The work of Maine playwright, director, and performer Carolyn Gage has long held far more than just local appeal — her more than 60 feminist and lesbian activist plays have been regularly performed not just nationally but around the world, from Panama to Beijing. Gage has now received the distinctive global honor of being selected as one of just six international playwrights to participate this spring in the 53rd annual UNESCO-sponsored World Theatre Day, in Rome. As a fundraiser for Gage’s travel expenses, a revue of songs from her musicals will be presented this Saturday, March 1 (8 pm; $10-20), under the billing of To Rome with Love, sponsored by and performed at The Footlights, in Falmouth.
Gage’s work is profoundly suited to the theme of this year’s World Theatre Day, “Performing Gender and Violence in Contemporary National and Transnational Contexts.” For her part in the conference — which is co-sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization; the Comissione Nazionale Italiana; and the Università degli Studi Roma Tre — Gage will read from and participate in discussions of her play The Second Coming of Joan of Arc, a one-act in which a lesbian Joan returns from the dead to warn modern women of the dangers of patriarchal institutions. Gage will also work with the University’s students as they translate and present her anti-war plays Patricide and The Rules of the Playground. She will join playwrights Erin Shields, Marina Carr, Dacia Maraini, Raquel Almazan, and Van Badham for this colloquium on theater and gender.
To help get Gage to Italy, several thespians have joined forces in presenting To Rome with Love. Aria Tonini, a music-education major at the University of Southern Maine, both directs and sings in a show featuring work by Gage that has never before been performed in Maine: her lyrics. The revue of songs features a love duet between bisexual athlete Babe Didrikson and golfer Betty Dodd (from Gage’s new Babe: An Olympian Musical); a ballad sung by a cocaine-addicted punk rocker (from How to Write a Country Western Song); and the songs of a lesbian softball team (The Amazon All-Stars).
Tonini directs singers Alicia Phelps, Erin Morrison, Aileen Andrews, Zeile August Dougher, and Carolyn Ezzy in this Cauldron & Labrys production, for which Michael Tobin of The Footlights donated both rehearsal and performance space.
“I really look forward to showcasing my abilities as a lyricist for my community,” says Gage. “This is going to be a great evening of theatre, and one that really kicks open the door for wider diversity in women’s roles in musical theatre.”
To Rome with Love is an opportunity not only to support Gage in receiving a prestigious honor abroad, but to appreciate what she does in the city where she lives and works right here among us.