About Virginia Woolf's Orlando

Virginia Woolf's


adapted by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by A.Nora Long

Season Sponsored by Lee & Diana Humphrey and Bank of America
Production sponsored by Joseph Richard & René Morrissette
Director A. Nora Long sponsored by Mary K. Eliot

Approximately 90 minutes with one intermission.
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Click Here for a Synopsis Filled with Spoilers!

In this joyful romance of gender roles and expectations, Orlando the man wakes up, after a particularly wild night in 17th-century Constantinople, to find himself a woman! She abandons herself to three centuries of navigating love, desire, and the world from an entirely different perspective.  Oft described as the most charming love letter in literature – written by Woolf to Vita Sackville-West – Sarah Ruhl brings the novel to life on stage in a grand, epic adventure that transcends time, place, and gender.    

“Deliciously frolicsome!  Depths of sheer pleasure!”  — NY Times


Parental Advisory: Virginia Woolf's Orlando contains one scene of silhouetted nudity. While we don't suggest ages, please call the Box Office (617.585.5678) if you have questions about appropriateness for your child.




A chorus of actors begins by introducing us to Orlando, a 16 year-old boy in the age of Elizabeth. He (“for there could be no doubt about his sex”) longs for adventure and to be very gallant and famous, so decides to write a great poem, The Oak Tree. He is interrupted by a visit from the Queen who is quite taken with Orlando. She brings him to court and gives him lands and titles and her heart, but soon the Queen catches Orlando with another, and falls quite ill. Orlando is indeed rather popular with the ladies at court, and eventually proposes to one whom he might have married but for...


The Great Frost descends on London and with it, traps the ships of the Russian Embassy in ice. Orlando meets and is immediately besotted with Sasha, a Russian Princess. The two fall madly in love, causing quite a scandal at court. Orlando’s passion often makes him quite jealous, and he descends into a rage when he believes he finds Sasha in the arms of another. The two reconcile, and resolve to run away together. However, Sasha fails to meet Orlando, returning to her ship as the Great Frost subsides, melts, and a great flood commences.


It is now the 17th century, and Orlando returns to his great house in the country, heartbroken, and cursing women. He resumes work on his poem, The Oak Tree, when he is visited by a Romanian Archduchess who attempts to seduce him. To escape her and his lust, he begs the King to send him to Constantinople where he promptly goes. There, Orlando is adored by many, though a bit lonely. He throws a party and slips away with a gypsy named Rosina Pepita into his bedroom. After the encounter, Orlando, now 30 years old, sleeps for 7 days, through revolts, trumpets, and dog-barking, only to awaken as a woman but otherwise the same.


It is now the 18th century, and Orlando resolves to return home to England, after acquiring new clothes. On her journey she begins to discover the limitations of her new state; no fighting, no jumping overboard, and she must endeavor to remain chaste and scented. She returns to her country estate, perplexing the household staff and the legal system. She attempts to resume work on her poem, when she is again interrupted by the Archduchess. Just as Orlando is cursing the annoyance of women, the Archduchess sheds her robes to reveal she is in fact a man. The Archduke now confesses to having always been a man, and only disguised himself as a woman to win Orlando. He proposes marriage to Orlando, and visits daily to ascertain her response. Orlando attempts to lose the Archduke’s affection, first by cheating him out of a large sum of money, then by putting a frog down his shirt, and finally by laughing him out the door.


It is now the 19th century, and Orlando is very aware that she is single, because everywhere she goes everyone is married. She seeks to escape the cascade of couples by running over the moors and hills, but trips, breaking her ankle. As she lies on the ground, a man on horseback appears and goes to her aid. Shortly, they are engaged and married.


It is now the 20th century, and Orlando is a bit overwhelmed by modern conveniences and city living. She is often lost in memories of the past, especially those of Sasha, and finds she forgets where she is or where she is going, or even who she is. After a visit from an old friend, Orlando ventures to return once more to her poem, The Oak Tree, and finishes it, just as the clock strikes midnight on the present moment.