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IPFW’s Talking With… lets audiences get close to some unusual characters
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Lila’s collection of lamps is so enormous is borders on the ridiculous. Homeless Anna Mae confesses that her one wish in life is to be able to live at McDonald’s. Big Eight has been a rodeo performer since she was nine. And Alain, a “plain Jane” cursed with an utterly unremarkable appearance, suddenly becomes interesting to people after her face is cut.
These are just a few of the characters audiences will meet when the IPFW Department of Theater opens its 2004-2005 season with Talking With…
Talking With… is a series of monologues by different women, all talking about personal obsessions that have, in different ways, taken over and changed their lives. “It’s interesting to look at all the various levels underneath that, how these extreme ‘loves’ in their lives have affected who they have become,” says director Jane Purse-Wiedenhoeft. “They’ve all made decisions in their lives because of these obsessions, and some of the decisions aren’t the norm of what many of us would choose to do.”
Purse-Wiedenhoeft explains that one of the aspects of Talking With… that the IPFW production plays with is to what extent the characters use their obsessions to shield themselves from the audience. “When are they willing to reveal something about themselves, and when are they using their obsession to mask self? How is this a crutch to them?”
And speaking of masks and identity, the author of Talking With… is the center of a minor mystery almost as interesting as the work itself. Jane Martin is the author of many plays — Talking With… was the first to gain attention, and a new one, Flags, debuts in Minneapolis next month. She’s been critically acclaimed, won several awards, and was even nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Yet no one has ever met her. Jon Jory, the former director of the Actors’ Theater of Louisville where many of Martin’s plays premiered, is her stand-in for public appearances, and serves as Martin’s spokesperson.
This has led to speculation that Jory — a playwright himself from a “theatrical” family (his father was Victor Jory, known for playing film “heavies,” most notably the overseer Jonas in Gone With the Wind) — is actually Jane Martin. “If it’s not Jon Jory, we just don’t know,” says Purse-Wiedenhoeft. “Or it’s his wife, or the two of them working together. I could see that maybe, being a man, he would be worried that that would get in the way of people just experiencing the plays.”
IPFW’s production of Talking With… features both students of the school’s drama program and a handful of actors from the community. “I thought it might be interesting to bring some community members in with more — as it says in my director’s notes — life experience,” says Purse-Wiedenhoeft.
The danger with plays based on monologues is that sometimes the people who are doing the talking become mouthpieces for ideas or attitudes. But the women in Talking With… are all skillfully rendered by Martin as distinct characters, with their own individual voices. “It’s a collection of people and ideas and thoughts, and these women are sharing these things with you,” Purse-Wiedenhoeft says. “There are moments that are endearing, there are moments that are extremely funny, and yet there’s a lot of very thought-provoking content.”
Fans of rich, character-driven drama and sharp, incisive writing shouldn’t miss out.
Williams Theatre on the IPFW Campus
October 1, 2, 7, 8, 9 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, October 10 at 2 p.m.
IPFW Students with ID: Free
Faculty, staff, alumni: $10
Seniors (over 60): $9
All other students: $7
Groups of 10 or more: $10/each
Call Theatre Box Office at (260) 481-6555 between 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Monday - Friday for reservations.