Supporting creative work by women
Works by Women continues our interview with the extraordinarily talented Caridad Svich (pictured left, photo credit: Peter Summer Walton Bellamy). In the first part, she discussed the differences between adapting for the stage and writing new work and why her latest adaptation En el tiempo de las Mariposas (In the Time of the Butterflies) is such an important story to tell. Now, Svich weighs in on the future of American women in theater and tells us what’s next for her.
4) What were the challenges of adapting the beloved book for the stage? Was it different because it was based on real people?
There were enormous challenges in adapting this book. Especially because it is based on real people. I constantly felt inordinate pressure to “get things right,” to be respectful, to capture their world with theatrical authenticity and grace. The book itself is so cherished, and rightly so, and I found myself, esp. writing in Spanish for an audience at Repertorio initially whom I knew would come largely from the Dominican community in New York City, to be “true.” Of course, one can only be true to the spirit of something and the truth of the fiction you’re crafting for the stage. But still, unlike with other plays of mine, even the multimedia collaboration The Booth Variations (about Edwin Booth, John Wilkes Booth and Junius Brutus Booth), I felt extraordinary pressure for a certain kind of tonal accuracy. The writing process was difficult for me because of this, because it took a long while for me to feel free to write and also to locate the source of my own need to respond to this story. Also, the structure of [Julia] Alvarez’s novel is incredibly delicate. She creates this time-leaping refracted prism of the sisters’ voices. Unlike The House of the Spirits, which for all of [Isabel] Allende’s labyrinthine structure nevertheless retains a very strong and central narrative drive, Alvarez’s book is constantly going “sideways,” as it were, reflecting on small details, close-ups and portraits of these women’s lives, so I had to figure out how to re-capture the intimate, sideways glance on stage while still crafting a play with a sense of action and event.
5) What’s next on the horizon for you?
Right now I’m making revisions on the English version of In the Time of the Butterflies for potential productions next season, at work on three new plays – one a contemporary love story called In Your Arms, the other an epic play about sports, and the third a movement theatre piece with director Alice Reagan entitled For Love which is loosely inspired by Euripides’ Alcestis, and I’m writing my first novel! I’m also in rehearsals for the premiere in April 2011 of my dark comedy about celebrity culture and visual art Magnificent Waste with the Washington D.C.-based company Factory 449. I’m also in the LoNyLa Writing Lab (a London, New York and Los Angeles collaboration) with my play Rift. With my editorial hat, I’m in the proof stage of a book I’ve edited on the subject of theatre and censorship entitled Out of Silence for Manchester University Press and at various stages of copy editing for 11 new titles forthcoming from the NoPassport Press imprint. In midst of all this, I’m also in plans with director Jose Zayas for the next and final installment of the Americas trilogy that I began with The House of the Spirits.
6) What do you think is the greatest challenge facing female theater artists?
Keeping the faith. Believing in the expansive rather than restrictive or prescriptive nature of what a woman can write and/or make for the stage. Not giving up. No matter how many glass ceilings and/or obstacles along the way.
7) What gives you hope for women in American theater?
Well, just look at us all! Look how many extraordinary women have changed the shape of US theatre on the boards and behind the scenes! To only name a few along the pioneering way: Mae West, Sophie Treadwell, Lillian Hellman, Adrienne Kennedy, Lorraine Hansberry, Maria Irene Fornes, Wendy Wasserstein, Meredith Monk, Liz LeCompte, Wendall K. Harrington, Eve LeGalliene, Liz Swados, Ruby Dee, Karen Finley, Lynn Nottage, Suzan-Lori Parks, Linda Faigao-Hall, Lynne Alvarez, and more and more and more…the list is too numerous, too eclectic, too far-reaching to ever do justice to the work of women in US theatre and performance. There are more women making plays in the US than ever before, and more women coming up who see the theatre as a vital form to explore. That’s hope. Right there.
En el tiempo de las Mariposas (In the Time of the Butterflies) is performed in Spanish with English translation available. The production continues through May 22, 2011 at Repertorio Espanol.