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Arts

Orange Girls break new ground with a comedy as part of its 2009 season

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 22, 2009 - There's always more than one side to every story, which is an integral part of the comfort and counsel they offer, particularly when presented on stage. No matter what our circumstances may be, a good play reaches us where we are and holds up a mirror so we can view ourselves and society in a new light.

Walk through the lobby of any theater at intermission, and you'll hear debates and discussions among audience members drawing parallels between their lives and the lives of the characters. Nothing pleases us more as artistic directors than to hear people taking our plays personally, mulling over the story long after the lights go down.

When we began looking at plays for our fourth season, we were drawn to the idea of exposing the different facets and points of view in a given story - whether mythical, confrontational or absurd. We founded Orange Girls to give voice specifically to women's stories and have chosen this season to look more carefully at authorship and ownership within those stories.

These plays allow the damsel in distress, the living legend and the fairy-tale princess all to step out of their one-dimensional worlds to become fully realized women in command of their own stories.

Going into this season we also were conscious of the fact that after presenting dramatic pieces such as Scorched, Medea and Standing on my Knees in years past we were itching to give Orange Girls audiences a lighter, more whimsical experience in the stories and characters we present.

In our February production of Eurydice, Award-winning playwright Sarah Ruhl takes on the famous Orpheus myth and turns the old story on its ear by telling it from the point of view of his beloved Eurydice. We're very excited to present the St. Louis premiere of Ruhl's gem of a play infused with contemporary characters, shifting worlds and the bare vulnerability and poetry of true love. It remains a story about love and loss; but seen through the eyes of Eurydice, we experience a more complex view of two of the strongest loves a woman experiences in her lifetime: the love for her partner and the love for her father.

This summer, we'll face the concepts of a story's authorship and ownership head on in Donald Margulies' Collected Stories. In Margulies' critically acclaimed play, an established author invites an ambitious young fan into her cramped Manhattan apartment to assist with the writing of her memoirs.

"I don't care what the basis of the story is as long as it's a good story," the experienced author tells her fledgling writer mentee. A piece of advice, as it turns out, she lives to regret passing on to her talented and opportunistic student. It's a play, in part, about the changing of the guard between an older, accomplished woman and a younger, ambitious one desperate to find her voice among the greats - and in a sense it is tempting to pigeon-hole the story as an echo of "All About Eve." But as the boundaries between mentor and student blur, the story becomes (as The New York Times put it) "a love story of sorts, a chronicle of a relationship that reaches that level of intensity at which its participants are all too capable of injuring each other, perhaps irreparably."

We'll end our season in September with a riotous response for our audience members who've said to us, "We love your plays ... but would you ever consider doing a comedy?" David Lindsay-Abaire's screwball comedy Wonder of the World follows a seemingly stereotypical housewife on her journey to rewrite the story of her life. When Cass walks out of her storybook marriage to pursue the life she thinks she missed out on, she never expects to end up in the honeymoon capital of the world with a suicidal sidekick, a lonely boat captain, and a pair of hapless private detectives. As her slapstick journey takes one dizzying turn after another, Cass begins to realize she alone will determine whether or not she gets her happy ending.

We hope you'll join us this season and experience three plays that place the power of authorship squarely in the hands of their female characters.

Meghan McGuire is a co-founder of Orange Girls.

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