Arts & Culture » Stage

Sez who?

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The first production of a new work by the award-winning playwright Jane Martin comes this month to the Marygrove College Theatre. The promise of a great show is sure to entice theatergoers, and so will the shadow of a dramatic mystery: Nobody really knows if Jane Martin actually exists.

Martin’s plays were a mainstay of the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Ky., a theater fest with a reputation for staging new works that win awards. Of the dozens of Martin plays staged there, many have won awards.

Martin’s work also has proved critically successful for David Regal, former director of the University of Detroit Mercy Theater Company, as well. In 1985, Regal’s production of Martin’s award-winning play Talking With was named Play of the Year by the Detroit Free Press. In April 1992, Regal scored another coup when he got permission to give Martin’s Criminal Hearts a world premiere at the Marygrove College Theatre.

Regal has done it again. This month, he directs the world premiere of Jane Martin’s newest play, Sez She.

Some of Martin’s best-known plays consist of monologues, often delivered by women. Talking With features lengthy monologues from 11 women, all discussing their obsessions. Similarly, Sez She is a string of shorter monologues, tales of humor, sadness, nostalgia and even caustic political commentary — especially gender issues.

“Jane Martin has kind of become the feminist vanguard playwright,” Regal says. In fact, Martin has arguably become the most celebrated name in contemporary feminist theater.

And that’s where the mystery comes in. No photos exist of Martin and no interviews have been done. The only testimony that she exists comes from her agent, longtime (and now retired) Humana Festival artistic director John Jory, who says the Kentucky native would be unable to write the plays if her identity were known. In theatrical circles, it’s widely believed that Jory himself is Jane Martin, but he refuses to discuss it.

Another writer who played the pseudonym game, B. Traven, may well have spoken for Martin when he barked: “Please cut out that goddamn mysterious if you mention my name or my work. ... There is no greater joy and satisfaction for me as to be unknown as a writer. ... Only in this way I can say what I really wish to say without being reminded by some high-stuffed or high-brow that a writer of such a great reputation shouldn’t talk so silly.”

 

Nov. 11 through Nov. 27, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Call 313-993-3270 for tickets.

Michael Jackman is the copy editor for Metro Times. Send comments to mjackman@metrotimes.com

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