United States

Women of Zalongo, an Original Play by Maria Cominis, Premieres March 3 in CA

LOS ANGELES – Women of Zalongo, an original play by Maria Cominis about the ongoing struggle of women for autonomy, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), will premiere regionally on March 3-12 in Fullerton, CA and on March 19 in Santa Monica, CA. The play is inspired by the playwright’s Greek grandmother and her childhood memories prior to her immigration to the U.S. in 1915. Family secrets and intergenerational dynamics are woven into the lives of four generations of women whose family line reaches back to the heroic women of Zalongo.

According to the legend, the women, trapped by the Ottoman army in the village of Zalongo in northwestern Greece, jumped to their death with their children to flee a life of enslavement and humiliation. But before they jumped, they sang and danced, the Dance of Zalongo.

The play is initiated by the surviving ancestors and parallels the ongoing struggle for women’s autonomy through the lens of the heroine’s family history. It is woven together with Greek folk music and dance and is characterized with familial humor and the enduring courage of women who pass on their story.

Women of Zalongo has been recognized by the NEA with a $10,000 Grants for Arts Projects Award to present the production at California State University Fullerton (CSUF), College of the Arts, Department of Theatre and Dance Clayes Performing Arts Center. It is among 1,125 projects across the U.S. totaling more than $26.6 million that were selected during this second round of Grants for Arts Projects fiscal year 2022 funding.

“The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support arts and cultural organizations throughout the nation with these grants, including CSUF, providing opportunities for all of us to live artful lives,” said NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD. “The arts contribute to our individual well-being, the well-being of our communities, and to our local economies. The arts are also crucial to helping us make sense of our circumstances from different perspectives as we emerge from the pandemic and plan for a shared new normal informed by our examined experience.”

Women of Zalongo was also recognized as a semi-finalist in the Eugene O’Neil National Playwrights Festival (2022) and in the Bay Area Playwrights Festival (2020). The Development has been supported by key partners Dr. Michele Patzakis and Dr. Christina Bogdanou, Director of The Basil P. Caloyeras Center for Modern Greek Studies, Loyola Marymount University, which will support a special presentation of the play March 19 at Santa Monica Playhouse.

Maria Cominis is a first-generation Greek-American actor, author, professor, and playwright and creates in Los Angeles and Orange County, California. She spent a decade in New York City as a working actor and taught at the renowned HB Studio. Accomplished in both theatre and television, her recent credits include Hacks, New Girl, and Desperate Housewives. Cominis has published for Routledge and Kendall Hunt Publishing and is a professor of acting at CSUF.

The play is directed by CSUF alumni and award-winning director Kari Hayter and choreographed by Folk-Dance Choreographer Dr. Elleni Koulos, University of La Verne. Designers include Fred Kinney, Mary Anna Pomonis, Carson Julian, Matt Schleicher, Charles Glaudini and musical arrangements by John Glaudini.

Women of Zalongo, an original play by Maria Cominis, premieres regionally on March 3-12 in Fullerton, CA and on March 19 in Santa Monica, CA. (Photo: Courtesy of Maria Cominis)

The multi-generational and diverse cast consists of professional actors and students including Amanda Zarr, Christina Carlisi, Anna Giannotis, Marjorie Gaines, Peter Nikkos, Anais Barron, and on alternating nights: Grace Gremel/Briana O’Brien, Cossette Asenjo/Hannah Sulak, Ashley Reed/Daria Good, Sharayu Mahale/Kaliana Caldwell, and Samara Otero/Keza Kananura.

The play will be presented at the Clayes Performing Arts Center, March 3, 4, 10, 11, at 8 PM, Sundays, March 5 and 12, 2 PM in The Young Theatre on the campus of CSUF, and on Sunday, March 19, 7 PM, at Santa Monica Playhouse (limited seating). Running time is approximately 90 minutes.

For tickets, contact the CSUF Clayes Performing Arts Center Box Office: https://bit.ly/3XBFYww or call: 657-278-3371; for Santa Monica Playhouse performance (limited seating) email: [email protected].

This production is under the auspices of the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad and Public Diplomacy of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Embassy of Greece in Washington, DC, and the Consulate General of Greece in Los Angeles.

A video clip of the play is available online: https://bit.ly/3xv8iWK.


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