Upcoming Alcyone Festival to Focus on the Works of María Irene Fornés

Since 2008, Halcyon Theatre has done a festival of plays by female playwrights as a part of their season. The Alcyone Festival is done every year to “combat the absolutely awful percentage of female playwrights produced,” as Halcyon artistic director Tony Adams puts it.

This year’s festival focuses on the works of María Irene Fornés, a Cuban playwright.

“Other than Eugene O’Neil, no other playwright has had a greater influence on drama. Most people haven’t heard of her, but they know of her through whom she influenced and taught,” Adams said.

Fornes has written about 40 plays; among her works that are being performed for the festival are Letters from Cuba, Tango Palace, Sarita, Manual for a Desperate Crossing, Summer in Gossensass and What of the Night. Five of the six plays haven’t been seen in Chicago before.

For Gina Lopiccolo, the director of Sarita, the ability to direct one of Fornes’ plays is exciting.

“I had directed one of her shows in college, The Conduct of Life,” Lopiccolo said. “I’m a huge fan of hers and she doesn’t get produced a lot. I had wanted to direct Sarita for a while.”

Sarita is a “play with music” that tells the story of a young girl named Sarita. The play focuses on her life from age 13 to 21 as she pursues a troublemaking boy that no one approves of while another boy is in love with her, while she doesn’t care for him.

For Lavina Jadhwani, the director of Summer in Gossensass, which is about the first American production of Hedda Gabbler, this is an introduction to the work of Fornés.

“I was more familiar with Ibsen,” Jadhwani said. “When I read all of the subbmissions that Tony had, I felt drawn to this play. What’s fascinating is that they’ve heard about Ibsen, they’ve heard about Hedda, but it’s not until halfway through the play that they get their hands on the script. It was not a play, it was the play. I saw a lot of myself and my peers in that. What does it mean to create meaningful art? There are some very high stakes in that.”

The other directors include Juan Castañeda, Coya Paz, Margo Gray and Halcyon Theatre’s associate artistic director Jenn Adams.

“It’s a pretty formidable group of directors, which is exciting for me,” Tony Adams said. “At the end of the day, they’re great plays and they’re fun to watch.”

The Alcyone Festival begins on January 21 and runs through February 27 at the Lincoln Square Theatre in the Barry United Methodist Church at 4754 N Leavitt. For more info, visit halcyontheatre.org

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