The way I first encountered the story of the life, marriage, vocation and legacy of Cornelia Connelly was to hear it told by Ghislaine Kenyon who had herself been a student at schools that owed their establishment to Mother Connelly, Cavendish Square as a child and Mayfield as a teenager. I gasped a few times, listened with rapt attention and was on the edge of my seat till the end. The telling and actively listening were as important to the experience as the actual story and the life and character of Cornelia herself. In those first few moments Waltz With Me was formed.
The adventure of the research, writing and workshopping the play in development with students at Mayfield were steps along the way to realising this initial vision. The play itself contains as much about Cornelia’s legacy and her impact on the lives of those who have studied and currently study in her schools, now all over the world, as it does about her own personal journey. Waltz With Me is a story within a story within a play, owing a great deal to true-life experience and just as much to imagination of the playful, psychological and spiritual varieties.
And why the waltz? Well, in a letter one of her students describes how if a girl was ever playing at the piano and Cornelia happened to enter the room, she could not help but sweep the nearest student off her feet into a waltz. And so music, waltzes in particular, all so dear to Cornelia, infuse the action of the play. And of course the waltz is a romantic dance as befits a story that is at its heart about love and marriage to a man, Pierce Connelly, who danced to his own tune too. My perspectives on what it means to be married, to bear and lose children, to take up a path of spiritual devotion with a belief in the arts as central to education of the whole person at its heart, have been forever changed in discovering this story and writing this play. My heart and life are bigger and better for it. I hope that all who come to see it, will have their eyes, hearts and minds opened in unexpected ways too.