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  • Adapting Eudora Welty's "Moon Lake":An Interview with Brenda Currin
  • Laura Wilson

Brenda Currin is no stranger to Eudora Welty, having adapted and performed in several Welty inspired productions, including Sister and Miss Lexie (1980) and A Fire Was in My Head (2005). Currin, who trained under the great actress and teacher Uta Hagen, started her career playing Nancy Clutter in the 1967 film version of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (dir. Richard Brooks). She is also a frequent performer in productions of Tennessee Williams's works. In 1996, she co-founded "What Girls Know," a theater program devoted to supporting adolescent girls in their development and creativity.

Laura Wilson, Council on Library and Information Resources Postdoctoral Fellow at Fisk University, sat down for a virtual conversation with Brenda Currin on December 4, 2021, to discuss Brenda's adaptation of "Moon Lake" first performed at the Eudora Welty Conference on February 22, 2019, at the College of Charleston.

Laura Wilson:

Let's start with your introduction to Eudora Welty, your first experience of her work?

Brenda Currin:

I guess I was in my twenties, and I was separated from my husband. I was living with a woman named Lily Lodge, staying in a little room and sort of helping with her kids. She had a visitor from California whose name was Peggy Fury. And I remember I was at the kitchen table meeting Peggy, and we were talking, but something kept catching my ear, and I stopped and asked, "What is that I'm hearing?" because it was a voice coming from the next room talking very, very fast and telling a story. And she said, "Oh, that's the Cadman recording of Eudora Welty reading 'Why I Live at the P.O.'." I was so struck by it. I had never heard Eudora Welty's name or the name of that story. I grew up in North Carolina, so I was aware [End Page 87] of people's imitation of Southern accents always being very slooooow. But Welty had this rapidity of telling the story. The recording was something in the periphery that took primary focus away from visiting with this very interesting person across the table from me. Maybe a year or so later, I was recovering from leg surgery, and I needed a monologue that I could do sitting down for Uta Hagen's class.1 I remembered that postmistress [from the story], so I got myself to Barnes & Noble and found a copy. I memorized the story and made a big hit in class. And that was the beginning. Years later, I was performing at the Yale Repertory Theatre, staying at the Heidelberg Inn [in New Haven], and I heard that Eudora Welty was going to be speaking at the University. So, I got out of my room (which had a leak!) and went to listen to Eudora Welty. And she was reading from her novel; I believe it was the beginning of Losing Battles. And that novel became a very important part of David Kaplan's and my adaptation, which became Sister and Miss Lexie—Sister from "Why I Live at the P.O." and Lexie from Losing Battles.2


Wonderful. I love the incredibly personal components of those stories. There's nothing better than hearing authors read their own works. So, after discovering Welty through this very aural way, when you started working your way through her texts, what stuck with you as some of your favorites?


Well because "Why I Live at the P.O." was in Thirteen Stories (1977), that was my real introduction. Other stories that I came to love were "The Wide Net," "Petrified Man"—that just begs to be a spoken piece—"A Worn Path," of course. I loved "Powerhouse," "Livvie, "Moon Lake"—all in that [collection]. And then A Curtain of Green which has "Why I Live at the P.O." but also "Death of a Traveling Salesman" which was Welty's first story. Also, the non-fiction in The Eye of the Story. It's a treasure chest of essays about writing and reading. The way she writes those essays, it just opens...


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