Bringing The Maryland Women to Jersey Fringe
By Amber Kusching
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]I[/dropcap] started writing “The Maryland Women” four years ago when I first began to really embrace the title “feminist”. I was acting in a production of Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues” at Montclair State University where I attended college. “The Vagina Monologues” is a series of scenes and monologues that explore female issues ranging from the perception of women in media, to sexual issues and abuse, to women’s health issues, and everything in between. While working on that production, I had the opportunity to collaborate with so many strong women who were passionate about telling their own personal stories.I have always been interested in acting, singing, and dancing since I was very young and I have performed in numerous recitals and plays. But when I entered college, though I sometimes still performed, I realized I had a very strong desire to write and direct plays so I pursued that path.
In doing so, I realized more and more that the commercial theatre industry is dominated by male playwrights. Too often, in modern plays we see men writing the stereotype of women as “damsels in distress”: powerless “ingénues” waiting for the male protagonist to save the day.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]A[/dropcap]s a female writer, I view it as my obligation to write about women and to portray women in my writing as I see them in my life. That was the primary inspiration for my play “The Maryland Women”, my love letter to the “Vagina Monologues”. My play is intentionally structured as a series of monologues, many of which echo the themes from Eve Ensler’s play.
“The Maryland Women” revolves around the stories of six different women from different generations of the same family. It is an immersive production, which means that the audience is involved in the storytelling of the play. There is no “fourth wall”. Rather the audience is “immersed” in the world of the production. Most immersive theatre pieces are “site specific” and not staged in theatres. “The Maryland Women” will be staged in a house. Each scene takes place in a different room of the house and the audience will be led from room to room to see and hear each character’s story.
“The Maryland Women” is also my tribute to my mother. I was raised by a single mom. My father died when I was nine years old and my mother raised me by herself. She modeled for me bravery, strength and independence unlike anything I had ever seen in movies or read about when I was younger. Since she worked a full-time job to keep a roof over our head, I also spent nurturing time with my two older adult half-sisters and my father’s ex-wife, who I considered a “grandmother”, who live in a nearby state.
It might seem like a strange scenario, but love made it work.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]M[/dropcap]y goal in writing “The Maryland Women” was to write fully-developed female characters who, though odds were stacked against them, continue to fight through their circumstances and attempt to move forward.
“The Maryland Women” contains very dark themes such as mental disorders, self-harm and sexual abuse. Since I first conceived my characters, I have been haunted by their stories. Each scene of the play takes place in a different decade, but the things the women discuss in regards to their lives—such as struggles with depression, sexual assault, the choice of abortion, the loss of a loved one—these are all struggles that defy time.
Given the fact that the play is solely comprised of women characters, and that the plot focuses on the lives of women, it was only natural for me to want to also use a completely female creative team. I wanted to work collaboratively with fellow female designers and theatre artists who wished to not only grow in their craft, but grow as women.
My hope is that this play is easy for audiences to connect to. I hope that they can walk through the scenes, through different decades, and connect to the different stories. There is something in this play for everyone. As a female writer, it is my duty to portray these women as I see them and understand them. It is important to me that I write something outside of the typical female stereotypes.
I cannot be silenced.[divider type="dashed" spacing="10"] [well]
“The Maryland Women” runs from August 5-7th, 2016 in downtown Hammonton, NJ.
For more information about “The Maryland Women”, visit the production’s website at www.amberkusching.wix.com/themarylandwomen [/well]