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Arts

Dramatic License debuts new emphasis on women with ‘Odd Couple’

Olive, played by Kim Furlow, and Florence, played by Colleen Backer, both standing, surrounded by friends, in in Dramatic License's "The Odd Couple"
John Lamb
Olive, played by Kim Furlow, and Florence, played by Colleen Backer, both standing, surrounded by friends in Dramatic License's "The Odd Couple"

A great dichotomy surrounds the idea of women and friendship. “I just love her to death,” one might say. “But I hate her for being so pretty/thin/young/talented.”

Dramatic License Productions is putting a new emphasis on the complexity of female friendships and other women-centered issues. The Chesterfield Mall-based theater company has a new mission to present a majority of work by, for and about women, according to founder Kim Furlow. 

“That doesn’t mean we won’t have any plays by and about men,” Furlow said.

Dramatic License's next production is actually derived from a play about  men.

The company opens “The Odd Couple" on April 24. It's not the couple you usually think about, Oscar and Felix, from the 1968 play or the TV show of a few years later. It's Olive and Florence, from the female version of the 1980s play, also by Neil Simon.

"It's very similar to the original," Furlow said. "Olive is a sloppy sportswriter, she works for a television station. And Florence has just found out that her husband wants a divorce, and she's distraught about it."

Furlow, along with managing director Sara Hughes and Furlow’s new co-artistic Director Pamela Reckamp, wanted to fill a more specific niche. So they did some research. Part of that involved polling 10 of St. Louis’ smaller theater companies about the gender makeup of the characters in their plays.

Olive gives Florence a back massage in "The Odd Couple"
Nancy Fowler

Simple math told them that every local male actor has a much, much better chance of being onstage.

“We found out that 76 percent of all roles are for men,” Furlow said. “And for every one male role, there will be at least one man to two men to fill it. For every female role, there will be six to 10 women at that audition.

Hoping other companies get on board

St. Louis’ former Orange Girls was a theater company owned by three women, Michelle Hand, Brooke Edwards and Meghan Maguire. When that folded in 2009, its departure left a hole in the local theater scene, according to Furlow.

“We were all sad to see them disband and no one has really picked up that ball since then,” Furlow said.

Dramatic License plans to run with that ball, through several kinds of presentations.

Left to right. Co-artistic director Pamela Reckamp, founder and co-artistic Director Kim Furlow and managing director Sara Hughes
Gerry Love

On Aug. 7-9 Dramatic License will hold staged readings of six plays written by and focused on women. In late October the company will present the St. Louis debut of “Abundance,” the story of two 1860s mail-order brides. It’s written by Beth Henley, known for “Crimes of the Heart,” among other plays. Dramatic License will also continue its cabaret series.

Furlow wants her company’s new focus to spread beyond the Dramatic License stage.

“We really hope this will encourage other theater companies to take a look at more female playwrights and more shows with more women,” Furlow said.

THE BASICS

“The Odd Couple” female version by Dramatic License Productions

Where: Chesterfield Mall’s Artropolis, above mall entrance by Sears

When: Friday, April 24 through May 10

How much: $18-$25

Tickets: Brown Paper Tickets

Information: Dramatic License website

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL