Artemis’ ‘Allways’ focuses on female friendship

Old letters tell a story in “Allways.”

Comprised of a series of personal letters, "Allways," chronicles the friendship between renowned author Rachel Carson ("Silent Spring") and her dear friend Dorothy Freeman.

The feminist creative community Artemis—who brought an all-female production of "The Tempest" to USC last year—is the creative force behind this production. Freshman Abigail Swoap directs 11 actresses, all of whom will be portraying either Dorothy or Rachel, through the intricacies and nuances of the relationship.

"Allways" is the brainchild of Second Year Masters student Tamzin Elliot. A composition major, Elliot decided that she wanted to "put together another text-based performance," and "bring to light the words of an important woman." When a friend introduced her to the book "Always, Rachel," she knew she had found the source material for her next project.

Elliot shares a bit about the show and its significance:

Can you tell us a little about this show?

It's an attempt to create a space where Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, who were so rarely in the same place, could be together and say the things they did in their letters directly to each other. The different pieces are not only meant to represent their love and their life narrative together, but also to touch on my own experience of trying to piece together an understanding of what they meant to each other, my own experience of listening to their intimate words and letting them represent themselves with those words.

What's the significance of "Allways" rather than "Always?"

Early on in Rachel and Dorothy's correspondence Rachel had misspelled "always" as "allways" and Dorothy thought it was hilariously fitting for how they felt about each other – that their new and confusing love encompassed so many kinds of love as well as so many parts of their personalities.

 What inspired you to do this?

The initial impetus when deciding to write a pitch for Artemis was a somewhat simple urge to work intensely with text again and to give voice to a woman or women I admired. The true inspiration started when I waded into the letters. I was confronted with this incredible mystery of kindness. I was so shocked and intrigued by the love and the consideration, the constant effort on both their parts. My impetus turned from one of wanting to work in a certain way for a certain thing into an impetus to simply try to understand what these real women meant to each other, and to imagine what the experience of finding that kind of love at their age and place in life would be like.

Walk us through your process. How did you determine which letters to use?

I really don't think there will be enough room in this interview for my whole process. It took the good part of six months for me to complete the first draft of the script. I guess the simplest way to put it is that I read and re-read large portions of the letters, and gleaned a handful of themes that were seemingly central to their correspondence, as I saw it. I was also always on the lookout for passages that I felt really concisely represented what kind of people Rachel and Dorothy were. As I re-read passages I constantly marked pages with different colored tabs depending on what larger theme I could see being represented. Outside of this I would brainstorm what kind of piece would best show these themes and I would pull from those letters I had marked to come up with ideas of how to arrange the text.

 How did your musical background influence the arranging of this piece?

I hear all words I read spoken out-loud in my head, which makes me a really slow reader. All of the work I do regardless of the medium is concerned with sound, timing, and various levels of comprehension of that language (whether I'm working with English, music, or some other bogus language I've made up).

 What's it like working with Artemis and an all-female cast and crew?

It's great. Artemis is the whole reason this is happening – I've been pretty sick for about a year and having the support of a team of producers and artists has been what enabled me to keep working on the project and see it to completion. I love working with a cast of women, it's actually not the first time either. On the level of art, with an all-female-identifying cast we get the opportunity to show the nuance of female relationships and personalities that I know exists but is rarely represented in not only mainstream media, but also in other contemporary performing arts. On a rehearsal level, these people are just fun, haha!

 "Allways: an immersive journey" will be playing February 9th-11th  in downtown Los Angeles, 738 S Los Angeles St., Los Angeles, CA 90014. Tickets are available at