eldonhouse.ca for a history of the house!
“I am translated: How does multimedia give form to a poem’s alternate expression?”
My essay in the anthology WOMEN AND MULTIMEDIA illustrates by example how one form demands to be expanded and experienced from the different perspectives of other media. When a poem was not enough, it became a performance, a monologue, a drama as it grips my imagination and expands into several dramatic iterations, including my latest play. The Triumph of Teresa Harris will be produced at London’s Palace Theatre in March, 2017. Poetry is always my first mode of expression but Teresa Harris escaped the bounds of a single poem, demanding that her story be heard more fully. WOMEN AND MULTIMEDIA is available from The League of Canadian Poets, http://poets.ca/product/women-and-multimedia/ and http://poets.ca/feministcaucus/livingarchives/. Posted on http://www.canadiancontentconsultations.ca/have-your-say/brainstormers/creativity/ideas/891
My original poem dedicated to Teresa Harris is performed by Brenda McMorrow and Penn. The video is up on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XO4_aJpvqjE?. Filmed at London’s glorious Aeolian Hall and produced by Dennis Siren.
Pendas Productions is also recording a CD for release in 2017. With Light of East Ensemble musicians Mary Ashton and Panayiotis Giannarapis, and Penn as Teresa.
Read about our original processional play, The Dream Life of Teresa Harris, staged at Eldon House in London, Ontario. See https://teresaharrisdreamlife.wordpress.com/about/, https://teresaharrisdreamlife.wordpress.com/the-team/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/152190684983472/.
What comes next? I have many out-takes and deleted scenes from THE TRIUMPH OF TERESA HARRIS. The stories of the Harris family of Eldon House and especially of Teresa are so fascinating that I long to fashion the extra material into poems. Teresa is indeed one of London’s LOCAL HEROES and that is the working title of a book of poems that I will begin later in 2017.
Teresa’s letter to her mother, Amelia Harris, “in the wilds of Kashmir”, 1877, from
Through a land of extremes : the Littledales of Central Asia, by Elizabeth & Nicholas Clinch Publisher, Stroud [England] : Sutton Publishing, 2007.
“Teresa wrote to her mother on 25 April from Gagnai, a hunting ground:
Here we are far in the wilds of Kashmir. The marching up was rather hard work as there is so much snow. . . . I do not walk much as I have a dandy [sedan chair] and eight kahars [kuhars or bearers], so I can always be carried unless the road is too bad. I had to walk over most of the snow. . . . I am busy all day doing nothing. . . . We are very comfortable in our tents. We have a very good cook and bearer. .. . Eight other coolies who came at Bandipoor . . . said they had been with us before and wanted to be engaged again so we have a number of old faces around us.
She added, ‘Georgie and I as far as we have gone are getting on very well together so I hope we always shall.’ They were off to a good start.”
Letter written by Teresa Newcomen Littledale, Kashmir to Amelia Harris April 25th 1877, Harris Family fonds, Series 3: Correspondence, Western Archives, Western University:
For 2013 press, see https://teresaharrisdreamlife.wordpress.com/2016/01/25/press/.
Photos: Daniela Sneppova, Art Director, The Dream Life of Teresa Harris, Eldon House.