Five recent releases for summer reading by and about key women in the theater

Among the recently released theater publications are works by one twice-nominated and two Tony-winning women playwrights, and two books about the woman who founded a major company in DC and headed a highly respected NYC graduate program in acting.

Martyna Majok, Ironbound and Sanctuary City – This past January, Theatre Communications Group (TCG), North America’s largest independent trade publisher of dramatic literature, issued a one-volume collection of two works by playwright Martyna Majok. Born in Bytom, Poland, and raised in New Jersey and Chicago, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author writes what she knows, exploring the challenges of the immigrant experience and the pursuit of the American dream with uncompromising openness, touches of humor, and a lack of sentimentality.

Based on her own mother, Ironbound, which debuted in 2014, centers on the Polish immigrant Darja, a house cleaner and factory worker, moving back and forth in time across 22 years and three relationships, as she negotiates her search for love and the course of her future at a rundown bus stop in Elizabeth, New Jersey. First presented in 2021, Sanctuary City, set in Newark, NJ, from 2001-06, tells the story of two undocumented teenagers, simply called B and G (to represent all the boys and girls in similar situations), who have been the closest of friends since third grade. But when their mothers take separate paths, their bond begins to unravel, their support for one another wavers, and they are forced to make difficult decisions about the dilemma of self-interest versus loyalty and sacrifice, exacerbated by the threat of deportation.

Ironbound and Sanctuary City by Martyna Majok (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2024), 240 pages, ISBN 978-1-55936-976-3, paperback, $19.95.

Sarah Ruhl, Becky Nurse of Salem – Inspired by the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, Arthur Miller’s 1953 play The Crucible, and the Trump era’s cries of “lock her up” and “witch hunts” in 2016-17, the dark time-traveling surreal comedy by the two-time Pulitzer-nominated playwright considers the legacy of misogyny in a tale of the eponymous present-day descendant of accused witch Rebecca Nurse, who was tried and hanged at the age of 71 for witchcraft. Becky, fired from her job as a guide at the local witch museum, seeks out magical spells and rituals, and slips through a whole in space, in her search for work, love, becoming a better mother, and setting the record straight on her ancestor and the other real-life 17th-century women who were accused and accusers.

The sharp-witted show with a feminist perspective premiered in 2019 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in California, opened at NYC’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in December 2022, and as of March of this year, is available to readers from TCG Books. To augment the script, Ruhl wrote an Afterword detailing her motivations and our current socio-political climate and giving updates on the theme (noting that it wasn’t until some 329 years after her execution that the last accused witch from Salem was pardoned, in 2022).

Becky Nurse of Salem: a contemporary comedy about a historical tragedy by Sarah Ruhl (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2024), 168 pages, ISBN 978-1-55936-987-9, paperback, $17.95, ISBN 978-1-55936-946-6, Ebook.

Lynn Nottage, Clyde’s – Just released by TCG in May, the sharp and compassionate comedy by playwright Lynn Nottage, the first and only woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice, premiered on Broadway in 2021, and became the most-produced play of the 2022-23 American theater season.

The hilarious feel-good story follows the mutual quest of the previously incarcerated down-on-their-luck kitchen staff of a sandwich shop at a Pennsylvania truck stop to create the perfect sandwich, while revealing the details of their backgrounds, facing their personal challenges, dealing with their fiercely intimidating boss (an ex-con herself and the only one who would hire them), and trying to regain purpose and a second chance at life.

Clyde’s by Lynn Nottage (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2024), 96 pages, ISBN 978-1-63670-000-7, paperback, $16.95, ISBN 978-1-63670-018-2, Ebook.

Zelda Fichandler, The Long Revolution – To mark the 100th anniversary of her birth, TCG has assembled and published a collection of 52 years of essays, speeches, and manifestos written over her nearly 70-year career by the late Zelda Fichandler (1924-2016), founder and artistic director of Washington, DC’s Arena Stage (the capital’s first integrated theater) for 41 years, 25-year chair of New York University’s Graduate Acting program, and expansive visionary who forged the development and path of regional repertory theater and resident professional theater in America.

The volume presents Fichandler’s most significant thoughts and writings on that movement, personal portraits of artists with whom she frequently collaborated (among them, award-winning actress of the stage and screen Jane Alexander), and her insightful notes from four of the 50 productions she directed (Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, and Awake and Sing! by Clifford Odets). The publication also features a Foreword by Obie Award-winner Nikkole Salter and an Introduction by editor Todd Lunden, a writer, educator, and leader in nonprofit theater, and the first recipient of TCG’s Visionary Leadership Award, to whom she entrusted taking charge of her papers and the completion of this rich and informative book.

The Long Revolution: Sixty Years on the Frontlines of a New American Theater by Zelda Fichandler, edited by Todd Lunden (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2024), 334 pages, ISBN 978-1-55936-975-6, paperback, $25.95.

Mary B. Robinson, To Repair the World – Published by Routledge as part of its series on Advances in Theatre & Performance Studies, another tribute to Zelda Fichandler and her contributions to inspiring the creation of non-profit theaters throughout the US is the new oral-history biography based on interviews with 174 people who knew, worked, trained, and were inspired by her. The book’s seventeen chapters are arranged chronologically by the years of her life and work and the issues addressed in them.

Among the many stars sharing their memories about her time at Arena Stage are noted actors Dianne Wiest, James Earl Jones, Stacy Keach, and Jane Alexander, who contributed a Foreword to the book. There are also recollections by many of the performers who studied with her as Head of NYU’s Graduate Acting Program, including Marcia Gay Harden, Rainn Wilson, Mahershala Ali, and other developing actors who became “citizen-artists” under her guidance, discussing the ways in which she transformed their lives by encouraging them to do what they love to make the world a better place, “using the passion for making theater to ‘cause revelation’ in other people.”

To Repair the World: Zelda Fichandler and the Transformation of American Theater by Mary B. Robinson (London and New York: Routledge, 2024), 388 pages, ISBN 978-1-03-258091-3, paperback, $48.95, ISBN 978-1003436591, Ebook, $44.05.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here