This intimate, joyful, haunting portrait of playwright Maria Irene Fornes shows art and friendship enduring in the face of forgetting.
About this project
“Yes,” I said. Thirteen years later, the project we began together – The Rest I Make Up – is almost finished. It follows the mind and memories of visionary playwright, director and teacher Maria Irene Fornes, inviting you into a world where only the moment matters.
And this is Irene, right where we were in 2003. My name is Michelle Memran and I’d love for you to join me in completing this film, and sharing Irene’s luminous spirit, delicious humor and sage wisdom with the widest audience imaginable.
In 1999, the incomparable Cuban-American dramatist Maria “call me Irene” Fornes agreed to meet me, then a young aspiring writer, to be interviewed for an article. Six hours later, the interview questions remained unanswered but our friendship had begun.
Over time it became clear that Irene, then in her 70s, was suffering from an undiagnosed dementia. She told me that she had stopped writing and didn’t know why. I told Irene that I wanted to write a play but didn’t know how.
One afternoon, we ventured to Brighton Beach with bathing suits and a never-used Hi8 camera. And what we discovered that day became the basis for this exuberant, feature-length film we’ve made together.
“Irene, does the camera make you uncomfortable?” I asked, in a noisy beachside café.
“Don’t you understand,” Irene answered coyly into the lens, “the camera to me is my beloved, the one who wants me always, and I give everything . . . I have . . . to a camera.”
Over the next several years, we traveled with the camera from New York City’s Off-Off Broadway to the idyllic beaches of Cuba, moving through Irene’s expansive mind and labyrinthine memories. At turns master class, artist portrait, love story and Fornes play, The Rest I Make Up celebrates the fierce spontaneity that is Maria Irene Fornes—an artist and educator whose plays and writing workshops helped shape the American theater.
The film counters society’s pervasive view that people lose their value as they lose their short-term memories, by introducing you to an irrepressibly vital playwright who—even in the midst of eroding memory, even as she no longer formally writes and teaches—is experiencing a remarkably creative period of her life.
This year Irene celebrated her 86th birthday at Amsterdam Nursing Home in New York City, where she is visited by friends, colleagues, and former students from all over the country. And our friendship continues . . .
Maria Irene Fornes has been called the greatest and least known dramatist of our time. She’s written over 40 plays, won nine OBIE awards, and taught thousands of playwrights across the globe. Off-Broadway’s Signature Theatre devoted its entire 1999-2000 season to her work, and her epic What of the Night? was a finalist for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize. As a teacher and director of the INTAR Hispanic Playwrights-in-Residence Lab in the 1980s, she mentored a generation of Latino/a playwrights, including Cherríe Moraga, Caridad Svich, Migdalia Cruz, Nilo Cruz, and Eduardo Machado. “We all felt of her like the mother of our writing,” as Migdalia Cruz says in the film. “Irene’s children – we used to call ourselves.”
Irene’s influence is boundless and boundary-less. Over the years, we’ve spoken to dozens of her colleagues, students, collaborators, friends and family members who credit her as an inspiration. “I think of Irene at a time when we actually gave ourselves permission to think about theater as art instead of commerce,” playwright Paula Vogel told us. “I think of her if not daily at least weekly. What would Irene do?” Thanks to all who offered their time and incredible insights! Here are some of the remarkable people we spoke to while making the film:
From top left: Rafael “Cuco” Fornes, Edward Albee, Paula Vogel, Kelly Stuart, Eduardo Machado, Ellen Stewart, Lanford Wilson, John Guare, Constance Congdon, Migdalia Cruz,Harriet Sohmers-Zwerling, Joseph Goodrich, Ozzie Rodriguez, Jana Napoli, Oskar Eustis, Carlos Fornes
We’ve spent the last year editing and now have an 80-minute rough cut, and are so close to the finish line! By contributing to our campaign, you will help us get this film completed and ready for festivals by the summer of 2017.
The proceeds raised in our Kickstarter campaign will pay for our final finishing costs, which include:
We had such fun designing these rewards – all of which are intended to bring you closer to Irene, her life philosophy and creative process – and we’re thrilled to finally be sharing them with you!
Get Inspired (with an Irene Mixtape): Listen to an MP3 “best of” sampler of Irene talking about the creative process, taken from conversations with Michelle during the making of the film. This falls somewhere between John Cage, the Dalai Lama and Celia Cruz (Our $35 reward, below).
Below, from left: Get Caffeinated Fornes Mug, with original artwork by Brian Herrera ($50);Write and Teach 1 includes The Fornes Frame signed by author Anne García-Romero ($250); Write and Teach 2 with Conducting a Life: Reflections on the Theatre of Maria Irene Fornes, edited by Maria M. Delgado and Caridad Svich ($250); Pack a Bag with a DVD/Blu-ray inside this Irene quote tote bag ($100); Put Pen to Paper using our exclusive notebook and pen ($65); A still from a bonus scene in Get a THANK YOU CREDIT! + 3 bonus scenes ($75);Write and Teach 3 includes this bio of Maria Irene Fornes, signed by author Scott Cummings ($250); Promenade (anywhere, everywhere) to the unforgettable songs on this rarePromenade LP from the 1969 production ($300).
Become the Character: “Make a little sketch,” Irene would tell me, before we started our writing exercises. I always drew faces, which she would name. Get 1 of 60 LIMITED EDITION ORIGINAL DRAWINGS from our collaboration (framed, named by Irene, signed by Michelle, 4×6). Our $150 reward, below:
Whether it’s Alma (Amiga) Stafford, GetOffit YouBums, Agrofa Frabact, or Connie: A Firm Believer in Democracy (below) – these characters are sure to bring whimsy and unexpected delight to any room. Plus, you’ll also receive an exclusive Kickstarter-only video excerpt of Michelle and Irene doing one of their writing exercises in Miami.
Your Own Fornes Library: Get all five PAJ editions/collections of Irene’s plays, signed by publisher Bonnie Marranca. From The Successful Life of 3 to Mud, Fefu and her Friends toWhat of the Night? – you’ll never be too far from the transfixing worlds of Fornes. Plus, you’ll receive a Kickstarter-only reel of performers, designers and fellow playwrights discussing Irene’s plays. Our $550 Reward, below:
Explore Letters from Cuba: In addition to your own copy of Letters from Cuba and Other Plays by Maria Irene Fornes (published and signed by PAJ), you’ll receive exclusive Kickstarter-only bonus footage of Irene conversing about being an artist with her eldest brother Cuco (a cartoonist whose letters inspired the play), from our trip to Cuba in 2004. Below, our $300 reward:
Go Off-Off Broadway with this sublime photo of Irene taken by photographer Peter Bellamy in 2010 at Judson Memorial Church. Get a gorgeous 11×14 signed print, plus Kickstarter-bonus footage of theater makers reminiscing about their Off-Off Broadway days. Our $200 reward, below:
IS MY DONATION TAX-DEDUCTIBLE?
Donations made via KICKSTARTER are NOT tax-deductible.
To make a tax-deductible donation to support the making of THE REST I MAKE UP you may donate through our 501(c)(3) non-profit fiscal sponsor WOMEN MAKE MOVIES (WMM).
All donations made to WMM on behalf of THE REST I MAKE UP are tax-deductible.
Click here to make a tax-deductible donation BY CREDIT CARD.
Click here to make a tax-deductible donation BY CHECK.
How You Can Help
1. Back the Project: Kickstarter is all or nothing – if we don’t make our goal, we get nothing.
2. Spread the Word: Even if you can’t donate, sharing the link with your family and friends does a world of difference in getting more people to contribute.
4. Connect With Us: If you have any questions (or would like to contact us for press), send us an e-mail at [email protected]!
Thank you for visiting! Come back soon!
AND A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO OUR TRAILER TEAM:
- Jeff Yorkes for editing
- Max Avery Lichtenstein for his music
- Splash Studios for sound editing
- Francis Turiano for shooting the Kickstarter intro/outro and Travis Duffield for his audio assistance
- Chris Bennion, James Gossage and Harriet Sohmers-Zwerling for their photos
AND FOR THE PHOTOS ON THE PAGE BY:
- Irene Fornes
- Jim Kent
- Peter Bellamy
- Anne Militello
- Marge Avilas
- Alison Forbes
Risks and challenges
Since we’ve been working on this project for 13 years, many of our major obstacles have thankfully been addressed and overcome. We’re currently in the process of obtaining rights to archival footage of Irene used in the film and rights to various songs, but most of the approvals have been obtained and we’re confident the rest will follow suit. So our biggest question right now is once we have the rights, how will we pay for them?
And that’s where you’re coming in. With your help, we’ll raise the necessary funds and finally put all the finishing touches on the film. Then, once it’s completed, our major challenge will be to secure distribution and bring the film to the widest audience imaginable.
But it all begins here. Today. With you. One hurdle at a time. Thank you.