First Hand Woman, a new stage play which takes a comedic approach examining the five stages of loss, is coming to New York August 16th via the New York Fringe Festival.

The Fringe is the largest multi-arts festival in North America, with more than 200 companies from all over the world performing in Fringe’s venues all around the city.  About six-months back, First Hand Woman (FHW) was chosen to be a featured part of the  Festival for five nights in August.

FHW is one woman’s story told through five different parts of herself.  These parts, which are also the character’s names, are Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression, and Acceptance.  It’s a story about the journey of the soul that aims to bring the audience along on for their own personal journey.

The cast of First Hand Woman.

The 2009 cast of First Hand Woman.

DOWNTOWN had an exclusive interview with the producer, writer, and actress in the play Sarah Michelle Brown, who shed light on the emotional journey that lead her to create and produce to this award-winning play.

DOWNTOWN: Your character is Depression. Why did you choose her?

Sarah Michelle Brown: I didn’t choose depression, she kind of chose me. During the rehearsal period I’m always like, why am I playing this girl? This is crazy! Because at least the other girls get to fight; they’re feisty.  With Depression, I wrote her quite funny at times, but she’s always miserable.  I ended up with her because we were doing a round robin during casting and it just felt right.

DT: Because the story is so much about loss and grief, how do you keep the audience in light spirits?

SMB: I would say that as much sadness as there is in the play, there’s more laughter.  Any time there is something sad happening, any time a tough secret comes out, the audience ends with a reward. When I was writing it I really wanted to make people feel uplifted and ready to tackle whatever it is they have going on.

DT: There has been a lot of comparisons between FHW and Sex and the City.  Why do you think that is?

Sarah Michelle Brown as Depression.

Sarah Michelle Brown as Depression in First Hand Woman.

SMB: I think that’s because a lot of FHW is the girls dishing and talking about love, sex, and relationships. The characters are all so different and have such different approaches to love. I think it was the Montreal Gazette that said we were like Sex and the City but real. That’s the difference.  But I love the comparison and think it’s so cool that we’re reaching people in a fun, provocative way.

DT: What was your reaction to finding out FHW was coming to New York?

SMB: Oh my Gosh, I think I started screaming.  I’ve wanted to bring the show to New York as soon as I came up with the idea. I’m in the middle of a campaign to raise money for getting us to New York and hopefully we get enough, but if we don’t, I’ll send us there myself. I think we’re going to move some New Yorkers, and if it has to be on my own dime I’m prepared to do that. New York is my love. I’m a New Yorker at heart.

 —Naomi Pinkus

First Hand Woman will open Friday, August 16th at 5:30pm at Venue # 8 at The Theatre at the 14th Street Y at 344 East 14th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues).

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