Jeannine Grizzard is Virginia Woolf in Ashland Contemporary Theatre's production of 'A Room of One's Own.' - Photo by John Darling

Virginia Woolf

A landmark feminist lecture and essay by Virginia Woolf, "A Room of One's Own," will be presented this weekend in a one-woman show by Jeannine Grizzard, artistic director of Ashland Contemporary Theatre.

Although eight decades old, the drama, presented as if it were the original 1928 lecture at University of Cambridge, is still a revelation to people of both genders, Grizzard says.

"It's about the biased belief that men are smart, strong and good leaders," Grizzard says. "And women aren't."

"A Room of One's Own" shows at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 24, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 25, at the Ashland Community Center, 59 Winburn Way.

Advance tickets cost $15 and are available at Paddington Station in Ashland and Grocery Outlet in Medford. Reservations are available by calling 541-646-2971. Tickets will cost $20 at the door. The show is a fundraiser for ACT, which is looking for a new home.

Rehearsing in a stunning '20s outfit with scholarly dark boots, Grizzard reads the lecture in the clipped accent of the English aristocracy, especially relishing her favorite line from the work: "Who can measure the heat and violence of a poet's heart when caught and tangled in a woman's body?"

This line comes as the climax to the hypothetical exploration of what tragic fate Shakespeare's sister would have faced during the crushing anti-woman mores of the 16th century. If a woman tried to break into London theater — even with Shakespeare's same brilliance — she would have been refused any work. She would have had no way to make money or be out on the town to learn about life. She would have gotten with child immediately, then ended her own unpromising life.

"It's very dense, but you get your money's worth," Grizzard says.

Not so dense at all. She's immensely entertaining, engaging and erudite. If you never had a feel for Woolf — who also (citing her own madness) ended her life a dozen years after this lecture — you will get a grasp of it here, well-salted with irony to make her many important points.

The work was adapted by Patrick Garland and shown on PBS' "Masterpiece Theater" in 1991. Garland gave Grizzard the rights to perform the piece, and she presented it throughout the '90s at colleges and art centers around the southeast.

It's nice to be entertained, and "Room" does the job on a deep level.

"Virginia Woolf is actually firing up a tutorial on how sexism works, how naturally it was — and still is — accepted and practiced even here in Ashland," Grizzard says. "I was in my 30s (she's 47 now) when it slowly started to dawn on me that the old saying is true how women have to do something twice as good as men to get half the credit."

"Room" is meant to be an inspiration for both genders, Grizzard notes, and encourages women to obtain the vital elements of art: money and a room of one's own.

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