“We Wove A Web” is a clever work. Nothing at first glance is what it seems.
It’s supposed to be a show about the lives of the Brontë sisters: Charlotte, Emily and Anne; but in this script, Emily and Anne are already dead. The lights flicker on and Charlotte is alone in their once-shared house. She sits at a table and reminisces. Her memories play out on stage.
“We Wove A Web” is not a play. Despite the presence of narration, the show is, in essence, a dance theater piece. The actresses leap and bound across the stage, tumble across beds and dive under tables. A live orchestra accompanies their movements, swelling violins and rumbling cellos; the musicians play in the shadows behind the set.
Rebecca Brudner ’16, the director of the show, said that “We Wove A Web” has been a long time in the making. Although it is her senior thesis project, Brudner said that she first conceived of the idea long before she had to turn in a formal proposal.
“I’ve been sort of obsessed with the Brontë sisters for a while, since middle school,” she laughed.
Brudner explained that during her sophomore year of college, she originally planned on writing a play about the lives of the Brontës. However, as she read pre-existing plays about the family in order to familiarize herself with the genre, she realized that most of these works felt unsatisfactory to her. She didn’t agree with the tendency of those authors to create what she deemed “false narratives” for the sisters, conflating fiction with reality.
Brudner then decided that it might be more effective to just use primary source texts as the script of her show instead of inventing her own dialogue. The summer before senior year, she received a grant to study at the Brontë sisters’ hometown, where she pored over numerous correspondences written by the sisters, from childhood to adulthood. Most of the narration in “We Wove A Web” is lifted directly from the Brontë sisters’ own writings, including their diary entries, letters and novels.
Her work with these primary source texts also led her to the idea of creating a dance theater piece. Brudner said she sensed a restraint in the Brontë sisters’ correspondences, which she surmised was a product of their upbringing in the repressive Victorian era. This lack of embodiment, of being unable to fully express their feelings, inspired Brudner to create a piece where the Brontë sisters’ innermost emotions could play out in front of an audience.
“I felt like there was a physical impulse in the words,” she said. “I felt like I, as a contemporary woman, could really seize upon dance as an extension of their writing.”
Gideon Broshy ’17, the composer of “We Wove a Web,” noted that the earliest stages of developing the show involved heavy improvisation. He said that the primary source texts Brudner selected served as the core inspiration of the show, and the music he created organically flowed from interpreting those excerpts.
Brudner, who also choreographed the show, agreed. She explained that initially she gave the actresses excerpts from the primary sources and allowed them to dance however they felt fit. Brudner then reviewed the actresses’ movements and either altered the choreography or left the original improvisations untouched.
Broshy also emphasized that although he enjoyed a lot of freedom while composing the music, he, Brudner and the actresses worked in close collaboration to make sure that the score, the choreography and the script seamlessly wove together. Miles Walter ’18, the associate director of the show, further stressed the importance of integrating all of these separate parts together into one cohesive work.
“It’s pulling together totally disparate sources and combining them into a structure that really is dramatically tight and viable,” he said.
“We Wove A Web” is only an hour long, a testament to the intense editing process that Brudner adopted in order to streamline and focus the show. However, despite its short length, the show is undeniably haunting. It’s the kind of experience that passes quickly but lingers, doesn’t let go.