Quote of the Day: Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life. Jean Brodie, in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Jay Presson Allen, a Dark & Stormy production, directed by Allison Vincent, playing August 23 – September 17, 2023 at the Gremlin Theatre in St. Paul, MN. 

I had heard of the play (or maybe it was the movie) The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and I had the impression that it was dark, and also thought-provoking, but that was about the extent of my knowledge of this dramatic work. Jay Presson Allen wrote the stage adaptation based on the novel by Muriel Spark in the early 1960’s. She also wrote the 1969 screenplay starring Maggie Smith. Vanessa Redgrave played the title role in the London production in 1966. The novel and the stage adaptation, both written by women, depict a strong, single woman who has tremendous influence on her young students.

Sara Marsh as Miss Jean Brodie and her students Shayla Courteau, Jennifer Donovan, Alice Wenzlow, and Cece Roth in Dark & Stormy’s Production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, playing at the Gremlin Theatre thru 9/17/23. Photo: Bryce Johnson

Going into the play, we all had some thoughts about where it might take us, but by the end, it takes a different turn. We really see the depth of the influence that Miss Jean Brodie has over her young students. At first, it’s exposing them to art and experiences outside the normal curriculum of a private girls school in Edinburgh, Scotland in the 1930’s. She tells them stories of her lover who went off to war and never came back. She brings them to museums and on exertions outside of campus. She’s single, strong, and sexual, and the girls find that fascinating. 

Two little girls at the age of budding sexual fantasy concoct a romance for themselves and choose me as a romantic symbol. Is that so surprising? – Jean Brodie, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie 

Miss Jean Brodie says the above quote in her defense when questioned about the girls’ conduct and accusations and a letter the administration finds about her. 

Shayla Courteau as Sandy and Sara Marsh as Miss Jean Brodie in Dark & Stormy’s Production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Photo: Bryce Johnson

This dynamic show features four young women from the UMN theater program, who also are students of Sara Marsh, playing the school girls. Shayla Courteau as Sandy, Jennifer Donovan as Jenny, Alice Wenzlow as Monica, and Cece Roth as Mary MacGregor all have the right amount of at first innocence, then youthful curiosity, and devotion to their fascinating teacher. All of them speak with a Scottish accent and have the mannerisms of adolescent school girls down. 

Sara Marsh as Miss Jean Brodie in Dark & Stormy’s production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, playing at the Gremlin Theatre thru 9/17/23. Photo: Bryce Johnson

We see Sara Marsh at her finest as Miss Jean Brodie. I’ve seen other productions by Dark & Stormy, starring Sara, but this one gives her a chance to show us her depth and skills as an actor. Like the school girls, I was drawn into her stories and wanted her to be this grand influence. But, she has a dark side, too, that gives you much to think about after the lights come back up.

Alex Galick plays Gordon Lowther, the school’s music teacher. He is courting Miss Jean Brodie, but she’s not as devoted to him as he is to her. She and the girls enjoy time at his luxurious home in Cramond, and Miss Jean stays there sometimes. Although, she hides that indiscretion from her students. She also has an affair with the art teacher, Teddy Lloyd (Peter Christian Hansen) who tries to woo her back, even though he’s married and has several children with his wife. Miss Jean goes so far as to set him up with her students as models.

Emily Grodzik plays Sister Helena, a former student of Miss Jean Brodie, who has written about her life. She is being interviewed by an American journalist Mr. Perry (Jackson Whitman). We are learning the events of that time through her perspective and experiences. Katie Willer plays Miss MacKay, the headmistress, who questions Miss Jean’s behavior, and Kat Haugan is featured in voiceovers during the show. 

Allison Vincent directs this fascinating play in the black box stage at the Gremlin Theatre in St. Paul. The use of minimal set and props gives us plenty of opportunity to imagine where this is taking place. Each movement, even line delivery, seems well constructed. Lighting design by Mary Shabatura. Scenic and props designed by Rick Polenek. Dialect Coach is Keely Wolter. Costumes by Sara Marsh.

You can see Dark & Stormy’s Production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at the Gremlin Theatre through September 17, 2023. It runs about two and a half hours. Get your tickets now. I hear they are selling fast. This is a terrific show to kick off the new season of theater. I recommend bringing someone along who can discuss it with you afterwards.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Did you have a teacher that seemed to be a favorite, or was especially charismatic?