The Passions of Mabel Dodge Luhan

by Elizabeth Cunningham

When it comes to theater productions, not often does the public get to converse simultaneously with actor, playwright and director. Now audiences will have that opportunity. On Wednesday, July 8, 2015 actor and playwright Leslie Harrell Dillen will present a 20-minute segment of “The Passions of Mabel Dodge Luhan.” Following the performance, director Kent Kirkpatrick joins Leslie to discuss the creative process of writing, acting and staging a one-person show.

Mabel Striped Blanket

Mabel in Taos, circa 1918

In the first part of the program, Leslie as Mabel conducts one of her famous “Evenings” with the audience. This performance centers on her December 1918 arrival in Taos. The piece continues with Mabel meeting Tony Lujan at Taos Pueblo, and ends with the beginning of their relationship. For the second half Dillen talks about the research and writing that led to performing her play. She first encountered Mabel at Yale’s Beinecke Library twenty years ago. “I pulled out a Christmas card Mabel had sent to someone. It had a piece of sage inside. At that moment she took hold of me.”

Initially, Leslie knew little about this notorious, much-married art patron and symbol of the New Woman. Through research she discovered how her subject’s life connected with important social and intellectual issues of the early 20th century. “Taking passages from her books and essays, I wove Mabel’s words together and let them shape the play. The passages I chose show my personal response to her.

Leslie Dillen

Leslie Harrell Dillen as Mabel, 2015

What resulted was a play that offers audiences the opportunity to experience both Mabel’s passions and her power on an intimate theatrical level. “Experiencing Mabel on the stage brings her off the page and into our lives, which is just where Mabel likes us to be.”

The “Evening” with these two seasoned performers promises to be rich. As an actress Leslie Harrell Dillen has appeared in theatre, television and film in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. She has written six solo shows and performed throughout the U.S. and abroad at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Leslie is currently at work on her first novel and teaches Performing for Film and Media at The Santa Fe Community College.

Director Kent Kirkpatrick has worked in all aspects of theater and film. In New Mexico he acted and/or directed for Theater Grottesco, Santa Fe Opera, and the Santa Fe Playhouse, among others. He teaches in The Film School at Santa Fe University of Art and Design. When time permits, he directs and produces his own films.

Event details: Wednesday, July 8, 2015 at Mabel Dodge Luhan House classroom, 240 Morada Lane. $10 admission includes discussion with actor and director about creating and producing a one-person play. Limited seating, reservations recommended. Call (575) 751-9686. Carpooling is encouraged due to limited parking space.

This performance previews the full-length production slated next year at the Harwood Museum of Art as part of the Mabel & Company exhibition.

 

Leslie will also perform the full-length play next month at the Santa Fe Playhouse. The show runs August 6-16, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m. Reservation contacts: online tickets through www.santafeplayhouse.org; call the Playhouse box office at (505) 988-4262; email: playhouse@santafeplayhouse.org.