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- Fornes, Irene
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María Irene Fornés was born in 1930 in Havana, Cuba. Her parents were Carlos Luis and Carmen Hismenia Fornés, and when her father died in 1945, she moved to New York with her mother and her sister. From 1954 to 1957, she studied to become a painter in Paris. She decided to become a playwright after attending a French production of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. When she returned to the US, she worked for a textile designer in New York City. In 1961, the widow, her first professionally produced play was staged. She directed much of her subsequent work including: In 1973, she founded the New York Theater Strategy, which is an organization that was dedicated to producing experiental works. She held teaching and advisory positions
Over her career whe wrote more than three dozen plays.
Among her most celebrated plays are Promenade, The Successful Life of 3, Fefu and Her Friends, The Danube, Mud, The Conduct of Life, And What of the Night?, Abingdon Square, The Summer in Gossensass and Oscar and Bertha.
Four volumes of her plays, Promenade and Other Plays, Fornés Plays, What of the Night and Selected Plays, and Letter from Cuba and Other Plays, have been published by the Performing Arts Journal and other plays have appeared in various anthologies.
Besides directing most of her own plays, she directed plays by Calderon, Ibsen, Chekhov and several contemporary authors, including Leo Garcia, Cherrie Moraga and Caridad Svich.
Ms. Fornés was the recipient of eight Obie Awards, one of which was for Sustained Achievement in Theater. She received a Distinguished Artists Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation grants, a Guggenheim grant, an award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, a Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Literary Award, a New York State Governor’s Arts Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She was also a TCG/PEW Artist-in-Residence at Women’s Project & Productions.
Ms. Fornés conducted playwriting workshops in theaters and universities in the United States and abroad. From 1973-79, she was the managing director of the New York Theatre Strategy. From 1981-1992, she was Director of the INTAR (International Arts Relations) Hispanic Playwrights-in-Residence Laboratory, a national program to stimulate and develop writing abilities of Hispanic playwrights. Her students have won Obie Awards, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a MacArthur Fellowship, and a Pulitzer Prize. Ms. Fornés taught at some of America’s most prestigious universities, including Yale, Princeton, Brown, Wesleyan, and Iowa, and led workshops at leading theatres, such as the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland.
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Biographical note by Rebeca J. González, May 2020.