Academic journal article TheatreForum

To the Lighthouse: Based on the Novel by Virginia Woolf

Academic journal article TheatreForum

To the Lighthouse: Based on the Novel by Virginia Woolf

Article excerpt


The Family:

Mrs. Ramsay. A great beauty. The center of this universe. She is 50.

Mr. Ramsay. A philosopher, insecure about his reputation and its longevity. He is 61.

Andrew Ramsay. He is 20 and the oldest son, a brilliant young mathematician.

Prudence (Prue) Ramsay. The old est daughter. Will be, perhaps, even more beautiful than her mother. Even at 18 she is steady and reliable.

Cam Ramsay. A wild, seven year-old tomboy.

James Ramsay. At six he is the youngest child. Sensitive, emotional, insecure.

Guests/Visiting Scholars:

Charles Tansley. Thin, anti-social, interested only in his scholarship.

Lily Briscoe. A painter and old friend of Mrs. Ramsay's. She is 34.

William Bankes. A widower, 60. An old friend of Ramsay's.

Paul Rayley. Energetic, social ist tendencies.

Minta Doyle. A bit flighty, a bit flirty.


Mrs. McNab. A local cleaning woman.


Those characters in Scene 6 are ten years older than they are in Scenes 1-4.

In Scene 6, when Cam and James are 17 and 16, they can be played by the actors playing Prue and Andrew in Scenes 1-3.

Mrs. McNab (Scene 5) can be played by the actor playing Minta Doyle or Paul Rayley.


Music (composed by Paul Dresher) is a vital part of this work. It becomes increasingly important as the play moves forward. There is an overture. There are two songs in Scene 1. There is a brief overture to Act II. Scene 5 has no language at all and the music is released and comes entirely into its own. Scene 6 is also through-composed, and the language is mostly sung or sung/spoken.

In addition to music in the usual sense, sound should be used in non-realistic ways to create a fuller ambience. For example, while the Ramsay's have eight children only four are seen in this adaptation. The sound of lots of children playing games, calling, laughing, is vital. And the environment of the house is fundamentally important - footfalls on the terrace, birds, and the sound of the sea.


The Isle of Skye, The Hebrides, Scotland, 1910.

Scene 1: The Window

Scene 2: A Walk in the Garden

Scene 3: Dinner

Scene 4: After Dinner Conversations

Scene 5: Time Passes

Ten years later

Scene 6: To the Lighthouse


The Window

At the end of the overture the stage lights come up slowly. Mrs. Ramsay is knitting, sitting in a chair with French doors behind her. James sits near her on the floor, cutting pictures of objects from a magazine. Cam sits nearby-bored, fidgety, and unhappy. Mr. Ramsay and Mr. Tansley are walking up and down on the terrace as they talk. Lily is at her easel, struggling with a painting. [Photo 3]

LILY: (Singing)

The day is closing down upon itself.

The heat has gone out of the sun.

Children play cricket on the lawn


Ancient trees stretch out their limbs

Protecting this house by the sea.

Everywhere is peace and harmony

Except where one most expects to

find it!

Wretched painting!! I can not get

it right!

Color hides shapes I cannot see.

What is beneath the yellow of the


Under the violet of Mrs. Ramsay's


What, what is the form of a color, or

a thought, or a feeling?

What is the shape of love?

Oh I do love this place

The Isle of Skye, the town of Finlay

by the sea,

This extraordinary ordinary house

Beneath the sheltering trees.

And the Ramsays, how I love them


How I love them all. Every one.

Bankes joins Lily at her easel and silently they contemplate her painting. From time to time we hear the sounds of children playing cricket.

LILY: It is very bad. …

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