Playwright to conduct panel discussion, writing workshop

Influential playwright Maria Irene Fornes will conduct a writing workshop at the School of Speech today before leading a panel discussion on various aspects of theater at 7:30 p.m. in the Louis Theatre.

Fornes, a professor at New York University, will be on campus until Friday for a three-day visit as the Hope Abelson Artist-in-Residence.

“She’s a major force in American theater,” said Rachel Rosenberg, director of public affairs for the School of Speech. “She’s a very innovative playwright who often likes to direct her own plays, and she’s also a great teacher.”

Fornes has penned more than 30 plays since the 1960s and has incorporated satiric revue, experimental and musical theater, realism and opera into her work.

One of her most well-known plays, “Fefu and Her Friends,” focuses on the strengths of female friendships.

Also joining Fornes during the discussion are assistant Speech Profs. Mary Zimmerman and Cindy Gold and Goodman Theatre Associate Artistic Director Michael Maggio.

A group of Speech graduate students is performing Fornes’ play “The Danube” later this month. They met with her on Wednesday to get insight into the play’s creation, Rosenberg said.

“It’s wonderful to have a living playwright on campus to interact with students here,” she said.

The School of Speech established the Hope Abelson Artist-in-Residence position in 1988 with a gift from Lester S. Abelson.

Other recipients of the award have included opera and ballet designer Desmond Heeley and playwright Tony Kushner.

The discussion is free and open to the public, but reservations are required.