Four Fierce Female Figures Take the Stage In Femuscripts’ First Full-Length

While you may have heard of manuscripts before, you may not yet have heard of Femuscripts. This unique theatrical company with a punny name is one that was initially conceived by a group of female theatremakers who shared the goal of correcting the imbalance they’d observed in the fact that plays written by men are produced significantly more often than plays written by women. 

And while two of the three founding members eventually departed the project, the third, Laurie Tanner, has taken the company’s presence in South Florida to the next level by following up three short play festivals with their first production of a full length play. 

Said play, The Equivalent of Sensation, premiered last weekend at Miami’s Fantasy Theatre Factory as part of their Cultural Arts Project initiative. And, luckily for South Florida theatregoers, the production is set to enjoy one final weekend a little further north at Boca Raton’s Sol Theatre, with performances commencing today. 

This particular piece came to Tanner’s attention after she put out a call requesting submissions of full-length plays that fit the theme “Back to Life.” And while said call was open to female and non-binary identifying playwrights from throughout the Southern United States, the winning piece was one written by South Florida’s own Ariana Rose, a playwright whose work has been produced all over the world but who resides right here in Miami!

Being that the play centers on a group of characters who literally come back from the dead, Tanner found the piece to be a particularly amusing take on that idea, as well as a work that she thought would resonate with audiences otherwise. And fitting for Femuscripts’ thematic focus, it also featured four incredibly fascinating female characters, who also happen to be real historical figures whose names a few of you may recall: Etta and Claribel Cone, sisters and notable art collectors, Gertrude Stein, a well-known feminist writer, and Stein’s lover Alice B. Toklas. 

“These four women were so ahead of their time. Each one of them is a pioneer who was trying to break that glass ceiling,” Rose describes what drew her to tell their story. 

Rose also noted that despite the fact that it takes place around the turn of the 20th century, the piece’s focus on the female struggle for autonomy in a male-dominated world and on the many complex ways in which women may relate to one another still resonates today. 

Additionally, she enjoyed the fact that the play allowed her to set scenes in several of the world’s most “incredible cities,” and to explore, through its collector characters, the nature of and purpose of art itself. 

“Our response to art, and what art means to us, and the permanence of art when everything else leaves, it turns to dust,” she describes further. 

According to Rose, this thought-provoking and stylistically unique piece has been in the making for quite a while, requiring ten years of research before the actual writing even began in 2016. An early twenty minute version was then produced in Los Angeles and Canada, and the play was then further developed in Miami’s Playwright Development Program and given a virtual reading as part of Zoetic Stage’s Finstrom Festival. 

Femuscripts, however, is the first company to fully produce the work, and Rose is grateful that it’s also one that happened to be here in her “backyard,” which allowed her the opportunity to play a part in the artistic process. Though her work schedule only allowed her the opportunity to attend one rehearsal, she noted that she shared much of her research with the cast, and will be in attendance at a post-show talkback after this Sunday’s performance. 

Meanwhile, even getting to see the show was also something special to appreciate for Rose, since she can rarely make it to productions of her work that take place further from home. Though she has found a few changes she now wishes to make to the piece after seeing it brought to life, she noted that the cast is doing a “beautiful job” of interpreting the story and was able to take joy in the fact that initial audiences “seemed to really love” the piece.

“I don’t think I breathe the entire time I’m watching it,” she describes. 

“As a playwright, it’s the most wonderful thing in the world to sit in a darkened room and watch other people respond to something that you created out of your own imagination. So they gasp or they cry or they laugh and it’s an amazing feeling to be there and be part of that.”

“I’m really grateful to Femuscripts for that happening and being able to attend,” she concludes, also noting the importance of the group’s female-focused mission. 

Tanner, who eventually ended up stepping into the play as an actor to replace a drop-out, also noted her admiration for Rose’s brilliant work as well as the talent and commitment of all the artists involved. Meanwhile, don’t miss your last chance to catch The Equivalent of Sensation before this great play becomes a worldwide sensation!

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