Photo by Shanan Custer, Stacey Poirier and Stephen Houtz.
Photo by Richard Fleischman
Theatre Unbound brings together short plays by half a dozen women playwrights, music by several local bands, and the puppetry of Anne Sawyer-Aitch for Girl Shorts, a winter festival of work that will run over the next two weekends at the Lowry Lab Theatre in St. Paul.
The festival features plays by Wendy Wasserstein, Caryl Churchill, Carolyn Gage, and others. At several performances over the two weeks, the theatrical performances will be followed up by musical ones, including sets from Missing Peace, Courtney McLean, and Lingua Luna.
We talked with Theatre Unbound's Stacey Poirier to see where the idea came from and what to expect from the event.
What was the inspiration for the festival?
Stacey Poirier: Our inspiration for the festival was sort of three-fold.
We often get suggestions to do works by 'well-known' playwrights. But the handful of women playwrights that most people have heard of only get one or two of their works produced over and over (think Crimes of the Heart, The Heidi Chronicles, or Top Girls). By choosing some of the shorter works of these writers, we expose audiences to a broader base of their repertoire. And at the same time, we are supporting a larger number of women writers.
As a production company, we usually hire outside directors and actors. So we were looking for a project that could highlight our company artists, who work year-round to keep Theatre Unbound afloat. Some of these scripts are "pet projects" that our company members have wanted to do for a long time.
Bringing in women artists of other mediums is the final layer. It's an opportunity for camaraderie and cross-promotion that isn't always an option for a more traditional, stand-alone production.
How did you come up with the shows for the festival, and how did you get together with the collaborators?
We culled a list of those well-known women playwrights, read a bunch of their short plays, and chose an assortment that would make for an eclectic and balanced program. There are plenty more, and we look forward to continuing -- even expanding the festival in years to come. We'll be collaborating with guest artists that we've enjoyed working with in the past, as well as a few that we've been waiting to work with, but had yet to find the right project.
What excites you about these plays?
The most exciting thing about the five plays is that they are all so different. But because women don't often get the chance to play full-blown comedy, I'm particularly excited about the silliness of Wasserstein & Durang's Medea. Mary Louise Wilson's Lost is funny too, though with a poignant twist. I am also excited about the very real, very tender moments between the lesbian couple in The Obligatory Scene by Carolyn Gage. Gage, whose work we've produced in the past, was also excited that we had chosen this piece (one of her favorites) because it so seldom gets produced.
What will theatergoers get out of the experience of attending?
They'll experience a wide range of rarely-seen work by award-winning playwrights, full of strong images of women. There will be big laughs, thought-provoking questions of social justice, and a few heartfelt tears.
Saturday through March 3
The Lowry Lab Theater
350 St. Peter St., St. Paul
$12-$25; $42 festival pass
For tickets and information, call 612.721.1186 or visit online