by Adrienne Urbanski
Considering that the majority of actors are female, as well as a large percentage of playwrights, it’s a bit perplexing that so few shows feature predominantly female casts or women writers and directors. Though the immense popularity of Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues” has helped etch out a new niche for women in theater, the Fringe festival has for years provided a much-needed platform for women in theater.
Allegra Lingo, who serves as the Fringe’s Assistant Audience Services
Director, in addition to performing her own one-woman show “Hubcap Frisbee”
in this year’s Fringe, sees the one-woman form as essential to the festival.
“I’ve seen a lot of discussion on the solo form and why it’s
suddenly going crazy, and I think the Fringe is one of the reasons for that,”
Lingo said. “I’ve been working with the Fringe for six years and
can’t remember a time when there weren’t one-woman shows in it.
And the past few years we’ve seen even more.”
Kristen Kvanli, star of the one-woman show “Personality,” says that
the form saw a lot of popularity in the 1980s, only to fizzle out in the 1990s
when it became considered too indulgent of a style for an actor to take on.
“I think they’re coming back around, but they’re done a little
differently. I think people are realizing that there needs to be more than just
you talking for an hour,” says Kvanli.
Among the most female-dominated plays in this year’s Fringe is “Talking
With…” in which everyone from the writer and the director to the
11 actors happen to be female. Paula Weakly, a member of the cast sees the collaborative
bond created in an all-female environment as being a unique experience.
“Women do tend to work in a more collaborative and cooperative way,”
she said. “Although our play is comprised of 11 different monologues,
it was important to our director that we all rehearse together at least one
night a week. Everyone in our cast has made a contribution to the efforts of
the others and it has been an especially intense rehearsal process that has
been extremely satisfying both personally and artistically,” says Weakly.
Lingo also sees the one-woman show as being more fitting to the female gender.
“I think it has to do with that ‘hear me, I’m emotional side’
women have,” she said. “Men aren’t necessarily emotionally
vulnerable enough to be willing to get up there, and when they do it’s
typically more in the form of storytelling.”
Timmington, who wrote and directed this year’s “The Virgin Diaries,”
sees the examination of female sexuality in particular as gaining more and more
exposure due to trends in both Hollywood and on the stage.
“While in Hollywood it might be reaching the point of being almost overexposed,
in theater’s it’s only just now really started to grow because of
writers like Eve Ensler, who have really been taking a lot of risks,”
While women dominated plays are certainly nothing new to the world of theater,
their infrequent inclusion in the offerings of larger venues definitely creates
a gender gap within the theatrical world.
Weakly says that the key to the infrequency of predominantly female casts might
lie in male playwrights feeling ill-equipped to deal with female characters.
“I seem to remember someone recently looking at how many plays the Guthrie
did that were written by men and how many by women, and there was a disparity,”
Weakly said. “It may be that men do not feel that they know enough about
women to write an all-female play, and because male playwrights are produced
more, we are less likely to see all-female plays.”
Past seasons of the Fringe have succeeded in bringing one-woman shows such as
Rene Foss’ immensely popular “Around the World in a Bad Mood”
to larger audiences and larger venues after the festival’s wrapup. As
the past offerings of the Fringe use their exposure, make it into larger venues,
we may see the festival’s explosion of women-created work finally making
it into mainstream theater.
Here’s a look at some of the women-dominated shows being performed in
this year’s Fringe Festival:
Performed by Kristen Kvanli
Directed by Tom Emmot
Kvanli, the sole actress of “Personality,” takes on the difficult
task of portraying nine personalities in the course of one play.
“I was a little hesitant to do a one-woman show, but this isn’t
me up there for an hour, it’s actually nine different people,” says
This one-woman show focuses on Ellen, a woman trying to find herself in New
York City. Unable to find her own personality Ellen instead tries on the personalities
of those she meets, trying to find the right fit. Her journey is interjected
with opinions from her overbearing, hypercritical Jewish mother, and the male
love interests she meets while on the streets of the Big Apple.
Though the play explores a woman’s sense of self, Kvanli sees the theme
as being applicable to any gender.
“I think it appeals to both genders. Tom the director, took on this very
female show as his pet project. It can relate to either gender, because it’s
about someone figuring themselves out,” says Kvanli.
Kvanli’s background as an improv instructor at the Brave New Workshop
shines through in her performance as she effortlessly skips from one personality
to the next; Kvanli also convincingly portrays the protagonist’s mother
as well as her male love interests, all with perfectly performed stereotypical
New York accents (the older Jewish woman, the tough Italian guy).
“Personality” plays at the Interact Theater at 212 3rd Ave. N.
in Mpls., Thurs. Aug. 4 — Sat., Aug. 13.
By Allegra Lingo
The program for Allegro Lingo’s one-woman show reads “actor: something
I am not,” letting you know straightaway that she is fully aware of where
her skills lie. “I’m a writer, not an actor,” says Lingo.
“I am a storyteller, I am a writer, and I’m a part of theater. But
acting? Not so much.”
Her piece, “Hubcap Frisbee,” consists of the memoirs resulting from
her life altering stay in Ireland. Looking to escape a “collegiate hell
in the Iowa cornfields,” Allegra takes off to Ireland, where she comes
to terms with, among other things, her homosexuality.
Instead of being performed in the standard one-woman show style, Allegra reads
off of a stand, a la the “Vagina Monologues.” While the piece is
less theater like than one might expect, Allegra has a knack for using her voice,
and is able to deliver her punch lines dead on as she pokes fun at both the
Irish and herself.
“Hubcap Frisbee” plays at Interact Theater Sat., Aug. 6,—Sun.,
“The Virgin Diaries”
Written and directed by Lindsay Timmington
Performed by Grant Henderson, Suzanne Jankowski, Matthew Sand and Erin Sheppard.
Timmington, who co-wrote last year’s cleverly staged “Dressing Room,”
returns once again to the fashionable surroundings of Via’s Vintage Wear
with the “Virgin Diaries.”
Timmington, who previously only considered herself an actor, took a chance and
decided to try her hand at the off-stage duties of writing and directing her
first show. While “The Virgin Diaries” returns to the same whip-smart
vein of humor seen in the “Dressing Room,” “The Virgin Diaries”
conveys much more honesty as the piece is an autobiographical account of Timmington’s
own sexual experiences.
“I’m excited, but I’m also a little worried to see just what
the reactions of my family will be,” says Timmington. “It really
takes a lot of risks in its honesty, but I’m hoping there will be people
who will nod when they hear us mention things like ‘wooly chest hairs.’”
The piece focuses on the protagonist realizing that she’s facing her 25th
birthday still a virgin. The script’s intense honesty, coupled with actor
Suzanne Jankowski’s skillful comic timing, hooks the audience into the
storyline, leaving them wishing it stretched for more than a mere 35 minutes.
Most of the play’s comedic success can be attributed to its accurate depiction
of directionless 20-somethings. (The protagonist looks with disgust at a potential
romantic tryst on her boyfriend’s foldout futon, while set to a soundtrack
of noise from his roommate’s Doom game.)
While the play credits both “Bridget Jones’ Diary” and “Sex
and the City” as influences, its script avoids the fluff and sentimentality
of the two and succeeds in being far more realistic than most “Sex and
the Single Girl” oriented material.
“The Virgin Diaries” plays at Via’s Vintage Wear at 2405 Hennepin
Ave., Mpls., Thurs. Aug. 4 —Sun., Aug. 14.
She’s Really Thinking”
Created by Avye Alexandres
Performed by Heather Bunch, Isabel Nelson, and Emily Gunyou.
“What She’s Really Thinking” is actually two pieces with
a common thread. The first, Lanford Wilson’s “The Great Nebula in
Orion,” examines the dynamics of female relationships. The second, “Carry
All,” features an original abstract piece in which a woman is confronted
by her inner self.
“The first piece takes a look at what being a female was like in our mother’s
time, and the second piece focuses more on what it’s like for us today,”
says director Avye Alexandres.
In the dialogue-less “Carry All,” a woman bends over, clothed in
multiple outfits, showing a guarded, inhibited sense of self. While the first
woman is paralyzed with fear and self-consciousness, another “nude”
woman, presenting an inner self, prances about freely, giving into the desires
the first woman can never act upon in reality.
Alexandres credits the actors themselves with evolving the concept of her one-act
piece, a process that is highly evident through the actors’ intense chemistry.
“What She’s Really Thinking” plays at the Red Eye Theater
located at 15 West 14th Ave. Sat. Aug. 6 through Sun. Aug. 14.
St. Vincent Millay: The Poet Returns for a Reading”
Performed by Nancy Moore
While it’s no secret that theater goers such as myself are more apt to
leap towards seeing the Fringe pieces with “virgin,” “sex”
and “porn” in the title, Nancy Moore’s “Edna St. Vincent
Millay” takes the higher road.
The piece is comprised of Moore doing a reading of her favorite Millay sonnets,
as the author herself. English majors and literature junkies familiar with Millay’s
work will get a few laughs out of the inside stories on Millay’s life
peppered throughout the reading. Moore also shows a flair for dramatic delivery
that sits well with poetically inclined audiences. While the piece might not
be as enthralling to some theater goers, it offers far more than a typical poetry
“Edna St. Vincent Millay” is at The Woman’s Club at 410
Oak Grove in Mpls., Fri., Aug. 5th— Sun., Aug. 14th.
Directed by: Meg Jahns
Performed by Kristin Richardson, Julie Bohn, Kia Erdman, Katherine Kupiecki,
Robin Sorenson, Becca Schall, Liz Ward, Mo Perry, Kara Greshwalk, Paula Weakly,
and Cynthia Uhrich.
Set in the isolated environment of small towns along the Bible belt, the play
looks at a series of eccentric women explaining their obsessions. Sort of like
11 one-woman shows in one, the play is comprised of a series of monologues from
the play’s strange characters.
See our extened Fringe coverage, "Return of the Fringe!"
“All of these characters have a passion for something that goes ‘over
the line’ at some point. One of the other things I found interesting is
that none of the ‘obsessions’ revolve around a love interest. These
are women who are not defined by their relationships,” says actor Paula
Weakly, who portrays a woman who recounts witnessing a man healed by a Big Mac.
Among the play’s most amusing characters is an obsessive baton twirler,
portrayed by Becca Schall, who explains the careful balance of light needed
for a perfect twirl, and retells the story of a twirler who once saw the face
of god during her routine. Also in the lineup is an actress with such an extreme
level of desperation that she threatens to kill her own cat.
In all of the segments, actors embody their quirky characters fully, instead
of resorting to hammed-up stereotypes, making the script’s dry wit that
much more effective. The play pokes fun not only at the lives and needs of women,
but our fame-hungry, fast-food-heavy culture. ||
“Talking With…” plays at the Bryant Lake Bowl at 810 Lake
Street Fri., Aug. 5th — Sun., Aug. 14th.