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Drama pays homage to victims of femicide Newly translated play to be performed at the College

Lily Iserson

Contributing Writer

After months of extensive touring across the U.S. and Canada, the play Women of Ciudad Juárez will debut its first English translation at the College of Wooster on April 21-23 at 8:15 p.m. in Freedlander Theatre.

Through a series of monologues, an all-female ensemble portrays diverse perspectives of the industrial border city of Juárez, México, showcasing the power of personal narrative against the stark backdrop of femicide, the gender-based killing of women.

Since 1993, Juárez has endured a rash of crimes against women as a result of, what Noriega deemed, “neoliberal economic policies” and other forms of oppression at the government and local levels (both from Mexico and the U.S.). The incidents  included beatings, kidnappings, rape and brutal murders. Unrecognizable bodies have been left to rot in the desert lest the perpetrators be discovered, resulting in scores of heartbroken families and loss across the city.

“Often the Juárez murders have only been represented through numbers,” said Professor Jimmy Noriega director and translator of the play. “[It] offers an opportunity for the audience to learn about the murders through women’s bodies on stage. I think that’s what makes the play, and theatre, particularly powerful, … you actually see four women representing hundreds of women, and being able to look at a live person lets the audience understand the issue in a very different way.”

Mexican actress and activist Cristina Michaus collected interviews and conducted extensive research for the original Spanish script, which debuted in 2001. This performance season marks the first production of Women of Ciudad Juárez in English, on behalf of Theatre Professor Jimmy Noriega’s translation work.

Having directed the Spanish script at Cornell University and in Quito, Ecuador in 2011, Noriega felt the show and the injustices that surround it necessitated an English translation in order to reach a wider audience.

The company, Teatro Travieso/Troublemaker Theatre, which includes a group of Wooster students, was invited to perform Women of Ciudad Juárez at over a dozen universities across the United States and Canada. At the time of this publication, previous venues include Davidson College, Arizona State University, Yale University, Ithaca College, Dartmouth College, Bucknell University, McGill University, Cornell University and Ohio Wesleyan University.

The play addresses very critical issues which should be exposed to  a large audience. “These issues don’t just pertain to Juárez. They pertain to everything on a college campus. It talks about sex and sexuality, rape culture, all of which pertains to life. It changes how you see things as a woman, how you interact with your male counterparts and other women around you. It affects everything. It really has.”

“The play definitely became a responsibility for all of us, much further beyond theatre,” added actress Summit Starr ’16. “It’s not a character from a story, it’s an event. Something that happened. It’s our responsibility to share the stories and to do the show.”

Over 10 academic departments are currently sponsoring the performance at the College. Furthermore, a noteworthy feature of the April 21 show includes a talk by Cristina Michaus, the show’s original playwright, between 7 and 8 p.m. prior to performance time. She will address the history of femicide in Juárez and the ways art and activism have been able to better inform the public of the situation.

The company has expressed their excitement to perform at Wooster after months of traveling off-campus, and hopes the show will inspire new dialogue pertaining to Juárez’s atrocities. In order to help facilitate this, Professor Noriega teamed with the playwright to issue a petition on Facebook via change.org that intends to contact the government of Mexico, the U.S. government, and the United Nations regarding Juárez’s specific atrocities against women. The title of the petition’s Facebook page is “Petition to stop the femicide in Juárez, Mexico,” and can be found via the Facebook pages of the cast: Janna Haywood ’14, Stephanie Castrejon ’16, Summit Star ’16, Marisa Adame ’17 and stagemanager Ben Pfister ’14.

So far the petition has received minimal signatures, which frustrates the cast.

“We’re the only people right now doing this, telling stories in places people haven’t heard,” said Haywood. “We know and in some alternate way understand the pressure of it, but it’s almost getting frustrating to me that people aren’t picking up and understanding this issue.”

“The Wooster performance could be one of our most powerful shows yet,” added Noriega. “We’re able to stay on campus, perform it three days in a row and follow up with information about the petition. Having the playwright here, talking to our colleagues about it … we’re hoping this becomes a moment to say: ‘Let’s all stop on this campus and reflect on these women’s lives’. At the very least sign a signature, but more than that, you should learn something, and take the message somewhere else.’’

Tickets can be reserved at Freedlander Theatre and the event is free and open to the public.

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