Written & Performed by Prudence Wright Holmes
Willa Cather, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, led a fascinating life during a time when women seldom had the opportunity to do so. Prudence Wright Holmes’ solo show takes us on her journey, from transgender teenager in 1880’s Nebraska, through college and her years as drama critic at the Pittsburgh Daily Leader, editor at McClure’s magazine, and successful author, through to her death in 1947. Cather met well-known writers like Theodore Dreiser and Mark Twain, and became part of the muckraking journalism movement which helped expose corrupt business practices in large corporations and led to anti-trust legislation. Her book “One of Ours” was her first best seller. It won a Pulitzer Prize, opening many doors for Cather and led to continued professional success for the rest of her life.
Cather’s journey as an artist was far more successful than her confusing romantic life. As a lesbian/transgender man, in a world where these were shameful secrets, she was almost expelled from the University of Nebraska and forced to assume a female identity. This led Cather to hide her sexual preference for the rest of her life. It was her relationship with wealthy socialite ,Isabelle McClung, that provided her with the funds to focus on her writing, although her heart was broken when McClung married a man. Her relationship with her assistant/ life partner, Edith Lewis, self-professed, “Willa Cather’s slave,” kept her on track in her later years.
She died in 1947 with Edith at her side. Her last wish was that all her personal letters would be destroyed so that her true sexual identity would never be revealed. We now live in a world where we celebrate what she felt forced to hide—many of Cather’s letters survived, and they help provide an amazing story, fleshed out here on the stage by Prudence Wright Holmes, directed by Nora Deveau Rosen, with costumes by Pam Leonard.
Full of humor and insight, this play is a celebration of Cather, an amazing role model for anyone who has big dreams and dares to attempt to achieve them.
“You’re in the hands of a master storyteller” – Associated Press
“Prudence Wright Holmes is outstanding” – Backstage.
“Willa Cather: Her Life and Loves by Prudence Wright Holmes was a glorious treatment of the private life of legendary authoress Willa Cather.” – Andrew Martin, www.nitelifeexchange.com
“Prudence Wright Holmes in her one-woman show, Willa Cather: Her Life and Loves is a delightfully dramatic, comedic and compelling storyteller as she weaves the personal and intimate story behind the writer Willa Cather. Prudence explores and reinvents this persona in such a witty and charming manner, dramatizing the trials and tribulations of growing up in a world that did not welcome non-conventional ways to exploring her evolution into a successful writer with a nontraditional love life. With a storytelling style that is everything from brassy and confrontational to vulnerable and endearing she keeps her audience spell bound and laughing.” – Susan Luddeke, Professor of Fine Arts, East Carolina University
“ The show is truly wonderful. It is an excellent display of you craft as an actor to be able to create and so easily and believably distinguish so many different characters. It was an excellent model for students who do similar work.
Your production added something deeper and richer to our understanding of Cather’s prominence as an American author and woman of letters.
I hope you will return soon with another production.” – Ansley Valentine, Director of Theatre
Northern Michigan University, Marquette, Michigan
“Call Me William is a powerful trip back in time which, among other things, reexamines gender roles and the complex life lived by one of American’s greatest writers. Through a studied portrayal of Cather and her contemporaries, Ms. Holmes gives voice to this complicated woman who’s issues with identity still ring true with today’s audiences.” Edie Norlin, Director, Theatre Department, Ohio State University