'Curious, Playful, and Compassionate' — Fefu and Her Friends Take the Stage
Performers and production staff in the Department of Performing Arts are hard at work preparing for Fefu and Her Friends, on stage at the Harold and Sylvia Greenberg Theatre from March 24-26. Tickets are $15 ($10 for AU community members and seniors), available by calling 202-885-ARTS or by visiting the AU box office.
Fefu is Director-in-Residence Nadia Guevara’s first performance at AU. She stumbled upon the play, written by Cuban American playwright María Irene Fornés, in a Los Angeles record score years ago. Guevara writes, “It lived on my nightstand for some time, with every read feeling fresh and different, and I was struck by the way this play, with its punk rock disregard for a plot, managed to draw me into the psychological, hidden conflicts within each character.”
When faculty member Aaron Posner approached Guevara to direct the play at American University, she leapt at the opportunity.
The play features eight women, gathered for a weekend in Fefu’s New England country home. For Zoe Babbit (SIS ’25), who plays Fefu, the friendship between the characters parallels the closeness of the 16 cast members and understudies. Babbit says that the cast bonded quickly. “Relationships are such an important part of what we do in the show,” she says, leading to questions like “How do we know each other? What are our relationships? How does that impact who our character is?”
In the play’s second act, audiences leave their seats to view four different scenes, bringing them closer to the action. “As theatre-makers we get to make spaces our playground,” Guevara says. “This allows us to take audience members through a journey, through the guts of the house itself.”
The play is based in 1935 but was written in 1977, around the end of the feminist movement’s second wave. “The feminism of Fornés isn’t loud or in-your-face. It’s curious, playful, and compassionate,” writes Guevara. Watching the characters explore their identities as women in the early stages of the feminist movement provides much to consider through a twenty-first century lens.
Guevara says, “They’re struggling to find the vocabulary that people like you and I have around consent, autonomy, around creating our own futures.” For Babbit, the greatest challenge posed by her role was “not diminishing [Fefu], into something easily palatable. This is a woman who struggles with her femininity, who wants to reject it. She’s not going to be an easy pill to swallow for the audience.”
Fornés’ writing encourages creativity and a playful interpretation of the play. Guevara noted that a collegiate environment provides the perfect opportunity for experimentation, and “that energy is palpable,” throughout the performance. Babbit echoed that her performance involves “acting less and being more. Being human.”
Fefu and Her Friends is produced by special arrangement with Broadway Play Publishing Inc, NYC.
Originally produced by the New York Theater Strategy.
Photos courtesy of Bret O'Brien.