[Full article published in The Clyde Fitch Report, August 21, 2018.]
On Mon., Aug. 27, a 12-hour marathon of staged readings at Public Theater will celebrate the life and work of Cuban-born playwright Maria Irene Fornes. The event falls amidst an encore week of screenings of an extraordinary documentary about Fornes, called The Rest I Make Up, that premiered at the Museum of Modern Art earlier this year.
The marathon idea emerged from a group of activist theater makers, artists and journalists called The Women’s Salon. “We would get together once a month on a Sunday,” recalled a core organizer, the legendary director JoAnne Akalaitis. “The group was ad hoc, messy, had no moderator, no speaker, no panel, just the desire to get together and read something — and an obvious idea was to read Irene’s plays.” The group also focused on actions, such as a November 2017 event to commemorate 100 years of women’s suffrage in New York.
The Women’s Salon disbanded in early 2018, feeling “they’d talked themselves out.” But then, sparked by the premiere screening of The Rest I Make Up, Akalaitis and the director of the film, Michelle Memran, began to discuss how to showcase the playwright’s versatile output, the whole avant-garde universe of her plays. When the encore screenings were announced for August, the stars suddenly aligned for a marathon. “Irene makes a lot of sense for us now,” explains Akalaitis. “As a feminist, as an immigrant, as a woman, as a person with an illness [Alzheimer’s] that more and more people have, as someone whose creative voice was always so surprising and different and astonishing and surprising. It all seemed a fortuitous time to get together and spend some time with Irene’s work.”