A Room of One's Own | Lit Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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A Room of One's Own

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Those who think of Virginia Woolf's sharp, witty, brilliant essay A Room of One's Own--denouncing England's stuffy, classist, patriarchal society and calling for the intellectual, artistic, and economic independence of women--as merely an early feminist polemic sell Woolf short. True, Woolf's essay, based on lectures she delivered at two Cambridge women's colleges in the 20s, says plenty about the myriad ways female writers have been stifled over the centuries. But as Eileen Atkins's much lauded one-woman show proves, Woolf's ideas speak to anyone yearning to be artistically free, man or woman. Watching Atkins speak Woolf's prose in her too-large men's suit complete with loosely knotted tie, bringing to the surface all of the glittering irony, comic understatement, and barely repressed anger, I remembered how reading Woolf had first set my adolescent mind on fire, awakening in me the desire for a room of my own. Clearly, I'm not alone in my feelings: Atkins earned a sheaf of great reviews when she performed this show in New York last spring. This performance--which may be the only chance Chicagoans will have to see Atkins impersonate Woolf--is part of a benefit for the Charleston Trust/USA, which maintains the Charleston Farmhouse, the country retreat of the Bloomsbury Group. At the Chicago Historical Society, October 7 (Clark and North, 642-8693). Monday, 6:30 PM, preceded by lecture and followed by dinner. $135; lecture and performance only, $40.

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