WORD FOR WORD presents OLIVE KITTERIDGE, a world premiere production of stories from Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel at Z SPACE @ Theater Artaud, 450 Florida Street in San Francisco. A forthcoming project of HBO, Word for Word’s production OLIVE KITTERIDGE is set in a coastal town in Maine. OLIVE KITTERIDGE is filled with the ridiculous, heartbreaking human quirks that make a life. Centered on the relentless and ruthlessly honest Olive, the town’s legendary, scary junior high math teacher, these stories navigate life’s challenges - its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires. Olive Kitteridge is a force to be reckoned with.
Word for Word’s OLIVE KITTERIDGE presentation focuses on two of the novel’s stories: “Tulips” and “River”. “Tulips” brings us the Larkins—“People thought the Larkin couple would move away”—whose shocking family incident has rocked the small coastal Maine town where Olive lives. Olive herself has suffered a loss, and a kind note prompts a visit to the mysterious Larkins. Is she hoping for sympathy? Pity? Mutual suffering? A venomous confrontation makes her flee, aware that there are some darknesses greater than her own. Olive walks briskly on, in “River”: wickedly insightful, observantly funny. When she finds a collapsed man (“’Are you dead?’ she asked loudly”) on her riverside walking path, and makes the decision to help him, she begins to allow the world to once again show her its luster. An unlikely courtship begins, and Olive becomes buoyant, embarrassed, petulant, excited. Strout’s masterful storytelling makes Olive Kitteridge and her fellow townspeople universal in their mirth, sorrow, and everlasting humanity.
Elizabeth Strout (author) was born in Portland, Maine, and grew up in small towns in Maine and New Hampshire. From a young age she was drawn to writing things down, keeping notebooks that recorded the details of her days. She was also drawn to books, and spent hours of her youth in the local library lingering among the stacks of fiction. During the summer months of her childhood she played outdoors, either with her brother, or, more often, alone, and this is where she developed her deep and abiding love of the physical world: the seaweed covered rocks along the coast of Maine, and the woods of New Hampshire with its hidden wildflowers.
During her adolescent years, Strout continued writing avidly, having conceived of herself as a writer from early on. Poetry was something she read and memorized; by the age of sixteen was sending out stories to magazines. Her first story was published when she was twenty-six. Strout attended Bates College, graduating with a degree in English in 1977. Two years later, she went to Syracuse University College of Law, where she received a law degree along with a Certificate in Gerontology. She moved to New York City, where she became an adjunct in the English Department of Borough of Manhattan Community College. By this time she was publishing more stories in literary magazines and Redbook and Seventeen.
In 1998, Amy and Isabelle was published to much critical acclaim. The novel had taken almost seven years to write. Six years later she published Abide With Me, and three years after that, Random House published Olive Kitteridge. While her life as a writer has increasingly become a more public one, she remains as devoted to the crafting of honest fiction as she was when she was sixteen years old, sending out her first stories. In 2009 Strout was honored with a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Olive Kitteridge (2008), a collection of connected short stories about a woman and her immediate family and friends on the coast of Maine.