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Mary Jane's Pa (1906)
by Edith Ellis

Directed by Melissa Attebery, Dramaturgy by Melody Brooks

Thursday, June 14, 2018

It’s Mayoral election time in the small town of Gosport, Indiana in 1906, and local newspaper owner Portia Perkins, single mother of two teenage girls, is getting ready to publish dirt on the powerful candidate Joel Skinner, who also happens to hold the bank notes to her shop. The town already snickers at Portia’s mysteriously absent husband and her apparent affinity for Rome Preston, Skinner’s opponent. When her husband (Mary Jane's Pa) secretly returns, she gives him a job in her home as a cook and housekeeper under an assumed name. The town rebels against the indecency of having a strange, unknown man working as a “hired girl” in the home of an unmarried woman, and Portia’s family and business are all threatened.


On Her Shoulders is pleased to present a staged reading of Mary Jane's Pa by Edith Ellis, directed by Melissa Attebery on Thursday, June 14, 2018. Doors open at 6:45pm for a 7:00pm start with The Play in Context by Melody Brooks, who situates the script in its historical time and place, followed by the reading and a post-performance Q&A with refreshments. Admission is by Donation ($10 suggested). The performance is at NPTC Studio, 458 West 37 Street @ 10th Avenue. R.S.V.P. to

EDITH ELLIS (1876-1960) was an American actress, director, and playwright. From a notable theatrical family (her parents and brother were all in the business), she began her career as a child. At the age of 21 she became a playwright out of necessity, as she and her brother were stranded on the road when their touring company failed. The play was successful enough to earn their passage home. In 1901, she married theatre manager Frank Baker and started her directing career at the Park Theatre in Brooklyn, which the couple managed. Ellis would go on to operate several theatres and stock companies throughout her lifetime and authored over thirty-five plays. Although she directed many of her own works, the majority of her productions were by other female playwrights (she almost exclusively produced works by women). Ellis coined the term "directoress" and was one of the first commercially successful female directors. Although she never identified herself overtly as a feminist and rejected the label of "suffragist" outright, her plays and productions all concerned the status of women in a patriarchal society. Ellis was associated with several of the most prominent female theatrical organizations, including Martha Morton's Society of Dramatic Authors and Mary Shaw's Gamut Club. She also developed her own theory on directing, with a focus on the agency of the actor. Mary Jane's Pa was written in 1906 and ran for 120 performances on Broadway (December 1908 - February 1909). The plot (as in many of Ellis' plays) disrupts expectations of gender roles and the notion that women were passively happy in the domestic sphere.

MELISSA ATTEBERY (Director) began in Los Angeles in series television, holding various positions in production and development at companies like Paramount, Viacom and Granada Entertainment before moving to the New York stage, where she directs original people-driven plays for people with an edge. She produced A Celebration of Women in Theatre: Miss Representation, a rousing and thought-provoking evening of film, theatre, photography and discussion at The Players. She has evaluated scripts for the Atlantic Theater Company, New York Theatre Workshop and FringeNYC, and she holds a BA in Dramatic Art and Film Studies from UC Santa Barbara and an MFA in Directing from the Actors Studio Drama School. She is an Associate Artistic Director and a resident director at Emerging Artists Theatre, a member of The Actors Studio Playwright/Director Workshop and the League of Professional Theatre Women, and an Associate Member of the SDC. For updates on Melissa’s upcoming projects, please visit:

MELODY BROOKS (Dramaturg) is an award-winning producer/director, founder and Artistic Director of  NPTC. Its mission and goals are a result of her long experience working in Off- and Off-Off Broadway. Brooks leads NPTC's Women’s Work Project, which develops short and full-length plays by 12-16 members per year, and produces ON HER SHOULDERS, serving as a regular Director/Dramaturg for the program. She has developed and directed numerous award-winning and acclaimed original and classic plays for NPTC. Other developmental directing credits include works for the Downtown Urban Theatre Festival, the Queer at HERE Festival, Edinburgh International Fringe Festival and NJ Rep. Brooks was recently honored as a Trailblazing Woman of Theatre for Artistry & Vision by RhythmColor Associates. She received the "Spirit of Hope Award" in 2015 from Speranza Theatre Company for her support of women theatre artists for more than 25 years, and was named a "Person of the Year" by as a co-founder of 50/50 in 2020: Parity for Women Theatre Artists. She is on the Board of Directors of the League of Professional Theatre Women, and was Co-chair of the 2017 LPTW Gilder/Coigney International Theatre Award.

ON HER SHOULDERS was founded in 2013 to present rehearsed, staged readings of plays by women from across the spectrum of time, with contemporary dramaturgs contextualizing them for modern audiences. The program was incorporated into New Perspectives' Women's Work Project in 2014 and continues to strive to make it impossible for producers and theatre companies to deny or ignore the 1,000-year history and value of women's contribution to the theatrical canon. To date the program has presented 41 plays by 33 writers from the years 1668 to 1970. OHS is produced by Melissa Attebery and Melody Brooks. Kristin Heckler is Associate Producer.

THE SCHOOL OF DRAMA at the NEW SCHOOL: The creative home for the future of performing arts. Agile. Engaged. Innovative. Multi-disciplinary. The New School for Drama is home to a dynamic group of young directors, writers, actors, creative technologists, and award-winning faculty. With a core belief in rigorous creativity and collaborative learning, our programs embrace civic awareness across performance disciplines to create work imbued with professionalism, imagination and social context. For more information, please visit


The Play in Context, the dramaturgical and scholarly presentation component to the program, is sponsored in part by the League of Professional Theatre Women, a non-profit organization promoting visibility and increasing opportunities for women in theatre since 1982.


This program is made possible, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and in part, with public funds from the NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.