by Rita Kohn, one of the organizers of the first DiviFest
IndyFringe DivaFest 2016 brims with universal topics through personal stories. The plays are hard-edged, hard-hitting and notable for courage to speak up and confront issues head-on. Playwrights intimately touch on their experiences to bring us into the action of working through situations that require acts of courage, self-examination and confrontation with reality. It’s not easy being for something, surviving in the midst of devastating events, making a valuable contribution for the greater good. Directing, acting and production values solid throughout. The festival shows how working in concert with the Indiana Writers Center diverse voices can be brought from page to stage through the process that has existed from the first drama ever presented in some yet undocumented place and time. Most important, a play requires an audience to gain existence. Thus, to those who support financially and those attend goes the loudest hoorah.
Mother Ireland initially commemorates the Centennial of the April 1916 Rising. With Great Britain in the midst of World War I, the international scene generally in turmoil, and in the U.S. the growth of the KKK and concentration on Prohibition part of a larger disdain of immigrants 1916 is a part of history we aren’t paying much attention to. But looking back, 1916 was Indiana’s Centennial year—and here we are being reminded in our Bicentennial Year of the Easter Rising to establish an independent Irish Republic. Three segments centered on Mothers as metaphors of nationality jar us into the realities of family and political stands during three distinct events in Ireland, ultimately highlighting what it takes to over-ride hatred.
Zora’s Tales brings us further into the divisions we create when humanity is circumvented in the name of hatred of ‘the other.’ Zora Neale Hurston, born 1891, embraced the 20th Century Harlem Renaissance as a folklorist/anthropologist whose novels bring us into the always relevant vibrancy of our African-American culture, not as separate from the larger community but as a part of our connected lives as a nation of diversity. If you’ve missed the childhood games or the Bre’r Rabbit Trickster Tales, please seek them out. If Jazz has not touched your life oh my, what a loss. And there’s more.
True Love Waits is the most troubling of the plays I witnessed—the underlying theme asks: why are we so eager to embrace simplistic solutions to real life situations, and further makes us pay attention to the absence of parental guidance in the most important aspect of growing up—how do we grow into adulthood? Whose responsibility is it to lay out consequences for choices and actions? There are no adults in this hard-hitting play—the absence is loud. Why is macrobrewed beer allowed at a high school sanctioned party? A wake up call, people.
What is This Place? takes us deep into the heart of motherhood and the death of a child. Four aspects of grief confront us. Of all the plays, this is the one after which the most audience members spoke to me about the the way the play touched their own lives. “No one expects to bury their own child. It’s not normal,” is a line in the play and a through-line in the conversations that followed.
Anna’s Wings is a tender, poignant understanding of Alzheimer Disease portrayed within the context of selfhood, family and community. To live and die with dignity and grace is the question we need to prepare for right along with sufficient retirement funding. As in the aftermath confronting people in True Love Waits and What is This Place? how do those who survive live on with dignity and grace?
The clutch of short plays border on the ’Twighlight Zone.’ Mark Ruffalo Must Die takes on obsession and popular culture. Your Secret Beauty reveals how out of touch we are with what our children and young adults are thinking, feeling, needing and underscores as well the urgency growing from True Love Waits. One Woman’s Place thrusts us into grief from a jagged perception of death. Now and Then continues the conversation into adulthood from the lack of sufficient integration with our adolescence—how do we deal with the NOW we so desperately strove to achieve?