By Holli Harms
It started with two women with personal frustrations and an idea.
Theater artists, Kathryn Markey and Dee Pelletier were seeing, again and again, a plethora of roles for men over 40, and far fewer for women. It is a fact that roles for white males over 40 are everywhere, but for women of a certain age and people of color the same cannot be said. They decided to funnel their frustration and create a platform for women over 40. Out of that developed Plays For Us. They know so many amazing actresses and put a call out to everyone, both male and female, asking for plays as diverse as possible with the main roles for women over 40. They got them and started to put them up as in-person readings. Then Covid hit, and like all of us, they shifted to Zoom and continued. They found that there was interest, from actresses, from writers, and from the public.
The success of all of this pushed them further and now that our Covid contaminations are down, we know more about how to avoid transmission, and people are returning to the theater, they created two weekends of women over 40 solo shows. The Plays For Us evenings of new works are being presented at Axis Theatre Company down in Greenwich Village. The Axis generously donated the space to Plays For Us, which demonstrates by action the theater’s support. There are no sets so to speak simply what is needed by each performer; a chair and table, a music stand, simple items to support the artist. This is an evening of new works, some of the pieces are being read aloud for the first time, others are more polished, reflecting a longer developmental process. They vary from ten minutes to seventy-five and are a multitude of voices, some telling personal stories, and others adopting a persona and telling the story through a character.
On the evening I attended there were three pieces, two running ten minutes and one running seventy-five. Each riveting. From a created persona of a delusional individual who stayed after the January 6th, 2021 attack on the Capital and is living under the Capital counting the days until Trump returns, to a woman coming to understand how a rape changed her life and not for the worst, to a woman dealing with the death of her father and the insanity of family and greed that comes into play when a patriarch passes. I sat with the rest of the intimate, attentive audience and found myself listening as incredible stories unraveled. At some point, I wanted to yell, “What? No!” As the old adage goes, truth is stranger than fiction.
Kathryn feels that actresses of a certain age often turn to writing because they want to create a story, a character, that they do not find anywhere and have not been able to do. They have things they want to say. “It is rare,” Kathryn said, and I agree, “that women get to talk as long as they want, as they need to, without interruption. It is rare to have an entire evening of nothing but women’s voices at the center.”
Plays For Us evening of solo shows is like a Moth evening of storytelling with stories that will astound you, surprise you, and possibly shift your thinking.
Below is the list of performers/performances:
All Performances are Free to the Public
May 6, Friday
Suzen Kukana Murakoshi, Putin Ever Call You A Racist? (10 minutes)
Chuck Armstrong is a man with a mission on January 6, 2021. Heʻs ready for anything. And, he shares the depths of the Capitol and his mind with you. A bouffon piece by a clown.
June Ballinger, The Space Between (10 minutes), Directed by Janice L. Goldberg
Beauty and the Beast in Carmel California 1974. The story of a young woman’s courage and forgiveness….or is it the instinct for survival?
Heidi Armbruster, Scarecrow or The Dead Dad Farm Play (75 minutes)
Will the bulls chase her off the property, or will she garden herself into oblivion? A New York City actress lands herself on her family’s dairy farm to grieve herself back to life. But can she ever make enough meatloaf to feel a sense of purpose again now that her most important person is no longer on the planet? One woman’s look back at the last 33 days of her father’s life in a rip-roaring and touching journey of roller coasters, kittens, and cows.
May 7, Saturday
Joanne Solomon, Hurtling, (30 minutes)
In the wake of her mother’s death Joanne Solomon searches for a safety net in the most unlikely of places. Hurtling is a coming-of-age story about a young woman who learns to fly, quite literally, as a performer/aerialist in the long running, highly physical, off Broadway show De la Guarda. Grief stricken and afraid of heights, Solomon changes the trajectory of her life by testing the limits of her strength and in doing so, finds an unexpected equilibrium.
Orlagh Cassidy, It’s In The Play (70 minutes)
IT’S IN THE PLAY, written by Orlagh Cassidy, co-created with Kate Lardner : Orlagh captures a time and place with a sort of high wire devotion not only to the words but to the very sound of this knotty Irish story. She reaches back to her rich past and captures, transforms and guides it into the imaginative present. She is a brave explorer into the world of memory and gives voice to the major gestures of emotion. In a story of great loss and yearning she delivers the vision, humor and language that teach us how to survive suicide, addiction, and mental illness. It is achieved through the persistence of real love and the brilliance of the Irish Character captured by one gifted Irish performer.
May 8, Sunday, Mother’s Day
Yvette Heyliger, Nizah Morris: The Most Loving Thing to Do (30 minutes), Directed by Maggie Low
Inspired by true-life events, Roslyn Wilkins is interviewed on the 10th anniversary of the murder and cover-up of her daughter, trans-Buddhist and entertainer, Nizah Morris.
Kathryn Markey, The True Story of Judith (60 minutes)
One woman’s exploration of love, grief, and what happens when you have to kill a man.
May 13, Friday
Julia Motyka, TBD (20-30 minutes)
Sharahn LaRue, Normal (30 minutes)
Normal, Sharahn LaRue’s one-woman show, inspired by her journal during the first months of the pandemic. Normal asks what is normal –this place we want to go back to? She documents stories about the moments in her life that defined or confronted what was normal in her life and how she explored or moved past it. Her hope is to challenge our use of this word and the influence it holds. As everyone struggles to find a “new normal”, she wants to know is normal the new “n-word” for us all?
Anney Giobbe, Shiny (60 minutes)
Parables of a daughter’s chosen profession, and her journey to connect with her Dad.
May 14, Saturday
Rutanya Alda, USA Land of the Mustaches (15 minutes)
WW2 ends and there are 12 million refugees. The allies were not prepared for that amount of people. Most countries in Europe were devastated. many bombed out. The refugee camps were set up in Germany . Germany was divided into four zones, French, British, American and Soviet. My story is one story out of 12 million. It’s a very personal story told from my child’s point of view of what I witnessed growing up in the refugee camps. It also parallels my father’s story of being grabbed off the street and thrown into a cattle car with many other men, and forcibly sent to Stalin’s infamous forced labor camps called the Gulags. NY times estimates that 2 to 20 million died in the Gulags. My father survived. I tell his story. War is devastating to families and children, as we now witness the Ukraine situation. Wars seem to never end.
Lydia Gaston, Her Mother’s Daughter, Composer Dave Hall (25 to 30 minutes)
Lydia Gaston, was trained as a ballet dancer by her mother, Lydia Madarang Gaston. In this piece she explores the complexities of having a mother who was her teacher and mentor. Growing up in the Philippines, in her mother’s dance school, Lydia is groomed to be a ballerina and encouraged by her mother to also go to New York once she is 18. Her mother shares her experiences about New York and the exciting five years she had studying with the best dance teachers, being asked to join ballet Russe but in the end choosing marriage over a performing career. Lydia the daughter is brought up knowing her mother has had an unfulfilled performing career and her mother lives through her vicariously. The Lydia M. Gaston School of Dance in Bacolod City thrives for 50 years. On the school’s 49th year Lydia M. Gaston is diagnosed with cancer. Her daughter contemplates what will happen with her mother’s legacy. What has she learned about her mother’s struggles, her disappointments, her triumphs?
Christen Clifford, Cancer: A Love Story (60 minutes)
In March 2016, in the midst of the political sideshow that has transformed our culture, I was diagnosed with ovarian and uterine cancers. I knew that I couldn’t fuck or drink my way through this so I documented everything. Cancer: A Love Story is a show about rape, illness and the crazy things I did to heal. I hope it is proof that our darkest moments are the most illuminating. And I hope it shows that humans will do almost anything to heal themselves.
Joanna Parson, 3 Chords of the Apocalypse: A Transcriber’s Tale (30 minutes)
Welcome to a bustling transcription office in New York City in 2001, where typists are busy listening to — and typing out — raw interviews for pulpy television shows and other mass media. The ultimate eavesdropper in a storm of sound bites, cliches and unexpected confessions, Joanna Parson presents a unique musical monologue that shows you what happens when a young woman with a sense of humor and a Guild guitar tries to keep her sanity and heart intact in the center of the news cycle.
May 15, Sunday
Jodie Lynne McClintock, The Uses of Adversity – of Players, Plagues, and Poetry (30 minutes)
The Uses of Adversity – of Players, Plagues, and Poetry was devised as a two-part exploration of actors in exile in parallel plague years 2020 and 1616. In Part Two (1616), Nell- the Wardrobe Mistress of Shakespeare’s Company- struggles to survive and keep the plays alive in isolation. Having lost all hope of collaboration and reunion, she seeks a sign to show her the way forward as the plague recedes.
Mary Bacon, Typhoid Mary (30 minutes)
Nadine Mozon, The Solitude of Her Negritude (30 minutes)
The Solitude of Her Negritude, a solo performance piece in process. It’s crowded here in this proud hue. Here’s to navigating what it takes to wade through and against streams, and extremes… and still high-step in the light.
Axis Theater Company One Sheridan Square Directions
To attend you will need Proof Of Vaccination, ID, and mask