Eleemosynary (play)

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Written by Lee Blessing
Characters Dorothea, Artemis, Echo
Date premiered August 1985 (1985-08)
Place premiered Park Square Theatre
St. Paul, Minnesota

Eleemosynary is a 1985 multi act play by Lee Blessing. It follows the relationships between three generations of women. The word "eleemosynary" itself plays a significant part in the plot.


The characters in the play are:

  • Dorothea: An old woman who has chosen to be eccentric.
  • Artemis (Artie): Dorothea's daughter. Holds an important job as a biochemist. Has an incredible memory.
  • Echo: Artie's daughter. Lives with Dorothea. Is an excellent speller, in addition to having extraordinary intellectual abilities.


Staged with utmost simplicity, using platforms and a few props, the play probes into the delicate relationship of three singular women: the grandmother, Dorothea, who has sought to assert her independence through strong-willed eccentricity; her brilliant daughter, Artie (Artemis), who has fled the stifling domination of her mother; and Artie's daughter, Echo, a child of exceptional intellect - and sensitivity - whom Artie has abandoned to an upbringing by Dorothea. As the play begins, Dorothea has suffered a stroke, and while Echo has reestablished contact with her mother, it is only through extended telephone conversations, during which real issues are skirted and their talk is mostly about the precocious Echo's single-minded domination of a national spelling contest. But, in the end, after Dorothea's death, both Artie and Echo come to accept their mutual need and summon the courage to try, at last, to build a life together - despite the risks and terrors that this holds for both of them after so many years of alienation.

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