Fornés, María Irene

Fornés, María Irene,

1930–2018, Cuban-American playwright and director; she emigrated from Cuba with her family after her father's death in 1945. An early experimental work, Promenade (1965), a musical collaboration with Al Carmines, was first presented at the Judson Poets Theater in Greenwich Village. Her best-known work, Fefu and Her Friends (1978), is a feminist piece about eight women and their friendships and rivalries. The Conduct of Life (1985) tells the story of a Latin-American military officer and torturer. Other works include Mud (1983), Abingdon Square (1987), And What of the Night? (four one-act plays, 1989), Enter the Night (1993), and Letters from Cuba (2000), an autobiographical work based on letters she received over the years from her brother in Cuba. Although her innovative work never achieved mainstream success, her Off-Broadway plays earned eight Obie awards.
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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.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.