Jeannette Miller Mickenham has wanted to direct "Approaching Simone" since she and fellow drama students performed a scene from the play in 1987, during her senior year in high school.
"I have been carrying it around ever since, waiting for the opportunity to bring it out," she said.
Miller-Mickenham finally got her chance to tell the story of Simone Weil, a French philosopher, activist, worker and spiritual Christian, in a production with the Majestic Reader's Theatre. There will be two performances of the psychological drama, written by Megan Terry, Sunday in the Majestic Lab Theatre.
The original play calls for an elaborate set and a minimum cast of 13 people for a main stage production, Miller Mickenham said.
"For this production in Reader's Theatre, I am stripping away all costumes, props and set," she said. "There will be only actors dressed neutrally, chairs used sparingly on stage, and a clever arrangement of audience seating."
The drama is set from 1909-1943 and scenes are portrayed as thoughts and memories from Weil's life. Weil is played by Meghan McCloskey, and the ensemble cast includes Wendy McCoy, Karen Emmons, Tamara Ann Alba, Trina Norman, Dick McMahon, and Rory McDaniel.
Weil came from a wealthy family. Her father was a doctor, and she was well-educated.
"As a child, Simone often shared her resources, such as socks and sugar, with those she felt were in greater need," Miller Mickenham said.
Weil's sympathetic nature carried into adulthood, as she became an activist for workers' rights, among other causes. She wanted to experience life as a worker. Based on her factory work wages she lived meagerly, ate very little and smoked a lot of cigarettes.
In 1943, when she returned to London, she contracted tuberculosis and entered a sanatorium for recovery. There she ate only the same amount of food rations the German occupation was providing her fellow French people, Miller Mickenham said. Weil's death is ruled a self-imposed starvation.
Miller Mickenham wants the audience to be both disturbed and enlightened by the life of Simone Weil, but she also hopes that audiences enjoy the overall production.
"I hope the audience enjoys the language, the theatrics of the staging and presentation, and the work of the actors involved," she said.