It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for solo shows. I find them interesting and challenging at the same time I am usually in awe. As an actress, I have always done shows with multiple character rather than a show with one performer playing multiple characters. This time around I have the pleasure of working on the one woman show, The Pawnbroker, written and performed by Kaitlin Wilcox about the women in the life of Bertolt Brecht. I didn’t know Brecht’s back story rather just his work in the theatre and his plays. Today’s guest blogger, director Jennifer Curfman discusses her work.
When Katelin Wilcox first asked me to direct her one-woman play, The Pawnbroker, she had just finished its first public performance as a part of the United Solo Festival. Her wonderful director, Diana Buirski, was moving away, but The Pawnbroker’s professional life was just getting started, and it would still need a director. Katelin asked me to come along for the ride, and I jumped at the chance to work on this dynamic, compelling play, and to help it find its audience. Now, after two small workshops, a flurry of applications and emails, a dozen marathon rehearsals, and countless cups of coffee, we are poised to open The Pawnbroker at FringeNYC this weekend.
The first time I heard Katelin’s play, I was moved and angered by the stories of its five protagonists, women who loved and worked with legendary playwright Bertolt Brecht throughout his career, and who were instrumental in the creation of much of his body of work. Time and again, these women were each charmed, delighted, and inspired by Brecht, and also deeply wronged by him, personally, professionally, and artistically. They made extraordinary contributions to some of the world’s greatest theater and, until I encountered The Pawnbroker, I had never even heard of most of them.
The life of this play began years ago, when Katelin discovered the stories of Elisabeth Hauptmann, Helene Weigel, Marianne Zoff, Margarete Steffin and Ruth Berlau as she researched her college thesis. As a playwright, she has worked for years to give these women a voice, but it is her work onstage as an actor that truly brings The Pawnbroker, and these women, to life. Katelin is as smart and skilled an actress as she is a playwright, and I have the privilege of being in rehearsal with her, where I get to meet these five women every day. Together, we have worked to find what is unique about each of the women. It would be easy to think of that only in terms of the physical or vocal choices Katelin can make, but we also get to uncover what each woman most desperately wants, and how they each fight to get it. They each have their own charms and their own flaws, they are at once funny and tough and heartbreaking, and in every rehearsal I learn something new about one of them. And I want to fight for them too.
Katelin and I are thrilled to introduce these women to the FringeNYC audiences. As The Pawnbroker approaches its opening night, we’re in the thick of tech rehearsals and ticket sales, slide projectors and, yes, more coffee. But one thing cuts through it all. As Katelin recognized years ago, these women should be heard.
The Pawnbroker: Lies, Lovers, and Bertolt Brecht will be presented as part of the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival. For more info: www.YouDontKnowBrecht.com
Sat. 8/9 12:30pm
Sun. 8/10 7:45pm
Wed. 8/13 5:00pm
Sat. 8/16 8:45pm
Thu. 8/21 2:00pm
FringeNYC Venue #12: 64E4 UNDERGROUND – The Paradise Factory, located at 64 East 4th St. (between Bowery and 2nd Ave.), New York, NY 10003
Jennifer Curfman (Director) is a Resident Artist and Associate Artistic Director of The CRY HAVOC Company. She directedthe world premiere of Peace, Love, and Cupcakes, The Musical (Vital Theatre), which reopened this summer for an extended run in NYC. Other directing credits include Party Girl and Good Enough by Kitt Lavoie, Caught by Sharon E. Cooper, and the upcoming (One) Acts of HAVOC (Manhattan Rep). Associate directing credits include Romeo and Juliet, Kitt Lavoie, Dir. (CRY HAVOC), and the concert staging of Bros and Dolls, Matt Cowart, Dir. (Joe’s Pub). Acting credits include NYC Opera (NYC premiere of Dead Man Walking, Leonard Foglia, Dir.), Great Lakes Theatre Festival, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, and the NY Philharmonic (Stephen Sondheim’s 80th Birthday Concert, Lonny Price, Dir.). Jennifer is a member of Actors’ Equity, and she holds a BFA from NYU.