Fornes, Maria Irene

Fornes, Maria Irene

(1930–  ) playwright, director; born in Havana, Cuba. After attending the public schools in Havana, she emigrated to the U.S.A. in 1945. In 1954 she went off to Europe to be a painter, then returned to New York City in 1957 to work as a textile designer. By the early 1960s, she had turned to writing experimental plays and musicals and she began to get them produced off Broadway—often under her own direction. Her first notable success was a musical, Promenade (1965), but her major success came with Fefu and Her Friends (1977), which brings a feminist perspective to female friendship and women's roles in a patriarchal society. She won an Obie (off Broadway theater) award for both those plays and would win four more, including one for Eyes on the Harem (1979); in 1982 she won a special Obie for her "sustained achievement." The quintessential off Broadway playwright—with a combination of zany, whimsical humor; innovative, cinematic stagecraft; and strong ideological themes—in later years took up directing the classic repertoire as well as writing and directing her own avant-garde plays.