Sarasvàti Productions will take over the Ralph Connor House when it puts on Fefu and Her Friends, a feminist play which was written by Cuban-American playwright María Irene Fornés in 1977.
The actual story is set in a New England country house during the spring of 1935, taking the audience through a day in the life of the Fefu, which climaxes with a murder.
“For me it’s been a play I’ve known about and loved since I did my undergrad 20 years ago so I’ve always wanted to direct it,” director Hope McIntyre says. “I was just waiting for the right time and this was a good year because we knew we had the talent we needed here in Winnipeg, and getting the Ralph Connor House was huge because that really is the ideal venue for this play.”
Aside from taking place in a heritage house, as opposed to a traditional theatre, the play also varies from others because the audience spends part of it moving around in smaller groups.
“The audience gets to sit together as a large group and they also get split up into smaller groups, which is literally like going behind-the-scenes in the lives of the different women,” McIntyre says. “That way every audience member sort of leaves with a different experience.”
Sarasvàti Productions’ mandate is using theatre for social change and the main theme this particular play touches on is feminism.
“Some feminists have criticized this play because they feel that women should only be shown in a positive light, while [Fornés’] response was that we needed to show what was really happening and what the reality of women’s lives are really like if we really want to understand,” McIntyre says.
“It combines both realism and expressionistic aspects, which is what really draws me to the play. There’s also so much happening under the surface, it’s not just what it appears to be and as an artist that really excites me.”
The play itself features an all-female cast, including local actress Megan McArton playing the role of Fefu, with Elena Anciro, Julia Arkos, Nan Fewchuk, Brenda McLean, Tracey Nepinak, Tracy Penner and Kelci Stephenson as the title character’s friends.
“Fefu is mischievous, she’s playful, she’s verbally provocative, she likes to poke people and I think that’s going to be fun to play,” McArton says.
“She was also the character that made the most psychological sense for me. The play is very dense, it’s got a lot of questions and a lot of different issues, though they’re mostly feminist issues. These are issues I think I went through at one time in my life, I don’t think I’m there now, but they were issues for me during the ‘70s which was when the play was written. Issues on identity, sexuality, powerlessness, expressing your creativity and the need to find out and be more than you are. That’s what drew me to the role in the first place.”
Published in Volume 68, Number 26 of The Uniter (May 7, 2014)