A Handy History of Mount Auburn Cemetery: A Book Review of “The Mount Auburn Plays”

The Mount Auburn Plays
By Patrick Gabridge
Friends of Mount Auburn
198 pgs
Paperback (color)
Digest (5.5 x 8.5 in / 140 x 216 mm)
ISBN: 978-0-9986982-4-3
Purchase HERE

Mount Auburn Cemetary
580 Mount Auburn Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138

Virtual Book Launch with Playwright Patrick Gabridge
September 30 @ 6:00 pm
Registration is FREE!
(donation suggested)

Review by Kitty Drexel

Watertown, MA — This review is to support the Sept. 30 virtual book launch of The Mount Auburn Plays by Patrick Gabridge. I was gifted a copy of the book by Gabridge (with a fancy author’s signature. This means I can sell my copy for bazillions of bitcoins in approximately 30 years when it’s no longer in print). It’s good to be the Queen.

This book is a collection of Patrick Garbridge’s plays inspired by Mount Auburn Cemetary written during his 2018-2019 artist residency: The Nature Plays, The America Plays, and Moonlight Abolitionists. Before each play, there is a handy history of the play with casting, audience, and location information. Color production photos placed between.

Further description from the Friends of Mount Auburn website: “The Nature Plays explore the lively natural environment, ranging on topics from the mating habits of spotted salamanders to a love story between two male sassafras trees. The America Plays examine American identity through the lens of Mount Auburn, from vibrant characters like sculptors Harriet Hosmer and Edmonia Lewis to the poignant story of refugees from the Armenian Genocide. Moonlight Abolitionists presents a swirling conversation between six abolitionists buried at Mount Auburn, performed under the full moon.”

The New England Theatre Geek review of The America Plays is HERE.

It’s an artfully edited and compiled book and worth the $21.95 price tag that I didn’t pay. It includes such bonus materials such as the texts of the poetry recited by the cast as the public walked to Consecration Dell for “Consecration.” The Shakespearean speeches proclaimed by the character Charlotte Cushman in “Rage Against the Storm” are included too. This is a great boon to potential producers interested in some dramaturgy but not too much.

This book isn’t perfect. Moonlight Abolitionists isn’t given the same treatment as the other two. There are fewer photos (because it’s meant to be performed under the moon). Neither a cast photo nor cast reflections are included. We aren’t even provided historical biographies of the characters as in The America Plays.

The Mount Auburn Plays require no props so they’re easy to stage in any location but they are intended for performance outdoors – perfect for the pandemic. The notes state that casting should be diverse and not necessarily reflect the identifies of the historical characters (please see each play for specific details).

Gabridge on a rainy day at the cemetery. Photo lifted from https://mountauburn.org.

Gabridge made memorization, characterization, and performance as easy as he could for his potential casts. The America and Nature Plays are short and invite an ensemble experience. Moonlight Abolitionists is meant to be performed in concert-style. While this book was created as a niche collectible item for the Mount Auburn gift store, it is also a useful tool for a theatre creator as well.

Updated 9/28/2020, A note from the author: “We didn’t have as much material on Moonlight because it only had one reading. We were supposed to get it a more substantial run this fall, but alas, the pandemic happened. Hoping for April 2021.”

We hope so too!

Patrick Gabridge is a Boston-based playwright, producer, screenwriter, and novelist. He is the producing artistic director of Plays in Place, a theatre company that creates site-specific work in partnership with museums and historic sites. He was the 2018 – 2019 Mount Auburn Cemetery Artist-in-Residence. https://gabridge.com/

The Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery was established in 1986 to assist in the conservation of the Cemetery’s natural beauty and to promote the appreciation of its cultural, historic and natural resources. Organized in 1990 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable trust, the Friends seeks financial support from its members, other individuals, foundations, corporations, and public agencies. It receives gifts for education and interpretive programs and materials for the public, specific cultural projects, and operational support for horticultural rejuvenation and the preservation of the historic monuments, structures, and archival artifacts and records. The Friends has over 1,300 active members. https://mountauburn.org/about/

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