Fordham Mainstage Announces 2020-2021 Shows About Purpose, Identity and Determination

By KRISTEN SKINNER, Staff Writer

The circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic made for an abrupt end to this year’s Fordham Theatre mainstage season. The final mainstage show, “To the Bone,” should have begun performances April 1, but was put on hold until further notice after weeks of rehearsal and preparation.

Though there are still many factors in question after the past few weeks, the 2020-21 Fordham Mainstage season was announced Monday, March 23. Students, faculty and staff will continue to work collaboratively, whether remotely or in person, to organize rehearsals, determine how character roles will be selected for each show and decide how to go about missed performances from the spring season. The four shows to be performed next season are “Men on Boats,” “Uncle Vanya,” “Water by the Spoonful” and “Everybody.”

After several monthly planning meetings that were open to all Fordham Theatre students and going through numerous student suggestions, Stefanie Bubnis, interim managing director of the Fordham Theatre program, selected her four final play choices and sent them to her colleagues and the production staff before making an official announcement. Bubnis explained students had many thoughtful suggestions that helped her to choose the four plays of the season, and she is very pleased with this year’s selection.

All of Fordham’s plays for this upcoming season were written by people of color. The season covers a variety of questions: “What is our purpose?” “What lies ahead?” and “How am I going to get through this?” Bubnis said she came up with these topics before the coronavirus pandemic was a cause for concern.

“Men on Boats,” written by Jaclyn Backhaus and directed by Sarah Wansley, a New York-based director, producer and educator, will be the first show of the season. The comedic play centers around the topic of toxic white masculinity and what it means for white men to have written much of history. Backhaus, a female playwright of color, contributes a unique sense of humor and challenging material for actors to practice for the show.

The second show of the season, Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya,” will be directed by the new artistic director of the Fordham Theatre program, who has not yet been announced. The play, adapted by Annie Baker, centers around a Russian family living in the countryside. It is a story about love, rejection and the turmoil that sometimes results from them.

Quiara Alegría Hudes’ “Water by the Spoonful,” which will be the third show of the Fordham mainstage season, is another show with family at its center. It tells the story of many characters connected by familial bonds, either through the bloodline or online communities, like addiction support groups. This play focuses on the subjects of trauma, addiction, love, forgiveness, identity and culture. It examines the idea of digital communication and whether that is acceptable in the world that is so constantly plugged-in today. Mary Hodges, actor and director to many performances including “Slave Play” on Broadway, will direct.

The final production will be Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ “Everybody,” directed by Terrence Mosley, a narrative-based director, actor and performer who has previously directed at Carnegie Mellon University and SUNY Purchase. The play is based on “The Summoning of Everyman,” a 15th-century play that demonstrates humans facing personified Christian concepts in order to better themselves and live faithful lives. 

Mosley said in his director’s statement that he believes this play is in line with Fordham’s mission statement.“It affirms complementary roles of faith and reason in the pursuit of wisdom and learning,” he said. “I think this play is in synergy with that goal.”

According to Mosley, the play relies heavily on faith, reason and laughter. Mosely said through humor, we learn about what we should pay more attention to in terms of how and why we live each day.

Jayla Pollock, Fordham College at Lincoln Center ’22, is a director herself and stated she is excited for the upcoming season, especially for such talented directors to work on the shows.

“Because I attended most of the season planning meetings, I know there’s something amazing about each of the plays and I cannot wait to see what the cast (and) creative team comes up with,” she said.