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Hedgepig Ensemble Theatre Announces EXPAND THE CANON 2021 List

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Why Expand the Canon? Because by re-casting the past, we can shape the future.

Hedgepig Ensemble Theatre Announces EXPAND THE CANON 2021 List

Both a celebration and a call to action, Expand the Canon demands space in the classical canon for more diverse playwrights, many of whom were underproduced or utterly un-produced in their lifetimes. Hedgepig Ensemble Theatre calls upon the national and international theater community to expand its definition of classical theater and include these brilliant writers and artists in their production seasons, publications, classrooms, and beyond.

Why Expand the Canon? Because by re-casting the past, we can shape the future.

So long as the only stories revered as classics are by men, we will continue to prioritize the male lens and point of view culturally. Women's perspectives will always secondary. By insisting that excellent plays by a diverse group of women be regarded as classics, we can redefine theatre's values. And by staging these stories in our communities, we can shift culture.

How did we do it?

The company has an ever-growing list 1200+ plays by women. The reading committee of industry professionals read a few hundred per year, scoring plays based on quality of language, relevance, strength of plot and characters, producibility - and, frankly, if the readers would be excited to celebrate this play as a classic. Our research has us in conversation with academics, literary managers, dramaturgs, and translators. We are intentional about having our lists be 50% or more Global Majority writers; we hope that in the future, more of these titles will be known, translated, and available.


See this year's list below!

Amor, Agravio y Mujer

by Ana Caro (~1640)

If you want a scorned heroine who is determined to live in a revenge tragedy but accidentally finds herself in a comedy... consider this Spanish Golden Age play. With cross dressing, love triangles, swordplay, and soaring verse, this is a celebration of women's agency. Doña Leonora dresses like a man and crosses Europe to get revenge on her ungrateful ex who left her unmarriageable. Along the way, she manipulates others in her sphere (often through the clever use of funny voices) causing confusion and antics - and ends up with a triumph that she deems better than any murder.

Ana Caro Mallén de Soto was a prolific and widely-praised Spanish poet and playwright. Some evidence suggests that she was enslaved at birth in Granada and was later adopted by an officer of the High Court of Justice. She was one of the first women to earn money for her writing. Only two of her plays survive.

Casting*: Maximum 13 Actors // Minimum 9 Actors - Written as 4W, 9M
Production Considerations: Nothing beyond a typical Shakespeare play. Some strong cuts may help a contemporary audience move through abundant monologues.
Translations: The Courage to Right a Woman's Wrongs by UCLA's Diversifying the Classics; Valor, Outrage, and Love by Amy Kaminsky (heightened language)
Licensing: Diversifying the Classics translation | Amy Kaminsky translation

The Frolicks, or the Lawyer Cheated

by Elizabeth Polwhele (1671)

If you're looking for a Restoration play with even more hijincks than Merry Wives of Windsor... consider this energetic, bawdy comedy that centers around the tricksy courtship of the clever Clarabell and the rakish Rightwit. Through a series of deceptions, plots, pranks, and manipulations, they find a way to be together - and manage to marry off everyone else in the cast as well. Complete with doltish country suitors, deceitful women, trusting husbands, untrusting fathers, and trendy dances, this play covers all the best staples of the Restoration. The plot itself is simple, and yet the events that lead us along the way are delightfully frothy, foolish, and fun.

Elizabeth Polwhele is our mystery woman. She's English and wrote three plays, one of which is lost. She was likely the daughter of a vicar, and married a minister... but if so, she would have been 20 and unmarried when she wrote this bawdy play, which wasn't her first production. All we truly know is she considered herself "an unfortunate young woman haunted by poetic devils." And, The Frolicks-whether actually performed in her time or not-is the first comedy written by a woman for professional production in England. The image we have included here is "Portrait of an Unknown Woman," which seemed fitting.

Casting*: Maximum 25 Actors // Minimum 16 Actors - Written as 5W, 11M
Production Considerations: This production calls for a large cast. We suggest some shrewd cuts (including our cut available to your left.) We also recommend having a fight director and intimacy coordinator for this play.
Licensing: Public Domain

The Beau Defeated

by Mary Pix (1700)

If you're looking for a fun rom-com where your wingman is a flock of wingwomen... consider this witty Restoration comedy. A rollicking, hilarious, and touching tale of Mrs Rich, the wealthy widow of a banker, who wants to marry a Lord to improve her social status. She listens to all the wrong people for advice- eventually leading her straight into the arms of a notable rogue. Through sparkling discourse, interwoven with a moving subplot, Mrs Rich's friends and brother come to her rescue in the nick of time and prevent their friend (and a few other women) from throwing it all away for an undeserving man. In this play, Mary Pix celebrates female friendships and the power that comes from standing together.

Mary Pix (1666 -1709) joined up with her intellectual gal pals, forming a trio of early female (some might say feminist) playwrights. Delariviere Manley, Catherine Trotter, and Mary Pix rose to fame at the same time with their works. They gained so much public attention that they were parodied in an anonymous satirical play The Female Wits (1696). Mary wrote seven plays total, with an additional four published anonymously but attributed to her.

Casting*: Maximum 19 Actors // Minimum 15 Actors - Written as 10W, 9M
Production Considerations: Heavy props and costumes needed (if keeping the play in its period)
Licensing: Public Domain

The Fatal Falsehood

by Hannah More (1779)

If you wish Two Gentlemen of Verona's ending felt more earned... consider this tight rollercoaster of a poetic play instead. Here, two of the closest friends fall deeply in love with the same woman. Spurred on by an Iago-like character, the plot careens toward a tragic end - yet each character reflects on the ramifications of their actions, which makes it all the more impactful. Fall in love-and out-with this epic tale of romance and duty. Undeniably, the poetry of this play is one of its biggest strengths, so be careful of confusing it with the Bard! Bonus: with some minor cuts to avoid a puzzling suicide, this tragedy could easily be presented as a dark comedy!

Hannah More (1745-1833) was a moralist, practical philanthropist, poet, and playwright. She was deeply involved in the campaign to end slavery. Often mocked by her male literary counterparts, she persisted, writing many pastoral plays and Percy (a play which was found among Mozart's possessions in 1791). The Fatal Falsehood was her final play before shifting her focus to promoting accessible education for girls and poorer children. (Fun ETC gossip moment: More stopped writing for the stage after a pamphlet-duel with Hannah Cowley, from our 2020 list, about who was plagiarizing from whom!)

Casting*: 6 Actors - Written as 2W, 4M
Production Considerations: None more than a Shakespeare play (and fewer costumes!)
Licensing: Public Domain

Françoise

by George Sand (1856)

If you're looking for something a bit lighter in your Ibsen or Shaw slot... consider this deft comedy where the girl finally learns to stand up for herself. An enjoyable romp through Bourges, France, this play speaks to anyone who has gotten stuck in a relationship with someone truly selfish. Henri, the idealized love of Francoise, is "a central role without precedent in French literature" - yet whom is easily recognized in contemporary life. Ahead of its time, George Sand delivers this delightful, snide jab at the aristocracy that seems a precursor to Oscar Wilde's cutting humor. Join us in rooting for Françoise as she gains the self worth to say adieu.

George Sand (1804-1876) is a well-known writer of novels and was perhaps one of the most famous writers in France - even beyond her contemporary Victor Hugo. Noted for her gender fluid persona, Sand often wore men's clothes in public - which required a permit at the time. By the age of twenty-seven, she had built an empire out of her words. Sand was extremely popular, becoming an icon of the literary movement during the Romantic era, and leaving behind an impressive legacy.

Casting*: 8 actors - Written as 3W, 5M
Producing Considerations: Similar to producing an Oscar Wilde play. Three settings and period costumes, depending on your vision.
Licensing: SUNY Press

Forging the Truth (ae??c??)

by Yang Jiang (1940)
translated by Amy Dooling

If you're looking for a clever class comedy by a Noel Coward contemporary... consider this zany play that takes on tradition, marriage, and capitalism. The spoiled but sweet Wanru has a watchful father... who she is desperate to avoid when sneaking in her hot new boyfriend. In this story, family is often run like a business and financial prospects are important across the board - but not everyone is clearly showing their cards. Wanru's Dad keeps trying to run her love life like a business, Yuanhu gets the world's worst proposal, and everyone's trying to keep up the face of tradition... even if it's just a show. Chinese comedic playwright Yang Jiang brings light, love, and clarity to this relatable family situation.

Yang Jiang (ae??c??) (1911-2016) was a Chinese playwright, author and translator. She is best known as the first Chinese person to produce a complete Chinese translation of Miguel de Cervantes' novel, Don Quixote. A Chinese, French, English and Spanish speaker, she translated materials from many cultures. During the Cultural Revolution, she and her husband were sent to labor camps due to their status as cultural figures and educators - and after, she returned again to writing. Contradicting a Chinese saying that it is impossible for a woman to be both a chaste wife and a gifted scholar or talented artist, her husband once described her as "the most chaste wife and talented girl" in China.

Amy Dooling (translator) is a scholar of modern Chinese literature. She has published books on 20th century women's writing and feminist literary culture. Dooling's scholarship focuses on the intersections between political activism and cultural expression in modern China. She has written extensively on the subject of radical women writers and early twentieth-century feminism.

Casting*: Maximum: 13 Actors // Minimum: 11 Actors - Written as 7W, 6M
Producing Considerations: Three sets.
Licensing: Contact the translator; Contact the estate

Foriwa

by Efua T. Sutherland (1962)

If you're looking for a story about a small community and love akin to Our Town... consider this play about how an overlooked outsider and two powerful women can shake a community out of a slump. Set in a small Ghanaian village, a love story emerges, challenging the town to reconcile tradition with modernity. Relatable across the globe, this sweet yet brave look into a slice of Ghanaian life shows what it takes to rebuild a community - hope, courage, and open hearts.

Efua Sutherland (1924-1996) was a beloved playwright, author, and child advocate. After completing her studies in Ghana, she pursued higher education in England, where she was one of the first African women to study at Cambridge. Upon her return, she founded the Ghana Experimental Theatre, which later became the Drama Studio. Based around Ghanaian tradition and storytelling methods, her work helped introduce the study of African performance tradition at a university level.

Casting*: Maximum Unlimited // Minimum 10 Actors - Written as 7W, 13M
Producing Considerations: The playwright notes that this could be done as a site specific piece or in a traditional theatre with symbolic scenic pieces. The production requires consultation with someone knowledgeable about Ghanaian rituals. While it is a potentially large cast, there are doubling opportunities.
Licensing: Click here to email the estate.

A Happy Country (Un País Feliz)

by Maruxa Vilalta (1964)
translated by Edward Huberman

If you're seeking a play about revolution where the family drama is the political drama... consider this powerful portrait of love, protest, class, and voyeurism. This play follows the recently impoverished Jiménez family in an unnamed Latin American country as complex conversations are brought to the foreground by the arrival of a white tourist staying in their home. How do you balance your activism with your desire to just live? Do you fight for your family, or your country? And how do you be an ethical tourist in a culture that is not your own? This play leaves an audience asking all the right questions and drawing their own timely parallels.

Maruxa Vilalta (1932-2014) is a highly acclaimed Catalan-born, Mexican playwright, novelist, and director. She was born to two lawyer parents in Barcelona - where her mother was the first woman to graduate from the law school. They moved to Mexico at the beginning of the Spanish Civil war. She wrote numerous novels and plays, and won Mexico's national prize for Arts and Sciences in 2010.
Edward Huberman (translator) worked on translating a number of Maruxa Vilalta's plays.

Casting*: 7 Actors - Written as 2W, 5M
Producing Considerations: Simple set, one setting, no major changes. Here is a wonderful opportunity to commission a new translation. We are including the Spanish text in hopes that it may inspire such treatment.
Licensing: Translation by Edward Huberman, contact the Latin American Literary Review

Les Blancs

by Lorraine Hansberry (1970)

If you're looking to tackle race, imperialism, and the prejudice of the Western world towards African countries... consider this mesmerizing masterpiece. Set in a rural Christian mission in an unnamed African country, this play explores the complexities of navigating personal relationships across racial divides when every decision you make is inherently political. Intricate, atmospheric, and shimmering with emotional truth, this play is as relevant to our modern world now as it was fifty years ago.

Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965) was a playwright, author, activist, and visionary. Best known for her work, A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry was the first Black woman to have a play produced on Broadway. She won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award at the age of 29, making her the first African-American, the fifth woman, and the youngest writer in history to do so. She was a vocal proponent of the Civil Rights movement, gender equality, and queer liberation. She died in 1965 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 34. At her funeral, the priest read a message from James Baldwin and Martin Luther King Jr., which said, "Her creative ability and her profound grasp of the deep social issues confronting the world today will remain an inspiration to generations yet unborn."

Casting*: Maximum 20 Actors // Minimum 11 Actors - Written as 3W, 8M
Producing Considerations: The cast calls for a number of non-speaking roles, some of which can be doubled, and a child. There are some gunshots fired onstage, and a building is blown up by a grenade. There is also some ritualistic African dance, so bring on a great choreographer!
Licensing: Concord Theatricals


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