A large portion of Mt. A students will have studied English literature sometime during their academic careers. During which, many have encountered a familiar and deeply evocative title that even I have read and loved: The Yellow Wallpaper.
An unassuming name: the color brings to mind joy and energy. Peace. Yet, anyone familiar with Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 short story knows this image is the primary focus of an iconic, horrific, and deeply impactful narrative that remains one the best early feminist stories today. In a first for the department, Mt. A Screen Studies student Darcy Worth is adapting the text into a short film. The student-led production is expected to release in late March.
The Yellow Wallpaper originally covers a series of journal entries by an unnamed female character. When a new mother experiences postpartum depression, her physician husband prescribes the “rest cure” of isolation to a distant country house. As Darcy Worth, screenwriter and director of the upcoming film, shares, “[the husband] boils it down to her having a nervous, hysterical ‘tendency’, […] he essentially traps her in this room. […] Over the course of the summer, the story tracks her descent into madness as she fixates on the wallpaper in the room.”
With a background in film, Worth returned to Mt. A after graduating in 2019: “I decided to come back and take some Screen Studies courses, and through that [I] ended up doing an independent study which led to this short film.” When offered this opportunity, “the first thing that came to mind was, ‘Oh I love The Yellow Wallpaper’, and I never really had the chance to adapt it, so this could be my chance.”
are preexisting film adaptations of the text, Worth remarked how surprised he was that so few in his community knew this story: “I read it for the first time here at Mt. A, and the last two pages gave me full-body goosebumps. […] The imagery and writing is so vivid, [that…] it seems like such a natural thing to turn into a film.”
A team composed entirely of Mt. A students will bring this story to life, both before the camera and behind it. The cast is small: the mother (now named Jane), their live-in maid Jennie, and Jane’s physician husband, John. Worth wrote the screenplay working with prospective graduate Alora Simon to develop costumes and set under the mentorship of the Motyer-Fancy’s resident designer Ian MacFarlane. Mt. A students will also be filming, editing, and supporting the process of bringing this story to life.
Morgan Grant (John) shared his desire to be involved from the very beginning: “The concept of actually having a sound stage, actually having people in all these other departments doing the work […] all of this is quite impressive to me.”
Sarah Tardif (Jennie), agrees: “It is incredibly exciting, because at my time at Mt. A, we have not gotten to do a film project of this breadth and scale […] we are in a very exciting spot in the Drama and Screen Studies departments.”
Nor will this project be a direct translation of the work; the story’s setting has been updated to the 1950s. Despite, or perhaps because of this change, certain feminist subtexts remain apparent. Mid-20th century pressures such as the nuclear family, electro-shock “therapy”, newly-arising insane asylums, and questions regarding feminist liberation following World War II all provide a backdrop for this change. “We all agreed that [John] is a product of his time, and I think that this story, and the way this screenplay has been adapted, really does highlight that patriarchal oppression does affect men and women all the same,” Tardif adds.
Maya-Noëlle Mutter (Jane) remarks, “I knew it was going to be a great team. There are a million reasons why I wanted to be involved in this project. […] There is something incredibly, horribly, relatable about that sense of trying to live up to your position in society that has been imposed on you by the people around you.” Mutter also has an interest in pursuing film in the future and notes her excitement in exploring the medium further.
Despite facing high expectations leading the department’s first short film, Worth concludes, “we have an incredible cast and crew, so I’m not concerned.”
Currently in the final stages of pre-production, the film will likely be released in late March 2024 following filming in early February. Hopeful viewers can expect an on-campus screening for students and community members.