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DREAM TEAM CAST OF CHICAGO'S TOP WOMEN THEATER ARTISTS TO STAR IN FEFU AND HER FRIENDS, PRODUCED BY SEASON OF CONCERN TO BENEFIT CHICAGO'S EMERGENCY FUND FOR THEATER ARTISTS
Fefu and Her Friends will be presented as a virtual, enhanced stage reading. The 80-minute production will be immediately followed by a live talk back with members of the cast and production team.
Ticket sales will be turned into direct financial aid for members of Chicago’s theater community who cannot work due to illness, injury or circumstance. As Chicago’s stages remain shuttered due to Covid-19, these funds are particularly critical for Chicago artists in need.
Season of Concern, the emergency fund for Chicago theater artists, is thrilled to announce it will co-produce a virtual production of Fefu and Her Friends, Cuban-American playwright María Irene Fornés’ feminist masterwork, in partnership with much-admired Chicago theater artist Mary Beth Fisher.
Director Stacy Stoltz has assembled an amazing, dream team of eight of Chicago’s top leading ladies to co-star in this special benefit production: Charin Alvarez, Sandra Delgado, Ora Jones, Delia Kropp, Sadieh Rifai, Lisa Tejero, Janet Ulrich Brooks and Penelope Walker.
WGN-TV news anchor and reporter Lourdes Duarte has signed on as the evening’s virtual host.
Anne Garcîa-Romero, Associate Professor of Theatre at the University of Notre Dame and co-founder of The Fornés Institute, is dramaturg. Devin Brain is technical director and video editor.
Fefu and Her Friends will be presented as a virtual, enhanced stage reading. The 80-minute production will premiere online on Saturday, December 5 at 7 p.m. CT, and will be immediately followed by a live talk back with members of the cast and production team.
Tickets for Fefu and Her Friends -- $10/$5 for students and seniors – are on sale now. To purchase, visit the Season of Concern website, seasonofconcern.org, or call (312) 375-1133.
All ticket buyers will receive a private Vimeo link a few hours before show time with simple instructions how to stream the performance. The show will debut promptly at 7 p.m., although ticket holders have the option to watch the production on demand within 24 hours.
Afterwards, the performance will be posted on Season of Concern's website, seasonofconcern.org, for on-demand viewing through December 9. Post-opening tickets are $10/$5.
Proceeds will benefit Season of Concern, which provides financial assistance to Chicagoland theater practitioners impacted by illness, injury or circumstances that prevent them from working. For more information, visit seasonofconcern.org.
Fefu and Her Friends: Behind the scenes
Fefu and Her Friends, told in three parts, is set on one amazing day in the spring of 1935 in a New England country home, where Fefu and her seven female friends have gathered to rehearse a presentation for their charity benefiting arts education. The women interact over their planning - studying, drinking, repairing plumbing, analyzing dreams and relationships, while Fefu carries on an unusual game involving her unseen husband outside and a rifle. Shifting between realism and surrealism, this award-winning play asks its audience to consider what is most "real" - is it what is in front of you or what is inside of you?
Originally staged and directed by Fornés herself in 1977, Fefu and Her Friends is best known for its use of an all-female cast and her bold and experimental deviations from conventional playwriting and stage presentation. The play earned Fornés one of her nine Obie Awards and is still considered one of the most influential Off-Broadway plays ever - remaining a key work of the American avant-garde.
"Fornés, my teacher and mentor, taught me to seek authenticity and truth in my playwriting," said dramaturg Anne García-Romero. "Fefu and Her Friends remains one of the most important (and lesser known) plays of the twentieth century and explores the authentic and true experiences of women in the 1930's as they struggle to survive in a patriarchal society. In these times, Fefu and Her Friends reminds me of the importance and power of women in community, joining together to uplift each other, in the face of relentless inequities."
"I think Fornés was always mining what is underneath the surface," said co-producer Mary Beth Fisher. “Gender roles, friendship, love, sexuality, conformity, community, the haves and the have-nots - to me, all these things speak clearly to the present moment in our country. If you feel powerless, what does it take to feel powerful? If you feel like you don't have a voice, how do you find it? And how do you use it?"
Director Stacy Stoltz adds, “This play settles some of my very unsettled feelings about being a woman in our country right now - what would it be like if I didn't have to censor myself or smile and stay calm when I'm feeling the opposite. It kind of scratches an infuriating itch. It's a rare thing for a group of women to be given so much time and space to try to connect and grapple with their intimate feelings.”
“We can’t wait for audiences to enjoy this inventive new staging of Fefu and Her Friends,” added Season of Concern Managing Director Michael Ryczek. “A virtual revival of Fornés’ most famous feminist masterpiece seems more than relevant at this particular moment in history. Moreover, ticket sales will be turned right back into direct financial aid for members of Chicago’s theater community who cannot work due to illness, injury or circumstance. As Chicago’s stages remain shuttered due to the Covid-19 pandemic, these funds are particularly critical for Chicago artists in need.”
Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust is the generous sponsor of this event, along with The Actors Fund and Jay Kelly PR.
Special thanks to Theater Wit and its artistic director, Jeremy Wechsler.
About Season of Concern Chicago:
The short-term emergency fund for Chicago’s theater community
Season of Concern is the short-term emergency fund for Chicago’s theater community. Since 1987, it has provided direct, short-term emergency financial assistance to Chicago-area actors, directors, designers, technicians, playwrights—anyone working in the theater—who have found themselves temporarily unable to work due to injury, illness or circumstance.
Season of Concern supports both members of Actors’ Equity Association, as well as Non-Equity theater makers. If your name appears in a local theater program, you’re eligible to apply for short-term financial assistance. Season of Concern also provides sustaining support to the Chicago office of The Actors Fund, the national human services organization for entertainment and performing arts professionals in theater, film, music, opera, television and dance with a broad spectrum of social, health, employment and housing programs. Last year alone, Season of Concern Chicago donated more than $100,000 to the Chicago office of The Actors Fund.
Season of Concern was founded more than 30 years ago as the Chicago theater community’s response to the advent of the AIDS crisis and has consistently worked to support those afflicted with AIDS-related illnesses ever since, collecting over $3 million through audience donations. Season of Concern relies on fundraising and donations to complete its mission, including its well-known holiday season fundraising campaign in which Chicago theater artists at participating theaters volunteer to make an appeal and pass a donation bucket through the audience after each show.
Season of Concern continues to provide critical funding to over 25 Chicago-based direct care HIV/AIDS organizations, but has expanded its mission more recently to support the greater health needs of the Chicagoland theater community. Following a two-year strategic planning initiative, Season of Concern’s updated mission statement is to provide financial assistance to those in our community impacted by illness, injury or circumstance. Its vision is to work toward a future where no member of the Chicagoland Theatre community struggles alone.
Earlier this year, Season of Concern launched new branding and an enhanced website – seasonofconcern.org – to bring new attention to this expanded mission. Visit the site’s new Get Help and Apply Now pages to link directly to guidelines for medical assistance.
Season of Concern Chicago, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, is led by managing director Michael Ryczek, board president Luther Goins, and a dedicated board of directors: Melissa Carsten, Mike Checuga, Sandra Delgado, Martin (Marty) Grochala, Charls Sedgwick Hall, Mark David Kaplan, Doug MacKechnie, Ken-Matt Martin, Billy Mayer, Bridget McDonough, Marcelle McVay, Rondi Reed, Jane Nicholl Sahlins, Steve Scott, Leslie Shook and Richard Turner.
For more information, visit seasonofconcern.org or call (312) 332-0518. For the latest updates, follow Season of Concern on social media: Facebook.com/SeasonofConcern, Twitter.com/SeasonofConcern or Instagram.com/SeasonofConcern.
María Irene Fornés (playwright) was born on May 14, 1930, in Havana, Cuba, to Carlos Luis and Carmen Hismenia Fornés. After her father died in 1945, she moved with her mother and sister to the United States, becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1951. From 1954 to 1957, Fornés lived in Paris, studying to become a painter. However, after attending a French production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, Fornés decided to devote her creative energies toward playwriting. Upon returning to the United States, she worked for three years as a textile designer in New York City. The Widow, Fornés' first professionally produced play, was staged in 1961. Fornés acted as the director for many of her subsequent works, including There! You Died (1963; later retitled Tango Place, 1964), The Successful Life of 3: A Skit in Vaudeville (1965), and Molly’s Dream (1968), among others. In 1973 she founded the New York Theatre Strategy, which was devoted to the production of stylistically innovative theatrical works. Fornés has held teaching and advisory positions at several universities and theatrical festivals, such as the Theatre for the New City, the Padua Hills Festival, and the INTAR (International Arts Relations) program in New York City. She received eight Obie awards — in such categories as distinguished playwriting and direction and best new play — for Promenade (1965), The Successful Life of 3, Fefu and Her Friends, The Danube (1982), Mud, Sarita (1984), The Conduct of Life and Abingdon Square (1987). Fornés received numerous other awards and grants for her oeuvre, including Rockefeller Foundation Grants in 1971 and 1984, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1972, National Endowments for the Arts grants in 1974, 1984, and 1985, an American Academy and Institute of Letters and Arts Award in Literature in 1986, and a Playwrights U.S.A. Award in 1986. She also produced several original translations and adaptations of such plays as Federico Garcia Lorca's Blood Wedding (1980), Pedro Calderón de la Barca's Life is a Dream (1981), Virgilio Piñera's Cold Air (1985), and Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya (1987). She died in New York City on October 30, 2018.
Charin Alvarez (Christina) performed in I am Not Your Perfect Mexican daughter; La Ruta; Infidel; Ordinary Yearning; Fermi at Steppenwolf Theatre. Lettie; Mojada; Oedipus El Rey; Anna in the Tropics; A Park in the House at Victory Gardens Theater. Pedro Paramo; El Nogalar; Dollhouse and Electricidad at Goodman Theatre. In the time of the Butterflies; Our Lady of the Underpass; I put the fear of Mexico in 'em; Dreamlandia; Another Part of the House at Teatro Vista. Alvarez has also appeared at Chicago Dramatist Theatre; Remy Bumppo Theatre; About Face Theatre; 16th Street Theatre; Chicago Children's Theatre and others. Film/TV credits include: Easy; Shameless; Chicago Fire; Mob Doctor; Boss; Chicago Code; Approach Alone; Rooftop Wars; Arc of a Bird; Were the World Mine and others.
Sandra Delgado (Cecelia) is a Colombian-American writer and actor best known for her smash hit play La Havana Madrid, featured in the New York Times and CNN/CNÑ. Also a respected veteran of the stage, her acting highlights include work at Steppenwolf and The Goodman Theatre in Chicago and The Public Theatre in New York. She is a member of Collaboraction and Teatro Vista and is one of the twenty iconic women of Chicago arts and culture honored in Kerry James Marshall's mural Rushmore on the facade of the Chicago Cultural Center. She is currently writing The Boys and the Nuns, centering on the fight for LGBTQ and women's rights in 1980s Chicago. sandradelgado.net
Mary Beth Fisher (Co-Producer) has worked as an actor, director, acting teacher and coach in Chicago, NYC, and in theaters all over the country. Her TV/film credits include Saint Frances, Sense8, Chicago Fire, Chicago Justice, Without a Trace, Numb3rs; Prison Break, NYPD Blue; Profiler and others. Fisher has received two Joseph Jefferson Awards, Drama Desk, Lucile Lortel and Bay Area Critics Circle nominations, the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award and Chicago’s Leading Lady Award from the Sarah Siddons Society. She was a Beinecke Fellow at Yale University and an Inaugural Lunt-Fontanne Fellow at the Ten Chimney’s Foundation. She has been a proud member of AEA since 1978.
Anne García-Romero (Dramaturg) is the author of plays including Lorca in New York, Staging the Daffy Dame, Provenance, Paloma, Mary Domingo, Juanita’s Statue, Earthquake Chica and Santa Concepción. Her plays have been developed and produced most notably at the Public Theatre, Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, Goodman Theatre, Denver Center Theater, and South Coast Repertory. Her book, “The Fornés Frame: Contemporary Latina Playwrights and the Legacy of Maria Irene Fornés” (University of Arizona, 2016), explores the work of six award-winning Latina playwrights. She’s a founding member of the Fornés Institute and an Associate Professor of Theatre at the University of Notre Dame. annegarciaromero.com
Ora Jones (Fefu) is a member of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble. At Steppenwolf: The Children; Familiar; The Roommate; The Doppleganger; Wheel; Middletown; The Brother/Sister Plays; Three Sisters; The Unmentionables; The Violet Hour; Carter’s Way; and Morning Star. Locally she has also appeared on the stages of Chicago Shakespeare Theater; Goodman Theatre; Rivendell Theatre; Timeline Theatre; Writers Theatre; About Face Theatre and others. Her Broadway roles include Madame de Volanges in Les Liaisons Dangereuses at the Booth, and Mrs. Phelps in Matilda the Musical, both at the Shubert and in the first national tour. Regional and other New York credits include performances at Long Wharf Theatre, Yale Repertory, Manhattan Theatre Club, Public Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory, Next Act, and a particular favorite, the role of Mrs. Muller in Doubt for The Weston Playhouse in Weston, VT, directed by Malcolm Ewen.
Delia Kropp (Cindy) has enjoyed storytelling at LGBT events, and for Fresh Meat. She's worked over 40 years as a actor and stage director, and since gender transitioning she's been an advocate for trans people in the entertainment industry. Delia serves as Artistic Associate and Board Member of About Face Theatre Company, and her new initiative "Brave Conversations" looks at the significance of personal identity, and ways to constructively talk about gender. She stars in the film Landlocked, debuting on the Indy festival circuit in 2021.
Sadieh Rifai (Emma) is an ensemble member at A Red Orchid Theatre. At A Red Orchid: Do You Feel Anger; An Evening at The Talk House; and Grey House. Her credits include, Short Shakes Macbeth, the world premiere of The Humans (Jeff Award nomination for Best Ensemble) at American Theatre Company. Other Chicago credits include Support Group for Men and A Christmas Carol at Goodman Theatre. Film credits include The Wise Kids, Nate and Margaret and Olympia. TV credits include Chicago Med, Netflix’s Easy, CBS’s The Red Line and Amazon's Patriot in which she plays the recurring role of Mahtma El-Mashad. Sadieh is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf and received the Princess Grace Award in 2011.
Stacy Stoltz (Director) is so happy for this opportunity to share her favorite play and to help raise funds for Season of Concern. Last fall, she directed a reading of Fefu and her Friends for The Fornes Festival at The University of Notre Dame. With Erasing The Distance, she has created, directed and performed documentary plays including her solo show, Walk a Mile. Acting credits include: Hatfield and McCoy (The House Theatre), Stupid Fucking Bird (Sideshow Theatre), Marjorie Prime and A Streetcar Named Desire (Writers Theatre).
Lisa Tejero (Julia) most recently opened then was furloughed in an all-female production of Henry the 6th titled Bring down the House at Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, where she last performed in White Snake. Other credits include The Agitators at Upstream Theatre, Metamorphoses in the Broadway production at Circle in the Square Theatre, and Anything Goes at Arena State. She is an artistic associate of Lookingglass Theatre where she has appeared in 1984, Argonautika, Curiosity Shop, Ethan Frome, Fedra, and S/M. She has also appeared on the stages of Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Iowa Repertory Theatre, Oak Park Festival Theatre, Court Theatre, Victory Gardens and many others. Tejero is a recipient of two After Dark Awards, a Drama League Distinguished Performance nomination and a Jeff award nomination for her portrayal of Vivian Bearing in The Hypocrite’s production of Wit.
Janet Ulrich Brooks (Sue) has performed at Chicago’s TimeLine Theatre (Company Member), Goodman, Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, Victory Gardens, Northtlight, Drury Lane, Theatre at the Center and others. She received the Joseph Jefferson award for principal role as Maria Callas in TimeLine’s production of Master Class. Television: Fargo S4 (FX), Sense8 (Netflix), Proven Innocent (FoxTV), Boss (STARZ) & NBC’s Playboy Club & Chicago Fire/Med/Justice. Film: Divergent, Conviction, M.O.M., One Small Hitch, Fools, Polish Bar, Market Value and several shorts.
Penelope Walker (Paula) performed in A Christmas Carol, The Story, Crowns and Wit at Goodman Theatre, Don DeLillo's Love Lies Bleeding at Steppenwolf Theatre and at The Kennedy Center, Mother Of The Maid, Into The Breeches, Curve Of Departure, Eclipsed and Gee's Bend at Northlight Theatre, and The House That Will Not Stand and No One As Nasty at Victory Gardens Theatre. Walker has also appeared on many other Chicago area stages including Lookingglass Theatre, Theater Wit, Remy Bumppo Theatre, American Theater, Chicago Dramatists, Next Theatre, Rivendell Theatre and Chicago Theatre Company, among others. Walker also created and starred in her own solo piece, How I Jack Master Funked the Sugar in My Knee Caps! She has appeared regionally with Alliance Theatre, Arena Stage, Hartford Stage and Alley Theatre.