november, 2021

01nov11:4512:15E Kaplan: Coming of Age11:45 - 12:15 Studio 1Event type:PresentationTopic:Spirituality & Religion


(Monday) 11:45 - 12:15


Studio 1

Event Details

Ellen Kaplan: Coming of Age – a play about women aging and renewal of faith

Coming of Age looks at women at different stages of their lives, outgrowing old roles, considering new paths, tired of producing (and re-producing) to prove their worth. Gemma Truman-Fisher researches gender anxieties in medieval Spain, but her interest in producing new scholarship has dimmed even as she is being edged toward retirement. Gemma is writing about Teresa de Cartagena, a deaf Jewish Spanish nun from the 1400s, a proto-feminist in a culture that saw women as diseased and infirmity as a sign of God’s displeasure. Teresa found meaning in her affliction; Gemma sees aging as an affliction of its own. For Teresa, who shows up in Gemma’s whiskey-soaked dreams, malady is a sign of god’s grace. Gemma has no interest in “God,” but Teresa insists that we use different words to speak about the same thing: belief that life has meaning, revealed by one’s inner voice. Teresa’s values are spiritual, and offer another perspective on what matters in life. She challenges the values of a world where worth is based on what we do, what we produce (books, children) rather than who we are. But Teresa needs to break free of the isolation and silence that defined her life, when she was actually alive. Now, she experiences her own volcanic rage as she realizes that here, now, she is alone in a God—less world. Gemma’s mother Helen is in rehab, recuperating from a broken hip. Most of her friends have died, leaving Helen alone and without her spicy poetry group; now she wants to move a thousand miles away, to live with Gemma’s younger sister Macy. Macy’s home seems much livelier to Helen, but Macy’s twin children are off to college, her role as a mother is changing’ she’s lost all interest in sex, which leads to her husband walking out. Like Gemma and Helen, Macy scrambles to find who she is now, and what comes next. The women offer each other consolation, inspiration, and support in moving on. Life doesn’t end as one gets older, and options needn’t fade.

Speakers for this event

  • Ellen Kaplan

    Ellen Kaplan

    Professor of Theatre. Fulbright Scholar, actress, director, playwright. Ellen directs and performs internationally: recent directing credits include: The Magic Flute, Curious Incident, Turn of the Screw, Private Lives); recent acting: La Nieta del Dictador; La razon blindada. Guest Professor at Tel Aviv University; the University of Theatre and Film, Bucharest; University of Costa Ricq, and Distinguished Artist at Hong Kong University, where her play Livy in the Garden about the terror of giving birth, was performed at the Robert Black Theatre. Other plays include Sarajevo Phoenix, based on interviews with Croat, Slav and Bosniak women; Cast No Shadow, about the legacies of the Holocaust, premiered at the Jewish State Theater of Bucharest ; Pulling Apart, about the 2nd intifada, won a Moss Hart Award; Someone Is Sure to Come, about inmates on Death Row, was presented in NYC and published in the Tacenda Literary Journal. Her book chapter on creativity and trauma was published in Performing Psychologies (2019). Ellen works with underserved and at- risk groups, adjudicated teens; literacy training; and women in prison. She is developing a piece about Kurdish women in Iraq and Syria. My forthcoming book is Chasing the Demons, about theatre & social trauma. In much of my work I write about shame, illness, scars and facing fears; I'm 68, partially disabled, and wondering now about life, death, faith, the commodification of women, and spiritual renewal.