It’s called “Everywoman,” and is performed by an all-female cast of 11, but that doesn’t mean Carolyn Yalkut’s play is for women only.
“I’ve had men read the script and tell me that it speaks to them as much as it does women,” said Yalkut, a University at Albany professor whose play will be performed as a stage reading presented by WAM Theatre and performed at the UAlbany Performing Arts Center on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. “Everyone gets a feeling of being overwhelmed from time to time, of having to be two or three places at the same time. I have had tremendous interest with this play, and I think I’ve touched a nerve with men as well as women.”
WAM (Women’s Action Movement) Theatre is based in both the Berkshires and the Capital Region, and was created in 2010 by Kristen van Ginhoven and Leigh Strimbeck with the mission to “create theatrical events for everyone, with a focus on women theatre artists and/or stories of women and girls.”
Sara Katzoff, co-artistic director at Bazaar Productions and The Berkshire Fringe, is directing the reading, and the cast includes Yvonne Perry, Brenny Rabine and Eileen Schuyler, all Equity members who reside in the Capital Region.
WHAT: A staged reading of Carolyn Yalkut’s play
WHERE: University at Albany Performing Arts Center
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
HOW MUCH: Advance tickets, $5-$3; day of, $8-$6
MORE INFO: 442-3997, www.albany.edu/pac.
“WAM is an ideal theater company for this kind of work,” said Yalkut. “Because of the innovative and experimental nature of this play, I needed someone to take the script and run with it. Even in the auditions, I could see Sara had an instant understanding of what I was going for. It seems like a perfect match.”
Yalkut’s play is about the multiple roles women play in life, often while dealing with personal tragedy.
“I hate to call it multi-tasking, but the play is about the quandary women often find themselves in,” she said. “They have their work life and then they have their second shift and they have to balance all of that. Shakespeare said that each man in his time plays many parts, and that all the world is a stage. In my play, each woman has many parts and they’re playing them simultaneously. That’s what I am trying to dramatize on the stage.”
The characters portrayed by the 11 actors in the cast are all allegorical, such as “famous wife,’ “loud-mouthed woman,” “woman in the bed” and “elderly shopper.”
“The idea is that all these women are different aspects of the same woman,” said Yalkut. “They’re all interrelated, and I imagine the central character on a giant bed in the throes of childbirth who then has to continue with her job as a teacher. The hospital room becomes a classroom, and then that room gets transformed into another setting that the woman suddenly finds herself in.”
Yalkut worked on the play while staying in Provincetown, Mass., on a summer fellowship at the Norman Mailer Writers Colony.
“It’s a wonderful community with a deep history of theater,” said Yalkut. “I finished it some time ago and then I was lucky enough to go back to Mailers to revise it a couple of times. I think our staged reading is going to be a lot more dynamic than most staged readings, and I’m interested to hear it read out loud and see what jumps off the page. It’s a comedy about a catastrophe, and I think Sara has some of the same instincts I have for the high moments.”
Yalkut grew up in Brooklyn and went to Barnard College, a woman’s school affiliated with Columbia University, and was planning on heading into journalism. Instead, however, she began focusing on literature and got her masters at Johns Hopkins University and her doctorate at the University of Denver. Taking a class with critic Elizabeth Hardwick planted the playwrighting seed in Yalkut.
“I wrote a story transcript of a conversation that my family had at the dinner table, and she saw it, liked it and in her Kentucky accent said, ‘these people are worse than the family in Portnoy’s Complaint.’ I jumped on the subway and went back to my family and said, ‘Elizabeth Hardwick says you’re worse than Portnoy’s Complaint.’ I realized that playwrighting was what I wanted to do.”
Yalkut has had previous plays produced, including “Big Boy” (Syracuse Civic Center) and “A Daughter is Not a Father is Not a Lover (Minor Latham Playhouse in New York City). She is currently working on another play, “Bastards,” which brings together 19th century Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, 20th century playwright Arthur Miller and 11th century French philosopher Peter Abelard.
Yalkut sent a copy of “Everywoman” to WAM Theatre where van Ginhoven got her first look at it about three years ago.
“I was immediately attracted to the aesthetics of the play, and the content was very interesting, in terms of the challenges that women continue to face in terms of balancing their career and the choice of being a mother,” said van Ginhoven. “I thought this was a great opportunity to work on new material by a woman with women playing the roles. UAlbany also expressed some interest, so I thought this would be a great way of helping Carolyn develop her play.”
Van Ginhoven and Strimbeck were inspired to create WAM after reading the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” by New York Times writers Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or firstname.lastname@example.org.