2022 Capital Fringe Preview: ‘Mary’

A comedic drama that explores a teacher's romantic journey as she faces questions about her religious beliefs.

By Jo Williamson

In 2016, I spent a year teaching in China and the following year I taught in the Kingdom of Saudi ArabiaI was in my mid-thirties at the time and it was one of the most compelling and challenging things I have ever done in my life. During that time abroad, I read both The Bible and The Quran. I taught English and learned from both my students and colleagues. As a foreigner, I experienced what it is like to live in more restrictive societies. When I returned from my travels, I had a different and new perspective on the world.

Mary began as a fictional short story, an effort to explore religious questions that arose from both my reading and time spent teaching. It is a simple story about first-world problems. Mary, the protagonist, is a feminist, a great teacher, and an intellectual atheist pushing forty. It is her quest to find love that takes her on a surprising and unexpected spiritual journey. When I decided to turn the story into a play, I interviewed religious leaders: a Catholic Priest, an Episcopalian Reverend, a Muslim Imam, and a Jewish Rabbi to garner their perspectives. I have included their stories of faith and wisdom throughout the piece to provide differing viewpoints. They were so generous to offer their time and wisdom and I want to share that with you.

Our freedoms are precious, oftentimes overlooked, under-appreciated, and taken for granted. One wants to believe they are infinite, but like most things in life, there are limits. In raising these questions, you begin a conversation, perhaps even a debate that you might not win. In this time, where even in a free democracy women’s rights are still being taken away, it becomes even more important to ask and explore the questions: How can we continue to reframe women’s role within spirituality? And how can religion empower women, not take away or limit their power?

I don’t know the full answers to these questions. But, I am grateful to have this occasion to be able to engage in the dialogue at this year’s Capital Fringe Festival. I know and believe that there are many brave people in the world committed to women’s rights, religion, and spirituality who continue the conversation.

Mary plays five times from July 15 to 24, 2022, at W. Washington Theatre, 3222 M Street NW, Washington, DC. For tickets ($15), go online.

COVID Safety: The audience is to remain masked for the show. The mask needs to cover your mouth and nose the whole time. Proof of vaccination and ID are checked before entry.

Jo Williamson is an artist, singer-songwriter, and instructor. She’s released six albums of music. This is her third one-woman show. She received her BFA in theater from NYU in 2004.




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