Empty Bed Blues,

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our par­ents did. We’re go­ing to take our trust funds and party in Paris,’” he said in an off-the-cuff im­i­ta­tion of Harry’s in­ner mono­logue. “I’m pre­par­ing for my role by smok­ing a lot of opium, over­draw­ing my bank ac­count, and not stop­ping at red lights.”

“If cities are at­tached to decades, then the 1920s is Paris,” Ger­rity said. “It was an en­tirely dif­fer­ent mind-set than now. Talkies had yet to make an im­pact — it was the page that burned! We make ref­er­ence in the play to James Joyce, Hem­ing­way, Hart Crane. These char­ac­ters lived their lives like can­dles lit at both ends.

“I don’t come to this as a D.H. Lawrence scholar, but as an ac­tor. I think of the play as kind of mus­cu­lar in terms of some­thing ac­tive, or big stakes. I think the stakes are enor­mous here. Though the writ­ing is very dif­fer­ent, in some ways it’s as com­pelling as Who’s Afraid of Vir­ginia Woolf? must have been when au­di­ences saw it for the first time.”

Just as re­hearsals be­gan for Empty Bed Blues, Dempsey was struck with a rav­aging cold that he con­sid­ered a bless­ing, be­cause it put him in touch with the tu­ber­cu­lo­sis that wracked Lawrence’s lungs for much of his life (and even­tu­ally caused his death). He spends a lot of the play es­chew­ing ac­tiv­i­ties that sap his phys­i­cal strength and ar­gu­ing with Harry about lit­er­a­ture and pas­sion. The women join these dis­cus­sions and have con­ver­sa­tions of their own about love and fidelity. Both Frieda and Ca­resse met their hus­bands when they were al­ready mar­ried, and both left their hus­bands and chil­dren af­ter whirl­wind ro­mances that changed the course of their lives. Pierson isn’t sure that Ca­resse would have par­tic­i­pated in an open mar­riage were it not to please Harry, but she ac­knowl­edged that Ca­resse was quite wild and went along for the ride. Harry, in fact, was the one who re­named her Ca­resse. She was born Mary Phelps Ja­cob and was known as Polly Pe­abody when she and Harry met.

In or­der to pre­pare for her role as Frieda, Miller went to Taos, where the care­tak­ers opened the Lawrence ranch for her and put her in touch with 95-year-old Jenny Vin­cent, who was a close friend of Mrs. Lawrence. Vin­cent told Miller that even af­ter Frieda re­mar­ried, she al­ways spoke glow­ingly of Lawrence and re­mained de­voted to him. Vin­cent also re­vealed that Frieda spent hours at her kitchen ta­ble talk­ing to her about sex. “Ap­par­ently she was very open about her body and the words she used. It seems like some­thing re­ally opened up be­tween Frieda and D.H. She was his fiercest pro­tec­tor,” Miller said.

“Their re­la­tion­ship ob­vi­ously went far be­yond the phys­i­cal,” Dempsey said. “Even af­ter the phys­i­cal part stopped” — due to Lawrence’s ill­ness — “the re­la­tion­ship didn’t stop, though it cer­tainly caused a lot of strife.”

“Frieda is def­i­nitely a woman who cel­e­brates love-mak­ing,” Ger­rity said. “There is a con­trast with Ca­resse, who is the first to ex­press sad­ness at the scent of an­other woman’s per­fume on her hus­band. In that way, Ca­resse and D.H., in terms of the play, seem like kin­dred spir­its, whereas Harry and Frieda are free-lov­ing souls. They’re a match­ing pair in some ways, and yet op­po­sites at­tract.”

Just for the record: Rima Miller

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