Newsday Tuesday: The Woman in Black


You are going to stop reading my blog. Why? Because again, I’m not going to be talking about a female playwright. BUT I AM going to be talking about a female novelist…and a female screenwriter…and a *COUGHmaleCOUGH* playwright…

So it all shakes out in the end, right?  😉

Daniel Radcliff in THE WOMAN IN BLACK

I love ghost stories. I like the mystery, the creepiness, the taste of the supernatural. I foray into “horror” films occasionally (I use the term loosely; I cannot handle excessive gore or pretty much anything that involves torture. If you recommend I see Hostel or any of the Saw movies, I will never trust you again).  One film I had the pleasure of seeing this past weekend was The Woman in Black with Daniel Radcliff. Seeing Harry Potter conquer a different, more adult role was only one perk; the real reason I wanted so badly to see The Woman in Black is because I was first introduced to it…as a play.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK at the Fortune Theatre. Photograph by Pascal Moliere.

I saw the play version of The Woman in Black probably six or seven years ago; it’s one of my favorite theatrical experiences to this day. Now, it was adapted for the stage (and quite wonderfully, I might add) by playwright Stephen Mallatratt, BUT it is (like the film) based on the novel written by Susan Hill.  I found an interesting article in this week’s Entertainment Weekly about Jane Goldman — the screenwriter for the film version — working closely with Susan Hill to craft her version of the story. So despite the play NOT being adapted by a female playwright, it was cool to see the source material for both an excellent play AND a popular movie (adapted by a female screenwriter) come from a woman writer.

In case you’re interested, I liked the movie.  There are significant differences between the play version and the film version, plus I read in that same Entertainment Weekly article that Goldman took a lot of liberties with the story (with Hill’s approval), but remained true to its essence. Having never read the book (I know! I need to now), I can’t say HOW much she has deviated, but I will say that it’s a good old-fashioned creep-fest of a ghost story and I really love that. BUT…the film also reminded me of the power of live theatre. Because even though I liked this movie, I LOVED the play — it was an experience that has stayed with me for years, making The Woman in Black a play I hope to direct someday (two male actors play all the characters; SO COOL!).  And it also introduces two challenges for me as a dramachick:

1) There seem to be SO FEW really excellent creepy-scary-murder-mystery-ghost-story kind of PLAYS out there.  We are loaded with these stories in the movies, in books, on television…shouldn’t we be taking advantage of our audience’s interest in the macabre by bringing it more often (and well-done!) to the stage?

Novelist Susan Hill with screenwriter Jane Goldman.

2) How many other books WRITTEN BY WOMEN are out there being adapted into plays WRITTEN BY MEN?!  I can think of at least three; both the play and musical versions of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca; the musical version of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre; and Little Women, the Broadway Musical.  We’re missing the boat here, ladies!  How much does it change a story when taken from a woman’s hand and placed into a man’s?  I’m not saying the story suffers or that any of the aforementioned adaptation are in any way poor. But I can’t help but wonder how they might be different if adapted by a female playwright. Makes me want to try!  Or turn the tables; maybe I’ll start adapting Dickens (200 years old today! Happy Birthday, Mr. Dickens!).

Playwright Stephen Mallatratt

I know this is not a typical post for my “Newsday Tuesdays,” but I wanted to take a minute and encourage female playwrights to consider what of their favorite stories out there might be ripe for adaptation. I also wanted to remind my dramachicks and dramadudes that good books can become more than just popular films; they have the potential to be great plays. And maybe there are more excellent play adaptations of books out there than we currently aware of.

So go see The Woman in Black and then read the play.  Or vice versa!  And throw in the novel in for good measure. Then you can tell me which one you like better: movie, book, or play. And maybe start thinking of what YOU could adapt someday.


About dramachicky

I am a dramachick: a playwright, actress, director, wife, singer, reader, aunt, daughter, student, teacher, and dreamer. My husband has taken to calling me dramachicky. :-) I have my M.A. and M.F.A. in creative writing/playwriting from Wilkes University. My husband and I started a small theatre group in northeast Pennsylvania called Ghostlight Productions. I love all things theatre and I am thrilled to launch this blog as a celebration of women playwrights.
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One Response to Newsday Tuesday: The Woman in Black

  1. Jeyna Grace says:

    I think the stage play would be very interesting, unfortunately, i wont get a chance to see it.

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