Friday, 24 June 2016

Out of Our Father’s Dramaturgy:Eve Merriam @ Edfringe 2016

Out of Our Father’s House
Written by Eve Merriam, Paula Wagner and Jack Hofsiss
3 – 28 August I Gilded Balloon, The Night Club I 12.15-13.15 I 60 minutes

Following the lives of six real-life leaders of the American women's suffrage movement, Out of Our Father’s House is a revealing look at the human struggle for freedom and identity, starring Whitton Frank and directed by Marya Mazor. 

Drawn from the diaries, journals and letters of schoolgirl Eliza Southgate  (1753-1809); Founder of the Women’s Suffrage Movement Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902); Astronomer Maria Mitchell (1818-1889); Labour Organiser ‘Mother’ Mary Jones (1830-1930); Minister and Doctor Dr. Anna Howard Shaw (1847-1919); and American author and essayist Elizabeth Gertrude Stern (1890-1954), the play looks at a large portion of America’s history.

Written by Eve Merriam, Paula Wagner and Jack Hofsiss and based on Eve Merriam’s book Growing Up Female in America, the play is a lyrical and richly layered show that encompasses repression in all its forms.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Opportunities for women in theater - as actors, directors, playwrights, and producers - continue to be limited. Female playwrights write less than a quarter of plays produced in the United States, and less than 20% of the producers in the United States are women. We started this project to give women the chance to tell their stories on stage in a space designed, directed, and produced by women.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
We started with the mission - to find women to design and tell the stories of American women. This singular vision drove everything from our copy to our casting calls to our interview questions for the cast and crew. It has brought together women from across the Los Angeles basin and beyond, and continues to drive the artistic vision for this project.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I couldn’t find the stories I wanted to hear - the accomplishments, perspectives, and lives of women, both everyday and extraordinary - so I gathered a team, found stories that needed to be told, and here we are.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Gosh, I wish I could say yes. This is the first play I have produced, the first I have experienced with an all female cast and crew. It has been eye-opening and transformative, and it will certainly be a model for my performances moving forward..

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
These stories, the stories of women, have gone untold for generations. I want the audience to hear the experiences and lives of the women that came before us, to know their struggles and triumphs. We will shift the traditional notions of womanhood and bring to light perspectives that are crucial to our identities as women. Experiencing art that champions women’s voices will give us new ways to see ourselves and other women.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

It has been critical to the artistic process to reflect the cannon in which this work was produced - the work of women - which has always been a physical space. Sewing, cleaning, birthing, bathing, and running a household have always been extremely taxing physical chores, and it has been important to bring that sense of physicality into the artistic space. 

Especially in differentiating between the women played by the actors, finding physicality in each of the stories has been important in bringing out the essence of the characters and giving life to their voices and stories.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
Certainly within the tradition of feminist theater and storytelling, but even more so within the tradition of female experience and identity itself. I see this work as part of the tradition of female storytelling and cultural work that has always existed, and continues to be illuminated and brought to audiences through plays that highlight the voices, experiences, and identities of women.

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