Miss Julie

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Release date: December 12, 1969
Venue: The Experimental Theatre of Vassar College
Directed by: Clinton J. Atkinson
Literature: August Strindberg
Costume Design: Nancy Break
Set Design: Charles Otiz Sweezey

Miss Julie (Meryl Streep), a 19th century aristocrat's daughter, tests the new-found power of her femininity by taunting Jean (Lee Devin), a servant in her father's house. Outside, the members of her father's estate are having their midsummer's eve dance, and shouts of raucous laughter fill the night air. Jean knows his place, cowers in the presence of even his master's boots, but he has dreams of being something more; he doesn't like the disdain with which Miss Julie asks him to kiss her shoe. He turns his anger into a game and manipulates the young woman into trading secrets with him.

Meryl Streep (Miss Julie), Lee Devin (Jean), Judith Metskas (Christine), Mary Ann Page, Lise Ronning, Christopher Marchant, Andrew Cohn, Diana Spencer, Peter McGanity, Albert Wulff, Sandra Kayden, Christine Roelfs, Harry Barnes, Chuck Voss, Patricia Goldstone (Dancers)

Theatre Designer C. Otiz Sweezey remembered his first professional job on the set of “Miss Julie” in an article with the New Paltz Alumni Magazine: Soon after graduating from SUNY New Paltz in 1969, I was hired as assistant technical director in the Theatre Department at Vassar College. When asked if I would design my first paid scene for the upcoming production of Strindberg’s “Miss Julie,” I had no idea that the star of the play would be a 20-year-old student named Meryl Streep. Performing in her first major role on stage, Streep did a fantastic job in the lead role of Miss Julie. Her scenes were very moving, especially at the end when she is tormented by her decision to end her life. For years later, faculty and students would talk about the incredible set and the great performance by Streep. Because the play takes place in the kitchen of Miss Julie’s father’s manor in Sweden during the 1890s, it requires a very realistic set. To bring realism into my design, I included a stove that cooked a meal, a sink that pumped real water and many Victorian props. While a student at Vassar College, Streep starred in several other productions that I designed, and she was never afraid to get her hands dirty working backstage. She designed costumes for Tennessee Williams’s play, “Camino Real,” and designed lights for several medieval mystery plays.