FLINT, Michigan — What started off as a ‘what if’ idea and a fictional tale of an alternate reality has become especially relevant in today’s landscape.
The Future is Female,
a comedy written by New York City-based playwright Nandita Shenoy, focuses on four women in the future, discussing women’s rights at a progressive, far-left retreat. This contemporary comedy is kicking off with a world premiere right here in Flint at the FIM Flint Repertory Theatre
. The production runs from Friday, Feb. 3 through Sunday, Feb. 19.
Directed by Kathryn Walsh — and starring Nandita Shenoy, Hallie Bee Bard, Siho Ellsmore, and Clara Tristan — the laugh-out-loud production is extremely relevant to the overturn of Roe v Wade. Shenoy, an actor/writer from Buffalo, has been writing full-length plays since 2008. Her first play, Washer/Dryer
, had its world premiere in 2015. Her second play was in the midst of being produced in New York right when COVID-19 hit in March 2020, and all productions were shut down.
Shenoy is happy to be in the room with actors, directors, designers, and crew yet again. “I’m just thrilled to be here, and to be able to have a chance to create for a live audience again,” she says. “It’s been a really beautiful journey, and I’m excited to be here.”
Nandita Shenoy during a rehearsal of 'The Future is Female.'
As for the subject matter of the once-fictional play becoming a stark reality, however, Shenoy is less excited. “It’s a strange feeling,” she says. “I wouldn’t say good. I wrote it hoping that someday it would be like, ‘ha ha, isn’t that funny that somebody thought that could happen?’
“I wrote the first draft in 2018, and it was really based on my fear that what has happened would happen,” she says. “The play started as a way to deal with my anxiety over what I felt was an erosion of women's rights, a way to address it, talk about it, and really examine what the consequences of rolling back women's rights would be.”
The production was first read to audiences during the Flint Rep.'s 2022 New Works Festival
in May, and the next day, the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization draft was leaked.
“I think there was a synchronicity in some ways of the play being produced,” Shenoy says.
Certainly not reveling in an ‘I told you so’ moment, this playwright is happy to use comedy as a means to cope and loves to see audiences laughing. “I think people’s hearts are much more open when they’re laughing,” she says. “I generally tend to live in a more comedic world, and like to talk about serious topics in a comedic way.”
Nandita Shenoy and cast members during a rehearsal of "The Future is Female.'
FIM Flint Repertory Theatre Producing Artistic Director Michael Lluberes says the play is riotously funny. “Nandita’s writing is always smart and hilarious,” Lluberes says. “It just feels like the play couldn’t be more timely. It felt like she was writing a future that is actually the present right now. We really wanted to give a platform to her voice because it’s really unique and funny. I want people to know how funny the play is, despite its serious themes.”
Shenoy is proud to bring the world premiere to Flint. “I think it’s particularly wonderful to be doing it here in Michigan after a referendum was passed this fall, protecting abortion rights,” she says. “I hope this play gives some of the people who worked so hard on behalf of that referendum some joy.”
For Lluberes, this premiere is part of the Flint Rep.’s larger mission. “We’re really trying to be a hub for new play development in Michigan and the Midwest. We want to develop and produce world-premiere plays and musicals, along with bold, new takes on the classics.”
Promotional banner for 'The Future is Female.'
Shenoy is grateful for Lluberes’ vision of the all-female-identifying creative team behind the scenes.
“That made me realize he understood the play and what the play needed,” she says. “I think having a female-identifying team both in front of and behind the table has made a huge difference in how the play can come forth. It’s really been a gift and I’m really grateful for Michael. At a time when so many play development opportunities are actually shutting down, several large playwright development centers, particularly the Lark in NYC, have closed in the last year. It offers a lot of hope to have places like the Flint Rep. create opportunities for playwrights to hear and develop their plays.”
The FIM Flint Repertory Theatre was awarded a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
This funding will help the center continue to develop plays and new work initiatives through the New Works Festival in April.
‘The Future is Female” runs from Feb. 3-19. There is an opening night party on Friday, Feb. 3 with a pre-show reception, and post-show toast with the cast; college night on Thursday, Feb. 9 (free for college students with valid student ID), and APPI Night on Sunday, Feb. 12, featuring a post-show discussion with the playwright.
Tickets are available online, at the FIM Ticket Center box offices at FIM Whiting Auditorium and FIM Capitol Theatre, or by calling 810-237-7333.