British Crew Films Plath's Hometown

from: The Boston Globe - April 9, 2000

by Anne Driscoll

Poet and writer Sylvia Plath grew up in Winthrop, and last weekend a British film crew visited the neighborhood where she played as a child to film the setting of one of her short stories.

British film director Colin Izod and his production company, Double Exposure, were at Sargent Terrace on the Winthrop shore filming an adaptation of her short story, "Superman and Paula Brown's New Snowsuit." The 25-minute drama features 10 child actors, eight from the Winthrop School of Performing Arts and two from The Boston Children's Theater.

According to Heather Menicucci, the local coordinator of the two-day Winthrop shoot, the dramatic adaptation will air next year on British television's Channel 4, which is similar to PBS in this country. Plath, who won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry posthumously in 1982, is a popular literary figure in England, where she had been married to British poet laureate Ted Hughes for seven troubled years at the time of her suicide in 1963. They had two children. In addition to her poetry, she is popularly known in this country for her autobiographical novel, "The Bell Jar," which was published posthumously. Hughes died at age 68 in the fall of 1998, but not before publishing "Birthday Letters," a controversial collection of poetry featuring both his work and hers, a volume that the harshest critics labeled exploitative.

"Superman and Paula Brown's New Snowsuit" is written from the viewpoint of Plath as a young girl and recalls a time she was unfairly accused of pushing a girl who fell and soiled her snowsuit. In the story, Plath describes the scenes of Boston she could see from her window, where she would read. She wrote: "I lived on the bay side of town, on Johnson Avenue, opposite the Logan Airport, and before I went to bed each night, I used to kneel by the west window of my room and look over to the lights of Boston that blazed and blinked far off across the darkening water." Instead of filming at Plath's former Johnson Avenue house, now owned by Richard Honan, the director chose to do interior and exterior shots at a nearby house owned by Judy Barry, because the views were less obstructed. Other filming was done outside the Dalrymple Elementary School.

"I was totally embarrassed because I didn't know she lived there," confessed Barry, whose house became the base of operations for the actors, director, production company, and curious visitors. "Everybody in school, of course, read 'The Bell Jar,' but I live almost next door and didn't realize she lived there. She had a hard life. I feel sorry for her and here the kids are picking on her."

Honan said his house attracts Sylvia Plath fans usually at least once a month. One couple on their way from Vancouver to Europe with a layover in Boston hired a cab to take them to photograph the house at about 11 p.m. In particular, though, he was surprised by a man who pulled up with his two daughters. Honan got to talking to him. "He said, 'I used to live here . . . . I am Warren Plath.' He didn't say, 'I am Sylvia Plath's brother.' He was his own man," recalled Honan. Peabody high school shows initiative Peabody Veterans Memorial High School has been drawing accolades for initiatives ranging from leadership in encouraging future teachers to feeding current residents.

Caption PHOTO 1. British director Colin Izod works with Jeanette Coutinho, Chris Geary and Chris Considine (rear, from left) during the filming of Sylvia Plath's "Superman and Paula Brown's New Snowsuit" in Winthrop. GLOBE PHOTO/DAVID

Copyright (c) 2000, Globe Newspaper Company

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