MANNEQUIN takes place at the site of a fur store in South Philly, hopscotching through time from 1965 to the present time of 2020. There’s a longstanding conflict between the owner, Olive, an elderly Jewish woman who is a Holocaust survivor, and Betty, a protester who vehemently opposes the fur trade and its barbarism. Olive takes solace in collecting mannequins for her shop, and they animate to talk to her and one another in private moments. She must negotiate terms with a South Philly mobster to keep her business going through the decades and navigate the rougher edges of the streets, and being a woman alone in order to keep her shop afloat.
The mannequins serve as a modern greek chorus, sharing their observations on how they see us humans and one other, looking at the world with depth, humor, and absurdity. In this time of COVID, we are all frozen and may feel immobilized like the mannequins, and they serve as the frank truth-telling about what it takes to not just survive this time but the systemic oppression at the center of capitalism, racism, and gender inequality.
The play begins in 2019 with a 13-year-old, Patti, and her mother moving to the neighborhood. Patti feels alone in her new city and gravitates to the shop and to Olive to fulfill some kind of community. To combat her loneliness Patti also engages a teenager online who later turns out to be quite troubled.
There are roles for 16 actors, 14 of whom must sing well.
This story has haunted my mind since the actual 2016 election when there was defacement on a South Philly defunct fur store which had a swastika spray-painted on its window. I finally sat down to craft MANNEQUIN when we were all in lockdown and I needed to keep being creative somehow.
I grew up in a diverse multicultural community in Brooklyn. I have always wanted to see a world where we can live together in mutual respect and inclusivity. This play both presents a world where that is happening and failing, and also tells the tragic story of loss we are all going through and the quest for personal and societal freedom we are all navigating.
I have been a solo artist for 25 years but started writing for other actors while in residence at the Kimmel Center from 2013-2018 when I wrote plays for teenagers that were crafted with them in mind. Those actors have changed my process forever, and now I need to write for many.