In 1933, a group of young Vassar students (among them Elizabeth Bishop, Margaret Miller, Mary McCarthy, and Frani Blough) launched an anonymous literary newspaper called Con Spirito, in an attempt to "startle the college" and separate their writing from the more conservative Vassar Review.
From the Vassar Encyclopedia:
“It is really going to be good,” Blough prophesied before its publication, “a little shock at the Review! Nothing tame, arty, wishy-washy, ordinary or any of the other adjectives applicable to so much college writing.”
The editors distributed information about the forthcoming publication in February, posting advertisements on tree trunks around campus, distributing them to selected student mailboxes and publishing them in The Miscellany News. “Material must be submitted,” they announced, “anonymously, typewritten, and sent through the unstamped to the editors of Con Spirito…we demand nothing but fresh conception.… Frankly, we are more interested in experimental than in traditional writing. We should like to avoid bookishness. Anything—politics, science, art, music, philosophy—anything that is spontaneous, that is lively.”
Separately, in her 1978 Paris Review interview, Elizabeth Bishop mentions that she and a friend once “spent a night in a tree at Vassar outside Cushing dormitory.”
Con Spirito melds the two true stories to create a portrait of the young Elizabeth Bishop: intellectually restless, deeply affected by the early loss of her parents, hopelessly in love with an "unresponsive Vassar beauty" named Margaret Miller, and, above all, determined to carve out her place in literature and in society.
The script is based on extensive research about Elizabeth Bishop’s time at Vassar in the 1930s and the founding of the original Con Spirito. The Elizabeth Bishop archives in the Vassar library collection were an invaluable resource.