Thrive, or What You Will [an epic]

Okay so this is a story about a gender-nonconforming 18th-century herb woman who’s trying to carve out a larger sense of space… and ends up on a journey around the world. Her name was Jeanne Baret, and nearly everything we know about her life comes from the journals of the men who knew her. An epic tale of historical fiction about our country's present moment, THRIVE, OR WHAT YOU WILL blends the style and...
Okay so this is a story about a gender-nonconforming 18th-century herb woman who’s trying to carve out a larger sense of space… and ends up on a journey around the world. Her name was Jeanne Baret, and nearly everything we know about her life comes from the journals of the men who knew her. An epic tale of historical fiction about our country's present moment, THRIVE, OR WHAT YOU WILL blends the style and language of our past & present in order to interrogate the nature of "discovery" and its legacy, of (mis)categorizing the world, of species and survival, of status and privilege, of gender and identity, and of the subjective nature of both history and self. Funny, gripping, poignant, and wild, THRIVE mourns the loss of Jeanne's perspective and tries to imagine possibilities of what it may have been. And as Jeanne journeys and changes, so too does her casting in this ensemble-driven quest of self-determination. Meanwhile, we watch Jeanne and her lover Commerson on their adventure – from meeting to parting – across lands & seas & 6,000 plants – in a voyage that is part love story, part Peer Gynt journey, part Latin taxonomy, part feminist wrestling with historiography, and part theatrical celebration of awe and the human need to thrive.

And here's the story teaser:
Jeanne Baret is a gifted 18th-century botanist who grew up laboring in the fields of rural France. While working in the fields, 20-year-old Jeanne meets a 32-year-old botanist with a chronic leg abscess; his name is Phillibert Commerson. He's been university-trained by Linnaeus himself. She's been field-trained by herb women. They're a botanical power couple. They fall in love. He's already married. Things happen. Babies happen. Moving happens. Illness happens. The dawn of binomial nomenclature happens. And an opportunity to join a French ship on an expedition around the world happens: the voyage is in need of a botanist and an assistant, but both must be men….
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Thrive, or What You Will [an epic]

Recommended by

  • Pauline David-Sax:
    30 Jun. 2022
    As someone who read The Discovery of Jeanne Baret by Glynis Ridley, I was thrilled to see how L brought this source material to life. I loved the inventive use of the ensemble of Askers and the multiple Jean/nes. L covers a lot of historical ground while also creating a piece that speaks very much to contemporary audiences. It's a gripping exploration of identity and historiography and sexual politics.
  • Jerry Polner:
    5 Feb. 2022
    L M Feldman's Thrive, or What You Will is indeed an epic, a worldly, sweeping story about the 18th century French herb woman Jeanne Baret, who pretends to be a man in order to board an exploratory ship bound for the "Great Southern Continent." This is a brilliantly told, steel-edged tale about what the worst of men can do and what the rest of us fail to do about it.
  • Cheryl Bear:
    8 Nov. 2021
    A brilliant play that gives us insight into the lives of women of history and the world they live in. Well done!

Development History

Awards

Winner
,
Shakespeare's New Contemporaries
,
American Shakespeare Center
,
2020
Honorable Mention
,
The Kilroys List
,
2019
Finalist
,
O'Neill National Playwrights Conference
,
2018
Semi-Finalist
,
Bay Area Playwrights Festival
Semi-Finalist
,
The Ground Floor
,
Berkeley Rep