The Spiritualist: Based on a Real-Life Case of a Woman Channeling the Great Composers

In The Spiritualist, main character Rosemary Dunn is an English widow who claims that famous composers of the past - among them Lizst, Debussy, Chopin and Bach - were channeling their new compositions through her.

She writes them down and performs their creations from beyond the grave. "It's actually based on truth," says director Seth Gordon (The Unexpected Man, The Whipping Man) who is returning to Stages Repertory Theatre to helm another production there.

"There was a woman named Rosemary Brown who lived in London right around the late 1960s and early 1970s, she was claiming the spirits of great 19th Century composers were coming back to her with new music and asking her to write it down and expose their music to the world. She became a minor celebrity."

In 2013, Gordon was workshopping a play in the New Harmony Project in Indiana and one of the actors in the play he was working on -- Amy Herzberg -- was also in another play being workshopped which turned out to be The Spiritualist. He got to know her and her husband Robert Ford who wrote it. "I was immediately drawn to it." Stages Producing Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin was able to get rights to it and this production will be its regional premiere.

"I would say that the story is not quite like any story I've ever encountered and I was drawn to this character and to what the play has to say about the intersection of art and commerce and what the play has to say about an artist using their work to define themselves," Gordon says, who describes the play as very funny with serious undertones. "Believe what you will about the fact of the matter. This is the story of a woman who is constantly being defined by the work of other people, by the creativity of other people and is struggling to find herself."

Herzberg will be again performing the role of Rose in the Houston production. The case includes five other actors some of whom play multiple roles. Gordon says the play will be of particular interest to people who enjoy music as well as "people who enjoy come-from-behind stories; people who are up against it and prevail."

Performances of The Spiritualist are scheduled for April 29 through May 24. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays at Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. Call 713-527-0123 or visit $19-$41.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing