Daddy’s girl

Mabou Mines looks into James Joyce’s daughter
By IRIS FANGER  |  June 5, 2007
Ruth Maleczech as Lucia Joyce

Repressed, talented women lurk in the background of Western cultural history — think of Alice James and Fanny Mendelssohn. But in the case of Lucia Joyce, the difficult daughter of James Joyce, the circumstances turned darker. At age 28, artist and dancer Lucia (1907–1982) was incarcerated in a mental institution. She remained there for the rest of her life.

Next weekend, Charlestown Working Theater hosts Mabou Mines, the acclaimed New York experimental theater company, in Lucia’s Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, which explores the ties between Joyce and his daughter. Melrose High and Emerson College grad Sharon Fogarty wrote the script and directs; founding co-artistic director and three-time Obie winner Ruth Maleczech plays Lucia. “Lucia was an independent spirit,” says Maleczech, “but there was something awry there. Had she lived now, she probably would have been out in the world. We have better drugs.”

“We wrestled with the question of what her father really felt about her,” says Fogarty. “James and his wife, Nora, were ill-equipped to be parents. James neglected the family, yet he used them in his imagination in his works.”

The first version of Fogarty’s script, the 2003 Cara Lucia, had a trio of actresses alternating as Lucia. Explains Maleczech, “One actress played her as a young woman and a dancer; the second as Issy, a character from Finnegans Wake. I played her later in life, after she had been institutionalized for many years. She was an inspiration for her father when he was writing Finnegans Wake. She had a peculiar way of writing and speaking, using ‘portmanteau’ words — words that are coupled together but don’t belong together — to make one word. We think she was instrumental in exposing Joyce to that and inspirational in terms of his affection for her.”

In the piece, Lucia is confined to a chair; Joyce is personified as a dark shadow, hanging over most of the play before he comes on at the end. “In our story, she’s already dead, trying to move into the hereafter,” says Fogarty. “Her father helps her to move into the light.”

Maleczech adds, “She’s in an imprisoned place. That speaks to people of an unnatural isolation, [but it’s] true to her life. And it was true for Joyce, but for different reasons. When Joyce took Lucia to Jung, in hopes of curing her, Jung said, ‘It’s like they both are sinking to the bottom, only he is diving and she is drowning.’ The implication being that Joyce knew how to surface. And it’s what ties them together, in the water going down, down, down.”

Lucia’s Chapters of Coming Forth by Day | Mabou Mines | Charlestown Working Theater, 442 Bunker Hill St, Charlestown | June 14-16 | $20; $15 seniors, students | 866.811.4111

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  Topics: Theater , Emerson College, James Joyce, Ruth Maleczech,  More more >
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