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The annual summer theatre festival features three new female-centric shows
Now in its 24th year, the New Ohio Theatre's annual, Obie-winning Ice Factory festival offers independent artists -- both emerging and established -- an opportunity to showcase brand-new, cutting-edge work. Although there is never a governing theme, this year three of its seven world premieres have an intriguing commonality: they are both created by and focus on women.
Take A Footnote In History (July 5-8) about pioneering female astronaut Sally Ride. Created by anecdota (Erica Fae and Jill A. Samuels), the show definitely taps into the current feminist moment. "She's really kind of a rock star," Fae says of Ride, who became the first American woman in space in 1983. "And in reading more about her and her times, we were moved by how strong she was in the face of such unbridled sexism she and her fellow women astronauts faced."
New Ohio artistic director, Robert Lyons, agrees. "A Footnote In History is about a woman's experience of breaking through a glass ceiling," he says. "There is no way that cannot trigger associations with Hillary Clinton's run for president. This is a different story about a different time, but the deeper currents of feminism and misogyny indirectly give us insights and make us think about our time."
True Right (July 12-15), written by and starring Adin Lenahan, Gemma Kaneko, and Brittany Allen with direction by Kaneko, addresses politics more directly. A radical reimagining of Sam Shepard's True West, the show's two brothers are now George W. Bush and Jeb Bush…both played by women of color.
"The seed of the idea bloomed during the GOP primaries, right about the time when Jeb's campaign was going down in flames," Kaneko, who plays Jeb, says. "I started thinking about his relationship with George, this seeming dunderhead who nevertheless got everything his allegedly smarter brother wanted. I wanted to explore that sibling rivalry, and True West is such an iconic representation of that kind of relationship that it made sense."
Allen, who takes on George W., adds, "We hope by putting the ideas behind these specific political figures into our own ethnic bodies, we achieve a layer of irony that I think is crucial to contextualizing the GOP. Because even (and, hopefully, if) you're able to feel for the Bush brothers after our play, harmless as they may seem in the current political climate, you still have to note that their ideologies would -- and often did -- belittle the existence of women and minorities in America."
Yellow Card, Red Card (August 2-5), written by Melisa Tien and directed by Tamilla Woodard, is based on a real-life girls' soccer league in a Muslim town in Central Africa, and imagines the players preparing for a championship. "What is especially intriguing about the league is that it happens in a region where females can't normally leave home without being accompanied by a male," Tien says. The playwright was particularly attracted to this subject because she rarely finds authentic and inspiring female narratives on stage. "I have yet to feel that even a quarter of the productions I see are the product of either a terrific voice that is female, or are stories that make me feel like I can do anything," she says. "Imagine a theatre scene in which stories by and about powerful women are as abundant and oft-produced as male-centric stories. Wouldn't that be a much richer, much more interesting world?"
Ice Factory continues through August 12 at the New Ohio Theatre. Each of the seven shows runs for four performances. Find the complete lineup at http://newohiotheatre.org.
Doug Strassler is a writer and critic based in New York City. He contributes regularly to TDF Stages.
Top image: Yellow Card, Red Card courtesy of American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA).
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