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Susan McCully’s ‘All She Must Possess’

Susan McCully, assistant professor in UMBC’s theater department, spoke about her new play, “All She Must Possess,” on September 13. The work aimed to capture the “messy episodic way” the Cone sisters of twentieth century Baltimore traveled the world as they gathered their legendary collection of art. 

It was Etta Cone who started collecting art in 1898. She started off by purchasing small sketches and drawings but by the end of her life the collection amounted to over two thousand pieces. Today, some of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse’s most famous pieces live inside of the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Cone Collection.  

When starting, McCully was unsure how she wanted the play to begin. All she knew was that she wanted to tell their story in an interesting, unique and compelling way leading her to write Cone into the role of a hero.

This was not the orthodox hero who effortlessly saves lives and is admired by many, but the kind “who really just sat at the feet of other people and [takes] care of [them] as she quietly amass[es] this collection of art.” McCully wished for Cone to act as a heroine in a way that is not typically recognized as heroic at all. Her expansion of the hero trope presents the audience with a fresh perspective on a middle aged woman.

“All She Must Possess” does not have a traditional five act or dramatic structure. McCully said that she “want[s] it to parallel modern art.” This is why the play is organized in such a loose and free flowing way. It feels like being inside the mind of an artist – a powerful place to be. “I knew that I wanted the art to come alive,” McCully said as she gestured towards Henri Matisse’s “Blue Nude” behind her.  The paintings themselves will be characters in the play.

The play’s opening date is February 7, 2018 and closes on February 25, 2018 at the Rep Stage.