FIM Flint Repertory Theatre produces an annual New Works Festival each April. It’s an opportunity for America’s most compelling contemporary playwrights to unveil their plays in a staged reading. Many of the shows featured in the festival as readings have been fully produced in following seasons at the Flint Rep. Last season, Wrong River by Josh Wilder debuted. Previously, The Boatman by Alex Moggridge took the stage.

One of last season’s readings,  The Future is Female… by Nandita Shenoy, is set to take the stage February 3 – 19 at FIM Elgood Theatre. Flint Repertory Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director Michael Lluberes describes the play as “thought-provoking and absolutely hilarious.”

“Playwright Nandita Shenoy’s world premiere play is a sharp, biting comedy. It’s about four very different women at an all-female retreat and asks questions about what it means to be a woman today and in the future. Nandita is a thrilling new voice in the American theatre scene. This play will make audiences laugh out loud.”

Shenoy describes the work as taking place in the not-too-distant future.

“Four progressive women spend a week at a feminine empowerment retreat where the definition of empowerment is not what they expected. They must decide if they will get on board for the sake of their freedom. The comedy comes from the existential dread about the dissolution of women’s rights in our current political landscape.”

Shenoy says she wrote the first draft of the play in 2018 and felt very anxious about the cases coming before the Supreme Court regarding women’s rights.

“I wrote it as a dystopian warning about the future. And then, what was both funny and heartbreaking, was that the day after my reading in Flint Rep’s New Works Festival, my phone was inundated with messages. The draft opinion of Dobbs had just been leaked, which showed the Supreme Court’s intent to overturn the right to abortion as decided in Roe v. Wade. And so, it went from being this play set in the future to being a contemporary comedy.”

Lluberes says the play is coming at a time when the talk is about what it means to be female, and women’s rights.

“It’s an interesting conversation, and the play is done in such a skillful way. It’s both political and hilarious, which is rare. Nandita Shenoy has a unique gift. Plus, she has written a part for herself in the play. So, you will see Shenoy’s play and her having a part in it.”

Shenoy says she hopes the The Future is Female… helps to open the audience’s hearts.

“People’s hearts are open when they’re laughing, open to many different ideas or points of view. Comedy makes us human. And that’s where I live as a writer.”

Lluberes says he is excited about exposing audiences to new works like
The Future is Female…

“It’s such an essential part of what we do. It’s about creating the next canon of American theater and amplifying previously unamplified voices. It helps bring more people to the table and new stories to audiences.”

The Covid pandemic halted the production of the 2020 New Works Festival, which was to feature the play The Magnificent Seven.

The musical explores the inner lives of the first female gymnastics team to win gold for the United States.

Lluberes says The Magnificent Seven was set to open several times but kept getting pushed back because of the pandemic.He says he is happy it’s finally going to make its premiere, opening March 31 and running through April 16, also at the Elgood Theatre.

“A lot has happened since the first time we were going to produce it. We have an exciting choreographer named Dwayne Lee Holland Jr, who trained with some of the women as a gymnast. He left the world of gymnastics to become a choreographer. He does hip-hop and different kinds of contemporary dance. He is the perfect person to transform the language of gymnastics into modern dance.”

Lluberes says he is proud of Flint Rep’s New Works Festival. He is looking forward to April when some of the most exciting new playwrights and composers converge for a week of workshops and development. The dates are April 28-30. Tickets are $10. Genesee County residents enjoy a 30 percent discount as a benefit of the Genesee County Arts Education and Cultural Enrichment Millage.

“We have a loyal audience that comes out annually to the readings and it’s growing. It helps put Flint on the map, and that’s exciting.”