Maria Irene Fornes Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Maria Irene Fornes began as a painter, but after the early 1960’s, she became almost exclusively a playwright. She has worked in a variety of styles, from musicals with people such as Tito Puente and John Fitz Gibbon to avant-garde works with the Judson Poets Theatre and other companies.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Maria Irene Fornes has been recognized and honored by the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition, she has been an active and vital force in the Off-Broadway theater scene. She won Obie awards in 1965, 1977, 1979, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1988, and 2000. Her 1982 award was the Obie for Sustained Achievement in the Theater, and her 2000 Obie was for her play Letters from Cuba. She has also been honored with a Whitney Fellowship, a Yale University Fellowship, and the Cintas Foundation fellowship and has received a Distinguished Artists Award, an American Academy Award, and a New York State Governor’s Arts Award. New York’s Signature Theatre Company devoted its entire 2000 season to Fornes’s works.

Fornes has been a major force in the avant-garde and feminist theaters. Her writing has a unique style that blends elements of the avant-grade, modernism, and Magical Realism. Fornes’s work has always been difficult to classify as she is constantly experimenting with both the form of drama and the text. Fornes writes with a clear sense of the theatrical in her works.

In addition to her work as a playwright, Fornes has served as a director and designer for many of her own works. Some critics have attributed her theatricality in her works to her involvement in the production process. She has also been heavily involved with the teaching and development of new playwrights, especially new Hispanic playwrights.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Delgado, Maria M., and Caridad Svetch, eds. Conducting a Life: Reflections on the Theatre of Maria Irene Fornes. Lyme, N.H.: Smith and Kraus, 1999. A collection of works on Fornes by those with whom she has worked in theater, those who have studied playwriting with her, and scholars and critics who have followed her career. Also included is an interview with Fornes, commenting on her life in theater since the 1960’s.

Kent, Assunta Bartolomucci. Maria Irene Fornes and Her Critics. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. Kent traces Fornes’s work from the point of view of feminist criticism and explores how this criticism can and cannot be applied to her work. This book has a large section on feminist theory, as well as detailed sections on the plays and their reception, particularly Fefu and Her Friends and And What of the Night?

Moroff, Diane Lynn. Fornes: Theater in the Present Tense. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996. A critical analysis of four of Fornes’s plays: Fefu and Her Friends, Mud, Sarita, and The Conduct of Life. Also contains chronologies of selected productions of plays, publications, and honors and awards that Fornes has received.

Porterfield, Sally. “Black Cats and Green Trees: The Art of Maria Irene Fornes.” Modern Drama 43 (Summer, 2000): 204-212. Porterfield talks with the playwright and looks at some plays, trying to understand the “universe of Fornes’s artistic imagination.”

Robinson, Marc, ed. The Theater of Maria Irene Fornes. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999. A useful collection of critical essays on Fornes’s plays, reviews and essays on performances of those plays, and a selection of Fornes’s own writing on her work. Contains photographs of productions of fifteen of the plays.

Robinson, Marc. The Other American Drama. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. Robinson places Fornes in a new genealogy of American drama, which regards plot as less important than other elements of the theater such as “language, gesture, and presence.” According to Robinson, Fornes’s plays have been underappreciated, and he sets out to rediscover how she uses the power of language to discover moments of individual truth.