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Davidson Theatre Will Premiere New Work by Irene Fornes

March 16, 2001
Contact: Bill Giduz 704/894-2244 or bigiduz@davidson.edu
Irene Fornes
Maria Irene Fornes

The Davidson College theatre department will premiere a new work by noted off-Broadway playwright Maria Irene Fornes Tuesday through Sunday, March 20-25. The production, based on Gertrude Stein's Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, begins at 7:30 p.m. on the first four evenings, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 25, in the Black Box Theater of Cunningham Fine Arts Building. Tickets are $4 for general admission.

Fornes, whose work has been recognized with nine Obie Awards--off-Broadway theater's equivalent to the Tony--is teaching two classes at Davidson this semester as the college's McGee Professor of Writing.

Fornes' adaptation of Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas is a montage of scenes that offer a beautiful and touching look into the relationship between Stein and Toklas while they lived together in Paris in the early years of the twentieth century. Directed by Fornes, the production will feature seniors Andra Whitt as Alice Toklas, Erin Smith as Gertrude Stein, freshman Cahit Ece as Pablo Picasso, and junior Melanie Wadkins as Helene.

For reservations, call 894-2340 from 2-5 p.m. starting March 14.

Despite her many awards, a long career, and continued success as playwright and director, Fornes is relatively unknown to mainstream theater audiences. Many in the off-Broadway theater world consider her the industry's "best kept secret." Critic Bonnie Marranca has said, "Working for more than twenty years in off-Broadway's unheralded spaces, Fornes is an exemplary artist who, through her writing and teaching, has created a life in the theater away from the crass hype that attends many lesser beings."

Born in Havana, Fornes came to the United States in 1945 at the age of fifteen, and began drawing and painting in the mid-fifties. After a sojourn in Paris, she returned to New York in 1957. Her first play, Tango Palace, premiered off-Broadway in 1961. She has written and directed more than two-dozen works for the stage, including Promenade, The Successful Life of 3, Fefu and Her Friends, The Danube, Mud, The Conduct of Life, What of the Night?, Abingdon Square, Enter the Night, The Summer in Gossensass, and Oscar and Bertha.

In addition to the Obies, she has received a New York State Governor's Arts Award, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. More recently, Signature Theater Company in New York City devoted its 1999-2000 season to the Fornes oeuvre, culminating in the world premiere of her latest Obie-winning work, Letters From Cuba, which was the first play that deals directly with her Cuban heritage.

Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson recently launched "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.

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