65-88. (One of its early titles was There! Although I have suggested that Leticia forces Nena to take the gun and the blame for the crime, other commentators have argued that the two women bond in that instant, that Fornes reveals the female connection between them in their “subjugated roles.”57 Geis says that the ending “is left open for multiple interpretations, enacting the Brechtian legacy of avoiding catharsis and closure.”58 There is no hero, no moralizing, and no realist affirmation of dominant ideology. Our love was pure. As opposed to earlier work like Mud or The Danube, Fornes blurs the edges between scenes, in both her writing and her directing. The stage picture Fornes presents is one of stripped-down realism, and while the mise-en-scène suggests the literal and figurative impoverishment of the characters, Fornes also uses the device of freezes following each scene to illustrate the limited sphere of action, as the characters in essence enact the effects of all that “mud” comes to represent. The constant “doing” we see on Fornés's stages is performed by women. The setting is Tressa's loft in a geographically unspecified Chinatown.6 Softly lit, sparsely furnished, the playing area is raised above the stage with a stairwell in the center of the structure leading to an invisible ground floor; when characters enter, they seem to climb up into a space of temporary refuge that hovers above the ordinary level of existence. But the dominant note is desire: the unappeased longing of each friend to ease the other's pain, or even to comprehend it; and Fornes' exploration of this longing (by turns selfless and egotistical) is most vivid in moments where Tressa, Jack, and Paula enact snippets from a repertoire of familiar cultural texts, among them Frank Capra's Lost Horizon and D. W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms. For a critic who stresses these connections, see Marc Robinson's The Other American Drama, which, as stated in the introduction, “attempts to tell the story of American drama in a new way, with the acute sensitivity to form that Stein encouraged” (Marc Robinson, The Other American Drama [Cambridge, 1994], p. 3). To start very generally: Fornes strips away all the conventions of realism. After Mae realizes that knowledge and communication are the keys to personal power, she prepares to leave the stifling farm, but the inarticulate Lloyd kills her in a rage. In Part III, which takes place in the living room, Fefu leaves during Paula's breakdown; when she returns she is a messenger from the natural world: “Have you been out? She replies, “Because I'm dirty” (84). I am indebted to Susan Kotwinkel, Michael Vanden Heuvel, Robert Brooks, and John Fleming for their generosity in sharing both their bibliographies and their papers, delivered at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education in San Francisco in August 1995; to Dean Wilcox for sharing his paper, delivered at the International Federation for Theatre Research in Montreal in May 1995; and to Richard Shindeldecker who graciously agreed to discuss some of these issues with me. Such a frivolous task does not have much to do with daily survival (as do ironing or cooking in the later plays); nevertheless putting sticks in ice cubes displays Fefu's high degree of caring. Still, there is a way in which so much fragmentation and difference makes it more rather than less difficult to comprehend just what it is that draws these women together again in time and space in Part Three. Many critics see Fornes' plays as realist; Bonnie Marranca, for example, calls her work “the new realism,” one that is “more open cosmologically, its characters iconic.” She explains, “Here realism is quotational, theatre in close-up freeze frame.”24 O'Malley refers to Fefu, The Conduct of Life and Mud (1983) as her “more realistically oriented plays,”25 and Schuler identifies them as being “quite straightforward.”26 Fornes does employ some conventions of realism: her plays follow a loose narrative structure in which emotions intensify and reach a climax; the actors do not address the audience, and they impersonate their characters; each play occupies a self-defined world and focuses on a nuclear family, representing the pervasive concern of realism with domesticity. I would suggest Julia s an example of the “true-real”; her injuries are hysterical, and the stage directions require the actor's body to signify pain that cannot exist, thus becoming a “non-mimetic body” (Diamond, “Mimesis, Mimicry,” 68). Marion escapes her confining world through sexual fantasies, and when a young man helps her discover her true self, Marion begins to acknowledge the importance of her own needs and desires. in Women on the Verge, 203. Casting Notes. Now you can say that some people are so intelligent that sometimes they become too mental and brainy and it leads to their destruction. How do the three of them make love? I feel like we set our style of work very early for no reason at all. Before her marriage to the much older Juster, Marion rejoices, “In this house light comes through the windows as if it delights in entering. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1985. In Stein's and Fornes's aesthetic, we saw, there was no disconnection between a rigorous attention to form and truth claims. My writing changed when I first found out what the principle of Method is. At the same time, however, the search for this common denominator is an inevitably risky one. He still comes and I still feed him.—I am afraid of him. [In the following essay, Cummings critiques a 1992 Magic Theatre production of Oscar and Bertha, noting that Fornes's works “present some of the most poignant and painful aspects of being human in an abstract, almost pure, form.”]. The original off-off-Broadway situation centered very much around the playwrights. Is it any wonder that, in a such a world, we find Fefu and her friends constantly waiting for the men to arrive? You also wrote in Dr. Kheal: “Words change the nature of things. Set in the 1930s, it functions as a portrait of emerging feminist sensibilities. The hope Butler holds for the lesbian phallus would suggest that Fefu and her friends, in becoming together the keepers of Phillip's shotgun, might cease to be the phallus (the embodiment of lack) and come instead to possess it. The Successful Life of 3 features characters named He, She, and 3, who meet in a doctor's office and become involved in a love triangle. Kroetz writes that in contrast to Fleisser the Brechtian proletarians always have a range of language at their disposal, a language that is never compromised by the their masters, and since Brecht's characters have such a competence in language, the way to a positive utopia or future is clearly visible.18 Instead Fleisser's characters attempt to use a language that does not serve them, and since they use an appropriated discourse automatically, they lose their selfhood. Bringing them into the light demystifies and disempowers those dark demons, just as Fefu's black cat does. 18 (1989). Likewise, A Visit used sections of a Victorian novel; there are epistles in both The Widow and Letters from Cuba. Sometimes, she has one character simply read to another. In a way, though, it's a striptease, as every play taunts the spectator with coy and flirtatious humor, even (especially?) Julia Kristeva, “Julia Kristeva Interviewed by Vassiliki Kolocotroni,” Textual Practice, 5 (1991), 165. Additional coverage of Fornes's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: Contemporary American Dramatists; Contemporary Authors, Vols. ———. In her domain, woman has a certain unstated control and power. … while “housekeeping” is for most people the effort of resisting dust, disorder, and deterioration, for [Sylvie] housekeeping is the opportunity to commune with the absolute, to merge boundaries, to meld the human and the natural world by accumulation rather than resistance to nature's encroachments. The proposition I wish to pursue in the remainder of this article is that psychoanalysis in its poststructuralist formulation emerges as the metalanguage that will engage, while demystifying, form and its address. It is love. María Irene Fornés, née le 14 mai 1930 à La Havane à Cuba et morte le 30 octobre 2018 à Manhattan aux États-Unis, est une metteuse en scène et une dramaturge américaine. Oscar's competitive response is to lift his shirt and show a bright red circle around his left breast. Maria Irene Fornes, Night Program Notes 44-45 In And What of the Night? Edited by Marc Robinson, this casebook gathers new writing about Maria Irene Fornes and a broad selection of earlier essays, reviews, and interviews. Rubenstein, Roberta. Psychoanalysis permits us to read this invitation: the signifying relations through which it works, as well as its implications for knowledge, for the looks of abstraction and epistemophilia. Habermas has said that the central intuition he hoped to clarify in his Theory of Communicative Action was “the intuition that a telos of mutual understanding is built into linguistic communication.” Jurgen Habermas, Autonomy and Solidarity: Interviews with Jurgen Habermas, ed. Kroetz found his ideal in the work of Marieluise Fleisser, whose plays present characters reduced by language. Form, in other words, is the medium through which one reflects on the problematics of the real and on the problematics of perception. Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Maria Irene Fornes, Tango Palace, in Promenade and Other Plays (New York: Sinter House, 1971), 127. Essays & Analysis (26) I Write These Messages That Come (1977) 3,945 words, approx. Escobar. [In the following essay, Murray presents a critical discussion on the themes of female friendship and female desire in Fefu and Her Friends.]. Completing the CAPTCHA proves you are a human and gives you temporary access to the web property. In Mud (1984) a “signifying materiality” is perceivable in the “monochromatic” quality of set and costumes. For plumbing, especially when it is not performing as it is supposed to, reminds us of the physical fact of the body and its production of waste. They respond reflexively and without inhibition, heart to heart and head to head but without self-consciousness or guilt. Just how far this is possible, and just how difficult, however, becomes central to the play's momentum of working against—and toward—a feminist performance that matters. To continue working on it was natural. 12. Stage props consist of the bare necessities of table and chairs and all the material possession of the characters: an assortment of eating utensils; a textbook; a box with pills; an ax; a rifle; cardboard boxes, one filled with Mae's clothes, one tied with string and one empty box. 2 (summer 2000): 204-15. Lights, sets, sound, acoustics, all these things are of vital importance to her, particularly in her role as director. Like Stein's, Fornes's aesthetic practice works on the principle of framing. Fefu and her friends might all be said to play in some way the role of the melancholic heterosexual woman, compulsively performing what they refuse to mourn: the repudiated desire for another woman.4 Julia struggles to make more and more believable her performance of the “prayer” that condemns women as undesirable, and she does so precisely because so much is at stake for her in the act of identifying herself with, much less desiring, Fefu. I got an NEA grant for two years. Thus begins this tragedy of infantile longings mingled with adult sexual passions. That people go to work, and come back from work, and they eat and go to sleep. Her Bertha is tight-assed and loose-lipped, only she does not so much speak as bark or snarl or sometimes even purr. But there it is: a spindly little maple, leaning at a rakish angle toward one of the area's shabby-genteel apartment buildings. To perceive, for Merleau-Ponty, “is to render oneself present to something through the body.”27 Thus: “The painter takes his body with him. Mud, which has as its center the act of a woman coming to understand herself through language, clarifies the process of Mae's realization that “a free woman is one who has autonomy of thought.”11 The encounters of the three characters, who have no language beyond one of the barest information, is presented in seventeen scenes which are separated by slow blackouts of eight seconds to show the process of dehumanization and the increasing violence of the inarticulate. Analysis Of Maria Irenes Fornes's 'Fefu And Her Friends' 2033 Words 9 Pages “Fefu and her friends” is a strange yet an encompassing playwright written by Maria Irenes Fornes who sets this play during spring 1935 in New England when feminism wasn’t coming into existence and the lives of women were much more restricted in comparison to our modern day world. Farfan, Penny. When they do, they can put themselves at rest, tranquilized and in a mild stupor. Attempts to find answers in friendship with her mother's elderly boarder, Fernando, are equally vain, as she asks, “Teach me how to be like you. The play revolves around eight female friends who have gathered at a New England country home for a reunion weekend in 1935. Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Framing the object of attention removes its cap of invisibility, but more than that, it institutes a relation of sensuous immediacy (sets up a phenomenal encounter) of perceiver and perceived which is the very condition of possibility of meditation—a meditation, significantly, which actively disconnects knowledge from abstraction, from spectatorial distance and the pose of mastery. And if Melanie Klein is right that guilt is produced not by internalizing an external prohibition but by the fear that one will destroy the object of one's love (Butler, Psychic Life 25), then female homosociality might also be a fundamentally “guilty” sociality as well. Word Count: 585. It would seem to be in recognition of some such limit that Susan Sontag, in a 1979 interview entitled “On Art and Consciousness,” rejects a formalist theater such as Robert Wilson's (and behind Wilson, Gertrude Stein and the long faux naif tradition in modernist art): a theater whose principal subject is, in a word, “consciousness,” the thinking process and modes of perception. By dislocating the power of signification from its status as a tool of masculine desire, the lesbian phallus offers a potential recuperation of a female desire that matters, that signifies. “They were telling me things about themselves, things I wouldn't otherwise have known. However, she rejoices when she feels grace in her heart, and as she reads from her textbook with difficulty following the written words with the fingers of both hands, her reading is “inspired.” The gestic quality of Mae's clumsiness in coming to learn to read allows the spectator “to feel the physical process by which she tries to transform her world.”19 Though the passage she reads resembles the language of a biology textbook, Mae acquires an identity and even a corporeality as she reads: The starfish is an animal, not a fish. Word Count: 1111. The foregoing summary of versions of the sublime is drawn from the essay by T. V. F. Brogan, Gerald F. Else, and Frances Ferguson in The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, ed. “This produces a kind of painful energy, up the arms, around the back and down to the other hand, like an electric current.” Using that technique, Fornes claims, Dabney underwent an astonishing physical transformation, giving a performance so spectacular as to win her an Obie for that one speech. Usually if the visualization is personal, I give them an element that takes it into the imaginary. She has, by her own admission, “been receiving a lot of praise lately … and awards.” To a small cadre of supporters and critics, the recognition is overdue. There were scraps of paper among them. Otherwise, the 69-year-old Cuban-born lesbian playwright is virtually unknown to the general public. Such a perspective informs recent approaches to Gertrude Stein that find it necessary to rescue her work from the fallacy of “formalism,” understood as a failure to consider what lies beyond the page or the self-sufficiency of the signifying system. This examination focuses on an investigation of playwright Maria Irene Fornes' repertoire, in the context of her style, through producing and directing her 1983 play Mud. They had a family together, and the journalist eventually died. As Lloyd shouts and Henry makes plaintive sounds, Mae departs, but not for long. In his analysis of Brecht's influence on postmodern theater Wirth suggests that Brecht's most significant contribution to the structural changes in dramatic form was the distinction he made between dialogue and discourse.16 While dialogue serves the plot in order to sustain illusion, discourse engages the spectator in thought processes. Genres. The phallus relocated among women who not only identify with but also desire other women, then, offers a powerful critique of the masculinist context in which the power to (re)signify is confused with that which men have and women do not. The Death of the Author! At the same time, however, it covers its performative tracks by naturalizing the version of normalcy it enacts and by abjecting others; while a minister might, for example, pronounce any two people “married,” the happy occasion becomes an “unhappy” one in the context of a gay wedding, where the utterance is regarded by the law as a “theatrical” performance only. You like so much the way that little tree looks beside that house and so you draw it.”1 Maria Irene Fornes indicates a tree just visible from the window of the small Greenwich Village café where we sit over coffee. Further, one may identify connections between Stein's mind-play and the shift toward a phenomenal approach to the work of art which defines the antimodernist stance of the same period: Leslie Fiedler and Susan Sontag's celebration of immediate, not intellectualized, experience. Deconstruction!). In this play, violence, power and desire circulate continuously on various levels to construct and reconstruct characters as masculine and feminine. In other words, Sedgwick has a whole tradition in anthropology and poststructuralism to draw from in formulating, in Between Men, her theory of male homosocial desire; when it comes to women, however, we still seem to be stuck at the level of identity and identification, where women are forced either to identify with others of their sex or to desire someone else of that sex—not really a choice at all. Objects acted upon, taken over, beaten, or raped are invariably perceived as feminine.36, Significantly, de Lauretis' picture is descriptive, not prescriptive, indicating the apparently undissolvable binary formulae of gender = male/female and violence = perpetrator/victim in representation. In order to concentrate on the unique life of her characters, Fornes feels that characters should have a separate existence without the burden of serving a plot. And as in Foreman, when Isidore gestures, we hear a chime. His cock was big but dull. So: How do you solve a problem like Maria? In fact, it became the family romance for the Familia Fornes, including love, war, desertion, danger, and even a castle (well, a very grand house, anyway) in Spain. On the other hand, Fornes' work is distinctively non-realistic; by foregrounding theatrical apparatuses through set, scenic breaks and language, Fornes creates a theatricality that also foregrounds the construction of women in culture. When chance fluctuations occur in nature they give rise spontaneously to new complex forms which ‘interact with the local environment by consuming energy from it. I turned to her and when my little penis touched her belly I came. But if we must inquire what the meaning of a work of art is, it becomes evident that the work has failed us. To be mainstream frightens me. In the ideologically fraught realist frame, the tendency is toward what dominant ideology recognizes as familiar and ‘natural’—the nuclear family as topic, the active male as subject, the passive female as object.13 Since the images onstage appear as ‘real,’ realism “displays transparently and from the outside how people speak and behave,” apparently reenforcing the status quo through a repetition of the familiar.14, While many feminist critics engage in resistant readings of realist texts to expose the misogyny of their representations, other critics problematize the entire realist form; the playwright supposedly reproduces ‘normal’ life on stage, masking the ideological assumptions about ‘normality’ and ‘reality.’ Not surprisingly then, in Strindberg's “Forward to Miss Julie”—his canonized discussion of the realist form—he notes the play's ‘real life’ conversations, “a theme … which will be of lasting interest,” and scenery that strengthens the illusion.15 The naturalized form allows him to state, “It is not because Jean is now rising that he has the upper hand of Miss Julie, but because he is a man. “I save things like that because when I was a painter, the idea of creating collages was very attractive to me,” she told Berson. Yet Fefu's love of plumbing seems to stem from the same sort of desire—the desire to make things run smoothly—that dominates Olimpia's and Mae's existences. The freezes written into the end of each scene give both the static quality of a finished painting and the filmic quality of a tape that is running down, insisting on the discontinuity inherent in the apparently most linear series of events, both fixing and magnifying a single moment. How had it happened? Clearly, Oscar and Bertha do not crave sex for its own sake but as the currency of (parental) attention, approval, favor. You begin to distinguish the difference between when you're manipulating and when you're not. In other words, “women,” once set in the quotation marks Fefu's gay announcement seems to put them in, are apparently one thing, while each individual women remains entirely another. It ought to be obvious that I am referring to aspects of viewing (and a reading of form) which do not readily offer themselves to theorization. Villegas. See Anne Ubersfeld's work on ‘theatre within theatre’ in Lire le théâtre (Paris: Editions Sociales, 1977). Upon returning to the United States, she worked for three years as a textile designer in New York City. Neither is Fefu smart. As the Shakespearean sonnet that Emma recites to Fefu in Part Two suggests,2 Fefu remains childless; she has not yet “convert[ed]” herself “to store” by fulfilling the promise of reproduction.3 And if Fefu would like to keep it that way, then she must constantly check to make sure that the rubber stopper/diaphragm “falls right over the hole.” For we might remember that it is Fefu's husband, and not Fefu, who controls whether the gun shoots blanks or the real thing—no matter whose hands it is in or who it is aimed at. Four separate but overlapping scenes (and seasons) are presented simultaneously, while the audience, moving from one of these repeated scenes to the next, is invited to view the women's interactions more intimately. It was not until the second act that the play gripped me as Tressa, Jack, and Paula began to enact snippets from a repertoire of familiar cultural texts, among them Capra's Lost Horizons, and Griffith's Broken Blossoms. Essay / Research Paper Abstract (6 pp) Theater has an ancient definitive term that has held it in good stead for quite some time. I have other reasons to suspect why doors are closed to me. Nevertheless he doffs his hat (still wearing his pajamas) and makes several determined but unsuccessful efforts just to get offstage. 7; Drama Criticism, Vol. There are heartbreaking shifts from joy to despair in that idyllic croquet scene. It's totally arbitrary. New York: Routledge, 1996. But I cannot make myself retain what I learn. Irigaray, Luce. Like Nena and Mae, Sarita strives vainly for a way to conduct her life honorably. Eve gets so sick that she is hospitalized. The principal acting space seemed to hover above the level of ordinary existence as a sort of temporary refuge. At her age, and with such a long record of distinguished achievement entirely within the medium of theatre, a fully elaborated directorial style, and a grand reputation as a teacher, Fornes should be given all that the American theatre has to offer in terms of resources—choice of actors, technicians, designers, access to larger audiences, longer runs. All further quotations are taken from this text. Catherine Belsey, “Constructing the Subject: Deconstructing the Text,” in Feminist Criticism and Social Change, Judith Newton ed. Fornes's abiding humanism is in stark contrast to contemporary drama's moral relativism and contingency ploys. The teenage Marion marries a loving older man, she has an affair with another man, a child with a third, descends into a personal hell, and in the end nurses her husband after his stroke out of a sense of compassion and remembered love. At least the very best—like Jonathan Kalb in New York Press last year—confess that what happens in a Fornes play “would challenge anyone's power of description.” But for most, it's easier to speculate about why she occupies the strange place she does—beloved by artists, overlooked by audiences—and to then affix vague-but-shimmering descriptions to her body of work. It is not the men's fault, after all, that the women walk around waiting for them to arrive. There was not a hint of laughter in the house as Jack, in the Lillian Gish role, was rescued by Tressa as Huang, the gentle Chinese scholar who tries to bring teachings of peace to the West but fails to save even the frail young girl from a brutal death. 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