by Sharon Pollock
Published by Playwrights Canada Press Toronto ON.
Number of Acts: 1
Length: 90 mins
Total actors required: 6
Nell Shipman as a young actress hammed her way across North America in the early 1900's. She was a hit in silent films, established an independent production company and made movies in which strong women played principal roles. But as movie making shifted from art to industry the precepts that guided Nell to success became threats to her life as well as her career.
Confronting death the elderly Shipman accuses herself of sacrificing everything to her art, and achieving nothing. Her younger selves, the actress Helen, and the filmmaker Nell, disagree. They command Shipmanto "Play!" key events in her life for the creation of story has been Shipman's love and escape. Through story-telling meaning will be found. Shipman refuses but as Helen and Nell create their own versions of her life she is forced to play to counter their sugarcoated depictions.
Two Men, always on stage, play various roles, ultimately controlling the parameters of Shipman's life. Thomas Edison's words "the illusion of continuous movement through persistence of vision" echo in Shipman's mind throughout the play. She interprets them as descriptions of her art form, the medium of film, and as commentary and negative judgment of her choices.