GENEVA

written by: Nicholas von Hoffman
directed by: Mary Fulham
set designer: Gregory John Mercurio
lighting designer: Jenn Gleason
costume designer: Ramona Ponce
mask designer: Federico Restrepo
sound designer: Tim Schellenbaum
featuring: Brigitte Barnett*, Ari Benjamin*, Todd Davis, Steve Hauck*, Carol London*, John Otis*, Michael Quinlan* and Kerry Sullivan

* Appearing through courtesy of AEA

performance schedule:
November 14 - December 1, 2002
Thursday - Sunday 7:30pm
Sunday matinee 2:30pm
First Flooor Theatre
tickets $15.00
box office (212) 475-7710

No Show Thanksgiving Day

Benefit for Watson Arts November 19th at 7:00pm


GENEVA, directed by Mary Fulham, is the first production of a play by veteran journalist Nicholas von Hoffman. It is a powerful two-act drama in which an attractive, ambitious, black, 40-something woman executive is undone by corporate politics of identity and race.Nicholas von Hoffman is the well-known former columnist for the Washington Post and more recently, for The New York Observer. He became well-known to TV audiences as a "Point-Counterpoint" commentator for CBS's 60 Minutes. He is the author of 13 books, notably: "Capitalist Fools: Tales of American Business, from Carnegie to Forbes to the Milken Gang" (1992) and "Citizen Cohen" (1998), a biography of Roy Cohn which was made into an HBO movie. He recently completed the libretto for "Nicholas and Alexandra" for the Los Angeles Opera 2003 season under the direction of Placido Domingo, who will also be singing one of the lead roles. The play tells the story of Genevieve Fauchet, a rising star on the corporate fast-track, who is hired by a major airline. The company is in crisis over its race relations practices; it has provoked a sit-down demonstration by black citizens' groups which has disrupted its operations nationwide. Even while subjecting her to racial slights and insulting sexual innuendoes, top execs of the airline acknowledge that the future of the company hinges on her actions. If Genevieve can appear emblematic of the company, calm simmering violence in a crowd of demonstrators and restore service to a normal schedule, she can rescue the company from a financial and public relations disaster. As Genevieve struggles to control the crisis, a white male executive attempts to wrest the leadership role from her. When she is accidentally whacked with a demonstrator's sign, the company "frames" her corporate rival for the offense in an attempt to cultivate favor with the black community. Genevieve, however, will not stoop to the dishonor of publicly accusing the executive of assaulting her. Death in battle was honorable to her French ancestors, but not this sort of duplicity. With that, the maelstrom that was carrying her to the top abruptly turns against her. The company's treachery is publicly exposed and to save itself, it resorts to scapegoating its former "savior." Even the innocent fact that she had once changed her name, from Geneva Farmer to Genevieve Fauchet, to take pride in her French ancestry, is used against her to prove her a liar. Alongside this engrossing tale of corporate hypocrisy and intrigue, there is a subplot which is more outrageous but also illuminating. While Genevieve is contorting herself to fit the corporate mold, her husband, a former Chicago Bulls football star, is engaged in a silly publicity stunt to support his candidacy for the football Hall of Fame, in order to stimulate demand for himself as a pro or college coach. He counsels Genevieve against demeaning herself in the corporate world, but yet will accept a job as a football mascot. We are left with the firm idea that to succeed in the business society--and it is a business society--you must constantly reinvent yourself. But underlying prejudice makes the task more onerous and demeaning to black people. Nicholas von Hoffman denies there is anything autobiographical in his plays, insisting "There are playwrights who tell you who they are and others who never let you know who they are. I just think about the story and the people in it." He describes his former career as "a polemicist and editorialist" with "ferocious and idiosyncratic opinions...a propagandist." Now, he doesn't propagandize anything in his plays. "Character and story are too important for that," he asserts. In "Geneva," there is not the long second-act speech you commonly see in "political" plays. To be a good storyteller, he maintains, you simply have to give up the preacher's role. He's learned that by writing a lot of plays, "more than you want to know," although this is the first to be given a full professional production. As a young reporter, he specialized in the Civil Rights and Antiwar movements; now he can't help writing about what gnaws at us. He asserts, "This is a play about something that occupies Americans all the time: identity and race. Americans give you a disquisition on their ancestry. It's an abiding consciousness in us individually--a characteristic of what makes us American. It never leaves the characters of this play." Von Hoffman doesn't intend to reveal himself in his plays, but he can't help revealing what he knows: that the demeaning nature of the PR circus and the politics of a corporation are a mirror of the culture at large. The intrigues of the boardroom recapitulate our national obsessions with identity and race, and they are played out to a ridiculous degree in our obsession with public images. It's universal to us, so while "Geneva" is set in the upper regions of a large American corporation, it could have just as appropriately been set in a university. Director Mary Fulham is Artistic Director of Watson Arts, a resident company of La MaMa E.T.C., where her own play, "Devotion," a serious, full-length play about a Boston Catholic family's relationship to the Virgin Mary, was presented and where she has directed a series of comedies and musicals. These have included "These Sunglasses Belonged To Roy Orbison" (starring Ellen Foley), "A Variety of Women" (a performance series which has featured Lillias White, Toni Schlesinger and dancers from The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company), "Was That My 15 Minutes?" (an autobiographical play written and performed by Susan Jeremy) and "Fame Takes a Holiday" (a pastiche comedy based on Fulham's experiences in The High Heeled Women comedy troupe). She also co-wrote and directed "Night of 1,000 Heels" (a precurser to "Fame Takes a Holiday") and "P.S. 69," which won numerous prizes including first prize in the 2000 Montreal Fringe Festival.



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