Mabou Mines Presents Two Works By María Irene Fornés
Mabou Mines, the esteemed experimental theater company, and Weathervane Productions, in association with Philip Glass' Days and Nights Festival, present a unique celebration of legendary playwright and director María Irene Fornés, featuring the New York premiere of Philip Glass' transformation of her five-page play Drowning into an opera and a version of Fornés' acclaimed Mud, February 21-March 7 at Mabou Mines (150 First Avenue).
JoAnne Akalaitis directs these two intimate productions (both with new music composed by Glass). They build upon a recent outpouring of recognition of Fornés' work that began with an Akalaitis-produced marathon of her plays at The Public Theater in August 2018 and continued with the acclaimed Theatre for a New Audience production of Fornés' landmark Fefu and Her Friends, directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, in the fall of 2019. Earlier versions of the new Drowning opera and Mud were first performed in 2019 at the Circle Theatre in Carmel, CA, as part of the Days and Nights Festival.
The upcoming presentation of Drowning and Mud in Mabou Mines' 99-seat black box theater offers New York audiences an opportunity to experience the work of a singular writer at close range. Akalaitis explains, "The program is intended to express that world of Irene's, which is about the terribly poignant and unfulfilled longing for some kind of emotional accomplishment in life that often gets dashed-that's what both of these pieces are about. We hope this evening offers a glimpse into the range of Irene's rich theatrical landscape and the heart of an artist who never soothes and continues to astonish."
Edward Albee called Fornés "America's most intuitive playwright." Akalaitis also notes that Fornés "is also known as La Maestra-the teacher of a generation of playwrights. She creates worlds within worlds and then hurls audiences headlong into them: rural poverty, secret brutality in the center of banal households, angry eccentric women, violence and humiliation, sexual obsession-and often through the voices of those who dream of a more fulfilled life or love, articulating their longings in Fornés' beautiful, terse, emotional language, which is both highly stylized and surprisingly natural."
Drowning, Fornés' little-known surreal short play, written in 1986, finds a new voice in the New York premiere of Philip Glass' "pocket opera," which ignites its unconventional spark into a small glowing fire. In The Telegraph, Philip Glass has described his "pocket operas"-a form for which he has a continued fondness-as "pieces for just a few singers and players." The New York premiere of Drowning features Gregory Purnhagen as Pea, Peter Stewart as Roe, and Brandon Hynum as Stephen. Michael Ferrara, Music Director, will be playing keyboard; Lavinia Meijer and Tori Drake will alternate performances on the harp.
Mud gives voice to those at the "bottom" of society with a surge of humor, compassion, and magical lyricism. Akalaitis dubs this version of Fornés' 1983 masterpiece a [table work] performance, an ironic nod to the immersive textual work actors and directors do in early rehearsals and simultaneous description of the style of the performance itself, around an actual table. The performances at Mabou Mines feature Paul Lazar, Wendy Vanden Heuvel, Giselle LeBleu Gant, and other cast members to be announced.
The Drowning/Mud creative team includes Kaye Voyce (Scenic and Costume Designer), Thomas Dunn (Lighting Designer), and Gabrielle Vincent (Makeup Designer). For both works, Akalaitis and her collaborators have developed an aesthetic and philosophical concept to honor the homemade quality of many of Fornés' own stagings-a "production style that understood just how profound stillness, sparseness, and playful humor could be" (Los Angeles Times).
Tickets, on sale today, are $25 ($20 for students and seniors) and can be purchased at https://maboumines.org. Seating is general admission.