What is the setting of Mrs. Hale's discovery inside the sewing basket? What are her facial and body expressions?how would you use lighting and heighten the effectiveness of the scene?

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The setting for Mrs. Hale's discovery is the Wright's kitchen.  The men have left the women to their own devices downstairs while they go upstairs to investigate the murder scene.  Of course, they feel free to leave the women downstairs because they do not believe that the women will do or say anything of significance.  As the play opens, Glaspell describes the kitchen as "gloomy" and writes that it looks like it was

"left without having been put in order--unwashed pans under the sink, a loaf of bread outside the breadbox, a dish towel on the table--other signs of incompleted work."

When the women first bring out the sewing basket with the bright colored quilt pieces on top, the men are in the kitchen with them, but they soon go upstairs after making snide comments about "trifles" or what type of sewing Minnie Wright was going to use.

Later, as the women look for items to take to Minnie Wright at the jail, they return to the sewing basket.  At this point, they have already discussed why Minnie might have killed her husband and have discovered Minnie's empty bird cage, they decide to take the basket to Minnie so that she can keep busy with sewing.  As Mrs. Hale moves aside the piece of quilting, the following dialogue takes place:

MRS. HALE. Here's some red. I expect this has got sewing things in it (Brings out a fancy box.) What a pretty box. Looks like something somebody would give you. Maybe her scissors are in here. (Opens box. Suddenly puts her hand to her nose.) Why-- (Mrs. Peters bend nearer, then turns her face away.) There's something wrapped up in this piece of silk.

MRS. PETERS. Why, this isn't her scissors.

MRS. HALE (lifting the silk.) Oh, Mrs. Peters--it's-- (Mrs. Peters bend closer.)

MRS. PETERS. It's the bird.

MRS. HALE (jumping up.) But, Mrs. Peters--look at it. Its neck! Look at its neck! It's all--other side to.

MRS. PETERS. Somebody--wrung--its neck.
(Their eyes meet. A look of growing comprehension of horror. Steps are heard outside. Mrs. Hale slips box under quilt pieces, and sinks into her chair. Enter Sheriff and County Attorney. Mrs. Peters rises.)

Glaspell describes Mrs. Hale's facial and body expressions quite clearly.  As she leans closer to the basket, Mrs. Hale should wrinkle her nose to show that she has smelled a foul odor. When she sees the dead bird, she jumps (probably away from the basket, as a stage director, you might even have her drop the basket at the sight. As she and Mrs. Peters recover their senses, both should have the look of realization on their faces.  They have just determined Minnie Wright's motive, and as they hear the men approach, both would most likely have looks of understanding and determination on their faces, because at this point they have probably already silently determined not to tell the men what they found.

As for lighting, it should be dim up until Mrs. Hale leans over the basket.  As she does so, a spotlight on her and the basket would enhance the suspense and action of the play.  Not only would show the importance of her actions, but it would also literally shed light on Minnie Wright's motive.

 

 

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