San Jose
Long Wharf
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Three generations of the Randall family: Sally (Pippa Pearthree), Rose (Lynn Redgrave), and Kate (Angela Goethals)
Photo by T. Charles Erickson

After writing and performing in Shakespeare for My Father, I thought "this is such a good feeling, I must write some more! And I must write another play because plays are the thing I feel most at home with." Perhaps it was a natural thing, too, after having written a play about my father, that I should think about my mother.

There are aspects of my mother's life that fill her with what I call "if onlys." "If only I had . . .," "If only I had done . . .," etc. She's not at all a self-pitying person. She's a very wonderful, strong, extraordinary woman. But as you live longer and longer there's that sense of regret. I see it in her. I've often thought about regret and wondered what, if anything, we might do to rid ourselves of it. How can we take responsibility for whatever it is we do with our lives and say, "Well, for better or worse, I did this. And I live with the consequences."

Rachel Kempson, Lynn's Mother (1940s)


At the same time, I had been since childhood haunted by a particular poem of John Donne, the one that starts "Go and catch a falling star." I was probably around ten years old. I thought the words were sublime,

Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil's foot . . .

The idea of the mandrake was also familiar to me, even as a child, because I knew Romeo and Juliet. Juliet talked about her fear of hearing screams like the mandrake scream in the tomb when she woke up. I looked more into the mandrake and found what an extraordinary and potent plant it is, how full of sexuality, how it's mentioned in the Bible. Then I began weaving in the idea of the impossible tasks John Donne sets up at the beginning of the poem, "Go and catch a falling star/Get with child a mandrake root." What if they were possible? And what if the character Rose used the mandrake to be part of her sexual self, that as she grew older, this became the thing that haunted her and drove her mad? 

So, all that sort of came together and off I set! -- Lynn Redgrave, January 2001.

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Lynn Redgrave (Rose) and Francesca Smith (Child Sally)
Photo by T. Charles Erickson

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