Maria Irene Fornes and Samuel Beckett: ‘Different and the Same’

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Maria Irene Fornes is one of the most revered American playwrights. Dramatists she influenced, actors she directed in her plays, students she mentored in her playwriting workshops, as well as academics who taught and published essays and books on her diverse output – over 40 plays in her 40-year career – share Tony Kushner’s assessment that ‘‘America has produced no dramatist of greater importance’. Born in Havana, Cuba in 1930, Fornes came to New York in 1945, and by the early 1960s, she was a central force in the establishment of the Off-Off Broadway avant-garde movement in Greenwich Village. In 1953 she saw the original production of En attendant Godot in Paris and was inspired to become a playwright. Over the years, critics have cited Beckett’s impact on Fornes; however, this is the first essay to provide a detailed study of the specific ways Beckett’s plays influenced Fornes' dramas, particularly Tango Palace, Dr. Kheal, Fefu and her Friends, and Mud. Following Beckett, she jettisoned cohesive plots, traditional themes, outworn theatrical tropes, predictable endings, familiar settings, and identifiable characters declaiming to audiences where a play is heading and why. Most importantly, Beckett illustrated that different theatre forms were possible. This essay illustrates how Fornes, inspired by, but not imitating Beckett, made her own assault on conventional drama, The essay is also the first to delineate the ways in which Fornes' first play, Tango Palace, derives from her three-year love affair with Susan Sontag.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-100
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Beckett Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • Fefu and her Friends
  • Maria Irene Fornes
  • Susan Sontag
  • Tango Palace
  • Waiting for Godot


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