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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

New Play Celebrates Women, Friends And Family

Jonathan Couture Photogaphy

Vermont Playwright Carole Vasta Folley produced her debut work, Pronouncing Glenn, in 2008.

Over the years, Folley grew frustrated at the lack of plays with good roles for women.

So she decided to write one herself.

The first thing you need to know is that Ewe stands for a fictional women’s group named Enlightened Women Empowered. The core of the group is four women who have been living together. They think of Enlightened Women Empowered as a place for co-learning and life-coaching, but it’s also a great excuse to drink wine and gossip.

In this scene, the women hash over a bad date.

"I mean I may not had me a man in many a moon, but I would if I could. Oh no you wouldn’t… I can’t even get you on That’s cause they’re all freakin’ lunatics. Did you see the guy Jane went out with last night? He had no teeth! He did too, he said left them home. He had them in his photo. He forgot his teeth? No, he said that he left them at home on purpose! On purpose? What’s worse, that he has no teeth or that he’d go out on a date and leave them at home on purpose? I know, but the point is he has teeth."

When one of the women passes away, the rest of the group step in to offer help and guidance to her estranged daughters.

But in this scene, their meddling into a job search turns into a semantic argument.

"Whoa, what’s happening here? Well, they all decided that you decided that you’re not working for Tony. Is that what you decided? Basically yes,because… No, that’s not what I decided. You don’t get to decide what I decide. I decide what I decide. Yeah of course you do… No, no one should decide, that's the problem, don’t use that word, remember? Hannah said that in Latin, decide means to cut off, the C-I-D-E part is all about killing. Insecticide the killing of insects, algae-cide the killing of algae, pesticide…Okay we get the point. Spermicide the killing of sperm. You may not know that one. Blindside the killing of blinds."

Bickering and meddling are ingredients in any family dynamic, and playwright Carole Vasta Folley says that family is at the heart of her play, which she is also directing.

She says, "I'm trying to get at the idea of belonging. Of family. And women especially, they’re nurturers and they do create family, and they create harbor for everybody else, and pull them in. So that’s the underlying theme that I believe in life anyway, is the idea of love and belonging. "

Folley's past also includes stints as an actress and comedian, both of which she says inform her playwriting.

The Family of Ewe was originally called  Eulogy For Ann. But Vasta Folley was worried the title might keep audiences away.

Vasta Folley says, "I thought more about what I had in the play, and I have the women’s group Enlightened Women Empowered, and there was EWE right there, and I know its hokey, but its actually true that the female sheep in animal medicine means abundance, and new beginnings, and I thought Wow this is all just coming together to be The Family Of Ewe, meaning that we all belong. There’s room for everybody at the table, The Family of You, and its also the family of this women’s group, who all are family for each other."

The Family Of Ewe was written forGirls Nite Out, a Burlington theater company devoted to providing opportunities for women.

The company was co-founded in 2010 by actresses Janet Stambolian and Jennifer Warwick-Sokolowski.

Stambolian says the dearth of theatrical roles for women can be attributed to one major point…that most plays are written by men.

Stambolian says, "I think more women need to write, more Carole Vastas  need to produce, we need to support those women to produce   plays, because once they write them, and they have a venue to produce them, like Girls Nite Out, then that feeds on itself, that inspires someone else to say, wow, she did that, let me try my hand."

Stambolian says The Family Of Ewe perfectly fits the mission of her company.

She believes the play speaks to the enduring power of family and friendship to overcome and reconcile challenges that we all face.

She says, "One of the lines in the play, one of the characters says, “Everybody’s got something”.  And we all do bring with us to all of the things we do the sum total of our experience. This play says, Yes…you’ve had your  experiences. And here are the people around you, who are helping you both navigate, reconcile and move forward, and do that with a full and joyful life."

And of course, as this scene conveys, death is a part of life.

"You are so  contrary. I am not! Death is horribly handled…I agree with you there….horribly handled in our culture. Death isn’t an ending. We don’t die. What's that thing that we learn in science, like when we’re in junior high? Like how to dissect a frog? Cause that’s come in handy plenty of times. No, no that thing about energy or matter…that energy and matter cannot be either created or destroyed? Yeah. Yes. This, this. Becomes ashes or dust to dust? Not our body, this. Our spirit. Our essence. This and this, can’t be destroyed."

Carole Vasta Folley says that she is grateful to have found new friends and family working with Girls Nite Out. 

She says, "I’m beginning to believe that this is where I’ll find my home, continuing to write material for women. And certainly great men’s roles too, they can be in the play too, but I love this idea of this niche market of women having their stories told, and also having the roles to play."

The Family of Ewe will be performed at The Main Street Landing Theater in Burlington, October 3rd through the 13th.

Neal was a reporter and VPR's All Things Considered host from 2001 to 2014. He joined VPR in 1996, hosting VPR's jazz programming, including live performances from the VPR studios and the Discover Jazz Festival. Prior to VPR, Neal was a programmer and host for WNCS in Montpelier and WDEV in Waterbury. He holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College.
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