WOOSTER, Ohio — “Women of Ciudad Juárez,” a dramatic tribute to the hundreds of women who were raped, tortured, and murdered during the past two decades in the Mexican border city that lies south of El Paso, Texas, will be staged at The College of Wooster April 21-23. Performances, which are free and open to the public, begin at 8:15 p.m. each evening in Freedlander Theatre (329 E. University St.).
Written by Cristina Michaus, a famous Mexican film actress, documentary filmmaker, and playwright, the production has been translated into English by Jimmy Noriega, assistant professor of theatre and dance at Wooster who will also direct the play.
“The production uses the theatre as a space to examine, reflect on, and speak about the femicides taking place in Juárez, Mexico,” says Noriega. “The city represents the oppressive and exploitative side of neoliberal reform and free market trade.
“Since 1993, hundreds of women, including factory workers, indigenous women, and young girls, have been brutally raped, tortured, and murdered in the industrial city,” adds Noriega. ”Showing multiple female perspectives of life in Juárez — from mothers and daughters, to factory workers and prostitutes — the play speaks out against all forms of violence against the female body and psyche.”
Noriega first directed the play in 2011 in Spanish at Cornell University and at a theatre festival in Quito, Ecuador. He has been wanting to restage the play in English for two years. “This was originally going to be a limited tour with only two performances for Yale and Dartmouth,” he says. Since then, others have extended special invitations, and during the past five months he has staged the play at other campuses in the U.S. and Canada, including Cornell, McGill, Ithaca, Bucknell, Davidson, Arizona State, Ohio Wesleyan, and Bellarmine, as well as Cleveland Public Theatre. The group has also had to turn down several other invitations.
“Last year was the 20th anniversary of the first mass discovery of women’s bodies,” says Noriega. “This is a major social issue, and we are trying to draw attention to these horrific crimes through the play.”
College of Wooster senior Ben Pfister is the stage manager for the play, which features four other Wooster students: Marisa Adame, Stephanie Castrejon, Janna Haywood, and Summit Starr, each of whom will be delivering monologues of various victims of the tragedy.
“It has been very educational from an acting standpoint and very important from a human standpoint that people receive this message,” says Adame, a first-year student from Grand Prairie, Texas.
Castrejon, a sophomore theatre and anthropology major from Chicago, says the experience has been life changing for her. “As a woman,” she says, “I realize the reality of the situation and the importance of making a statement about it.”
Haywood, a senior theatre and dance major from Covington, Ga., also reflected on the impact of the experience. “This play has reaffirmed for me as an actor how important it is to provide the truth, even when people don’t want to hear it,” she says.
Starr, a sophomore theatre and dance major from Bowling Green, spoke about the big picture. “Even though the play is about the women of Juárez, it is a much larger problem,” she says. “It’s about humanity itself.”
The one-hour production concludes with an emotional reading of the 700 victims of the violence in Ciudad Juárez, which serves as a call to action, followed by a talkback session with the audience.
The production is sponsored by Wooster’s Center for Diversity and Global Engagement along with the departments of comparative literature, English, history, political science, psychology, sociology and anthropology, Spanish, and theatre and dance, as well as programs in international relations and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. Also providing sponsorship are the Cultural Events Committee and the Office of the President.
In addition to the play, Michaus will visit campus on Tuesday, April 22, and present "Femicide and Impunity in Juárez: Art, Activism, and Women's Rights in Mexico" at 7 p.m. in Freedlander Theatre. Her lecture will focus on the grave situation in Juárez and include the latest statistics and reports on the femicides, as well as a look into the ways her art and activism plays a role in educating the public about crimes against women. She will also include segments of her documentary and answer questions from the audience.
Michaus has more than 30 years of experience in performing arts, media, film, theatre, radio, television, and activism. She is the recipient of the Ariel de Plata Award for Best Supporting Actress from the Mexican Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. As a social activist and author of public policy, she has achieved recognition for more than 12 years of work in the reporting of Femicide and Gender Violence and was named a spokeswoman for The United Nations Development Fund for Women.
Additional information about the production are available by calling 330-263-2241.
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