American Beauty Shop, a play by three-time Kilroy Honourable Mention playwright Dana Lynn Formby, will have its Australian premier at the hands of Some Company and Oleg Pupovac at the KX Theatre from August 20th.
A self-described “blue collar female playwright”, Formby made the conscious decision to be a champion for the often under-represented middle class woman in her writing. Starting out as an actor she says, “When I found that it was difficult for me be cast I decided to start writing roles for people like me. Strangely enough I immediately started writing roles for men. As I looked closer at that decision I realised I was copying the predominate culture I was living in which supported male heroes. Finally, at that moment is when I discovered I had a voice of my own and started really thinking about women and how they exist in a blue collar world. Now I find that this is the starting point when I write.”
She didn’t have to look far to find inspiration for American Beauty Shop. Her grandmother Deborah and mother Kate owned a beauty shop when she was growing up. “The smell of a perm, bleach, and hairspray is nostalgic,” laughs Formby, “and I wanted to explore the world of these amazing women who raised me and the struggles that they were up against.”
The thought that her work is soon to be performed all the way across the Pacific is still astonishing. “My grandmother, who has passed away and my mother who is still here, have never left the United States of America,” she says. “The idea that their words will be spoken in Australia is mind blowing. I am so proud of the strong women who came before me and am so happy to share our little piece of America with Australia.”
Nominated for a 2016 BroadwayWorld Award for Best Play for their inaugural production Leaves, Some Company’s Artistic Director Amanda Stephens Lee was drawn to American Beauty Shop from the moment she picked up the play written for five female actors aged seventeen to eighty-one.
She says, “(Some Company) will always choose plays that pass the Bechdel Test. We are particularly drawn to stories celebrating the joys and pain of family life. We're especially interested in the stories of women, and in plays that transport the audience to another time or place.”
For Director Anna McGrath, whom Stephens-Lee met while both were completing MFAs, taking the story from the USA to Australia isn’t as large a leap as the Pacific. She says, “Whilst the story is set in 2010 America there are many parallels with contemporary Australian society - the economic divide between big cities and rural towns; the cynicism about the state of politics; the impact of big chains on small business: it is clear that these things are not uniquely American problems. Bringing the Australian premiere of this play to a Sydney stage gives us the opportunity to consider how it reflects our current situation.”
American Beauty Shop will be performed by five of Sydney’s most exciting female actors; Charmaine Bingwa, Caitlyn Burley, Jill McKay, Amanda Stephens Lee and Janine Watson.
Some Company and Oleg Pupovac
25 Aug to 16 Sept
7:30pm Fri Aug 25
7:30pm Sat Aug 26
5pm Sun Aug 27
7:30pm Wed Aug 30
7:30pm Thur Aug 31
7:30pm Wednesday to
KXT, 244 William St, Kings Cross
Dana Lynn Formby
Charmaine Bingwa, Cait Burley, Jill McKay, Amanda Stephens Lee, Janine Watson