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Searching stories for young women on stage

Press Release – Massey University
Award-winning playwright Angie Farrow’s new season of three plays delves into the quandaries and quests of today’s young women, whether at the frontline or under the radar of social media’s decoys and distortions.

Among Strangers kicks off this week at Palmerston North’s Centrepoint Theatre with a season at Wellington’s Bats Theatre to follow later in September.

Director Dr Tracey Lynne Cody, a lecturer in Arts Education and Initial Teacher Education in the Institute of Education who specialises in drama, says she is excited to take on the production of Dr Farrow’s three new works, with their “very distinct worlds”.

The plays explore “the tensions between social responsibility and thinking about things globally versus the creation and construction of selves through social media,” she says.

Dr Farrow, an Associate Professor in the School of English and Media Studies who lectures in Expressive Arts, says the plays came about after secondary school drama teachers she’d spoken to expressed dismay at the lack of interesting plays and roles for young females.

“We talked about the issues of identity and young women struggling to find out who they are in a time of rapidly shifting changes and pressures,” she says. “They have greater access to the tragedies going on around the world, but also a narrower focus on themselves and their image, with 24/7 social media.”

When she asked teachers to find out more about young women’s interests, they came back with “the idea of fame, being a celebrity, being seen to be seen.”

She hopes her plays might spark audiences to look more deeply into how we engage with the world and the nature of our responsibilities as part of it, and to be aware of what lies under the surface of what we perceive. Above all, she wants to provoke debate – not provide answers.

In the first play Breaking News, an ambitious newsreader caught up being ‘seen to be seen’ is plunged into a terrifying war-torn world; in Esther a missing girl returns but is she who she claims to be? And in August Moon, a famous mother on an environmental mission goes missing and must be found.

The trilogy features two award-winning works and debuts a third. Esther (winner of Playmarket Plays for the Young Competition in the Teenage Category, 2016), Breaking News, (winner of Best Youth Production at Norfolk Island Theatre Festival, 2015) and August Moon, to premier this month, has just been shortlisted in Playmarket Plays for the Young 2017.

A master of the short form, Dr Farrow’s works are characteristically mythic, pushing the boundaries of traditional theatre through the abandonment of the traditional set, the use of choric and physical theatre conventions, and the creation of surreal dramatic landscapes through which characters reach for meaning.

The ensemble cast features several experienced actors from Palmerston North’s local theatre scene, graduates from UCOL Performing Arts and Massey’s Theatre Studies, and draws on local musical talent, Daniel Ashcroft, as composer.

Dr Farrow says she hopes these plays will provide more options for school drama classes seeking new material.

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