Beyond Rosalind

I’ll be honest; I don’t remember the first time I read Brewed.
I do remember performing in a reading of it, probably about a week later, for the Around The Coyote festival in Chicago, in the beautiful wood-floored upstairs of the Chicago Children’s Theatre office. I recall being struck by everyone’s work – there was something rich about the play – something that all the other actresses seemed to latch onto and make meals of far better than I. I didn’t quite get it yet – but – this peculiar text, with its mystery and intense, specific, overlapping and aggressive language, nested in a little corner of my brain.

Fast forward several years and two coasts later, to New York in 2015. Fresh out of graduate school, my friends and I hit the ground running as artists and as people, building our careers and our lives in this big city.

One problem became clear from our graduate experience and on. There seemed to be only one woman of action in most major classical plays; and we were constantly being asked to compete for that one role. With five male parts for every one female in Shakespeare’s canon (and the female parts being half handmaidens, wives, mothers or widows, defined by their relationships to the more important leads) – outside of Rosalind and Celia, where were the women who acted, and spoke up, and to eachother?

Like any good artists, we kept exploring, reading Stoppard and Moliere together on Monday nights in our living rooms in Astoria or Washington Heights; but still we found ourselves silent a majority of the time, waiting for a scene where our character had a voice.

After two beautiful, sun-soaked summers in repertory Shakespeare, we knew what a joy it was to create with language, and to create together. Where were the rooms, plays, productions, where we could be women (plural) who attacked, fought, or drove the action together?

Hmm.

What about that play from ……

A quick email to Scott brought the PDF into my hands, and I settled in to read.

I was struck this time by the drive of the script, its calibrated language, and how quietly it simmered until it suddenly explodes. The violence, which was new, felt like it had always been there (Scott mentions how it evolved, but I swear I don’t remember the play without it – it so clearly belongs in this story and to these women.) Even better, it’s an incredible ensemble piece – requiring absolute listening and attention and play – these are women who are deeply immersed in eachother and respond to ideas before they’re fully out of the mouth. It’s exciting and weird and dark and funny, funny, funny.

Best of all – I had never seen women like this onstage before.

I brought it to our group, and we read it once in a living room; we loved it. We rented a space and put up a public reading, attended by some industry folks and friends, whose incredible enthusiasm reaffirmed what we felt; this would be an exciting story to tell.

And here we are at Fringe; with a weird, dark, comic-then-tragic-then-epic-and-back play about six sisters and one outsider, whose arrival at their family home upends everything. And one pot. Constantly stirred, while around it punches are thrown and stories recounted, everything boiling to a point where nothing can go back to normal.

I can’t wait to act with this company. I can’t wait to bring this play to New York. I can’t wait to put seven smart and conflicted women onstage to duke it out. It feels like sending a flare up into the sky; there is room in our theatrical canon for everyone to have access to the exciting, the dynamic, the complex and antagonistic.

And it’s gonna be a hell of a fight.

I hope you’ll join us.

– Danielle O’Farrell, co-producer (and Babette)

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