CSU Theatre Presents Tale of ‘Disappeared’ Women

posterCOLUMBUS, Ga. — Seven female political prisoners of Uruguay’s “dirty war” are central characters in the Columbus State University Department of Theatre’s season-opening mainstage series production.

Kathleen Coudle-King’s Compañeras, winner of the Larry Corse Prize for Playwriting in the 2010 CSU International Playwriting Competition, runs Sept. 22-25 at CSU Theatre on the Park’s mainstage. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday.

The story addresses "disappeared people” — in this case, women — snatched by Uruguay's military regime from their homes and families as suspected political dissidents during the "dirty war" in the 1970s and ‘80s. That was a response to the Argentina political movement associated with former President Juan Perón and his wife, Eva Perón, which spread throughout many South America dictatorships.

“What drew me in the most (to the story) is the idea of a group of women prisoners unjustly imprisoned for their political views, as well as the many ways they choose to support one another and survive in a harsh environment,” said director and Associate Professor of Theatre Becky Becker.

Compañeras features a play-within-a-play.

“One of their outlets is to put on a play for their cell block on Three Kings Day, and they choose La Casa de Bernarda Alba (about a family of sisters and a controlling mother) by Federico Garcia Lorca,” said Becker. “He is a favorite playwright of mine, and his own life and death in Spain under Franco's regime mirrors that of the women in the play, and I think the relationships between the characters are compelling, as are their stories of why they were imprisoned.”

The cast of CSU students includes Jessica Hill (Ana - Bernarda), Shea Barnett (Susana - Angustias), Elise Miller (Maria - Magdalena), Brittney Allen (Teresa - Poncia), Kristin Storla (Lidia - Adela), Heather Pavik (Lourdes - Maria Josefa), Emily Kohrs (Marta - Martirio), Quanesha Wilson (Guard) and TK Habtemariam (Captain - Aureliano Buendia).

“[The students] have become a real ensemble and work well off one another,” Becker said. “They are also very interested in understanding more about the background of Uruguay during the dirty war in the 1970s and how this situation impacted people.” 

The play is based on interviews with women who experienced the dirty war. “So, there is an element of truth that, I think, the actors are very drawn to,” Becker said. “I am really enjoying working with them and seeing their interpretations of the characters blossom.”

The play also is somewhat non-linear and uses dance as a connective device. “This is quite theatrical, so the combination of realism and theatricalism can be quite entertaining and engaging,” she said.

To prepare for the production, students visited the Muscogee County jail as part of a pre-production “boot camp” to explore the intensity of the setting.

“It's an incredible challenge for a 19- or 20-year old actor to imagine prison life, let alone the situation of political prisoners,” said Becker. “Sgt. Bob Trombley, along with two other officers, gave us an amazing tour of the facilities.  The students seemed to gain a lot of perspective.”

International Prizewinner

The play’s author, Kathy Coudle-King, is known for her historical-political dramas about the struggles of everyday people. A fixture of the North Dakota drama scene, she beat out about 200 contenders for top prize in the 2010 CSU International Playwriting Competition, administered by CSU Associate Professor of Theatre Steven Graver. The prize includes $1,000, donated by Larry Corse, professor emeritus of theatre and English at Clayton State University, and a world-premiere production of the play by CSU Theatre.

Compañeras stood out because it was an interesting and unusual story, told from an unusual perspective and in an original theatrical ‘voice,’“ said Graver. “It was beautifully written, with an almost poetic structure that lifted it above the difficult and often tragic circumstances of the characters in the story. Additionally, it gave us an opportunity to peer into an aspect of a different culture that was literally hidden from view during the time it occurred.” 

Admission is $17 for adults; $15 for seniors, children and active duty military; free for CSU faculty and staff (two tickets for one performance) and CSU students (limit one). Season tickets for the mainstage series are $72 or $64 for seniors, active military and children. Tickets are available from the CSU Theatre Box Office at 10th Street and Bay Avenue or online at http://ColumbusState.edu/theatre/tickets.php

For more information, call the box office at 706-507-8444.