“Leisure & Lust” Delves Into Edith Wharton’s Personal Life
By Amy Krzanik
Although Edith Wharton is most well known for her fiction writing (The Age of Innocence; Ethan Frome, The House of Mirth), and interior and landscape designers revere her for her nonfiction books on gardens and decorating, some diehard Wharton fans and scholars are equally fascinated by her private life.
At age 23, after a failed engagement, Edith married one of her brother’s friends, Edward (Teddy) Robbins Wharton, who was 12 years her senior. Except for their mutual love of dogs and travel, by all accounts the couple were not well-matched. During the decade the pair lived together at The Mount in Lenox, Mass., Teddy’s mental health declined and Edith began an affair with journalist Morton Fullerton. Eventually, the couple divorced after 28 years of marriage, and Edith moved to France.
This part of Edith’s life, along with her writing style, are what have inspired playwright Sara Farrington to pen a three-part immersive theater experience titled Leisure, Labor, and Lust. The story revolves around “a brilliant woman with an insatiable hunger for romance, and her tortured husband Harry, a closeted man rapidly losing his grip on reality.” The work is site-specific, as it’s written about The Mount and its inhabitants, and is meant to be performed live in its rooms, which it will be on Friday, Jan. 27 and Saturday, Jan. 28.
Some may remember Farrington from her debut appearance at The Mount in January of 2015, where she presented a staged reading of the first act, Leisure. This time around, she’ll bring us both Leisure and Lust. Friday’s performance, at 7 p.m., will include a talkback with Farrington, director Marina McClure, and the actors, as well as a reception and champagne birthday toast to Wharton, who was born on Jan. 24, 1862.
“Since this is a work-in-progress, audience input is vital to the cast and crew, and they’re eagerly anticipating hearing from our audience,” says Abbie Wilson, The Mount’s Public Programs Coordinator, about Friday evening’s talkback. “This is a unique opportunity to get a glimpse into the theatrical creative process, hear more about the evolution of the script, and discuss what elements of Edith Wharton’s life and work inspired the piece, all over a glass of wine in [Wharton’s] own drawing room.”
Leisure & Lust Theater Performance at The Mount
2 Plunkett St., Lenox, MA
Opening Night with Talkback & Reception: Friday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m.
Additional Performances: Saturday, Jan. 28 at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. & 5 p.m.