The walls are lined with framed certificates, mementos of the theatre's triumphs at the Olivier and Critics Circle awards. It's a fitting spot to meet Nottage: the year-old Brooklyn playwright is something of an award magnet herself. Nottage has been writing plays for almost two decades. Intimate Apparel, her love-and-corsets piece about an African-American seamstress in early 20th-century New York, is one of the last decade's most frequently performed plays in the US; while her play Ruined brought her almost every US prize going — including the Pulitzer, an Obie and the Critics' Circle. Ruined, which opens at the Almeida next week, was originally intended as an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage by way of Congo.
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Buy Tickets Subscribe Donate. I was fueled by my desire to tell the story of war, but through the eyes of women, who as we know rarely start conflicts, but inevitably find themselves right smack in the middle of them.
I was interested in giving voice and audience to African women living in the shadows of war. The circumstances in the DRC are complicated; there is a slow simmering armed conflict that continues to be fought on several fronts, even though the war officially ended in You have one war being fought for natural resources between militias funded by the government and industry; you have the remnants of an ethnic war, which is the residue of the genocide in Rwanda that spilled over the border into Congo; and then you have the war that I examine in my play Ruined, which is the war being waged against women.
To throw some statistics at you, according to International Rescue Committee, nearly 5. It is sometimes called World War III, because of the international interests that fuel the conflict in order to exploit the land, which is rich in minerals such as gold, coltan, copper, and diamonds. I had no idea what play I would fi nd in that war-torn landscape, but I traveled to the region because I wanted to paint a three-dimensional portrait of the women caught in the middle of armed conflicts; I wanted to understand who they were beyond their status as victims.
I was surprised by the number of women who readily wanted to share their stories. One by one, through tears and in voices just above a whisper, they recounted raw, revealing stories of sexual abuse and torture at the hands of both rebel soldiers and government militias. The word rape was a painful refrain, repeated so often it made me physically sick. By the end of the interviews, I realized that a war was being fought over the bodies of women. Rape was being used as a weapon to punish and destroy communities.
In listening to their narratives I came to terms with the extent to which their bodies had become battlefields. I remember the strong visceral response that I had to the very first Congolese woman who shared her story. Her name was Salima, and she related her story in such graphic detail that I remember wanting to cry out for her to stop, but I knew that she had a need to be heard. Salima described being dragged from her home, arrested, and wrongfully imprisoned by men seeking to arrest her husband.
In prison she was beaten and raped by five soldiers. She finally bribed her way out of prison, only to discover that her husband and two of her four children were abducted. At the time of the interview she had still not learned the whereabouts of her husband and two children.
I found my play Ruined in the painful narratives of Salima and the other Congolese women, in their gentle cadences and the monumental space between their gasps and sighs. I also found my play in the way they occasionally accessed their smiles, as if glimpsing beyond their wounds into the future.
In Ruined, Mama Nadi gives three young women refuge and an unsavory means of survival. As such, the women do a fragile dance between hope and disillusionment in an attempt to navigate life on the edge of an unforgiving conflict. My play is not about victims, but survivors. Ruined is also the story of the Congo. A country blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and resources, which has been its blessing and its curse.
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On Lynn Nottage’s Ruined
Join StageAgent today and unlock amazing theatre resources and opportunities. Research Playwrights, Librettists, Composers and Lyricists. Browse Theatre Writers. The war has ravaged her country, and especially the young girls who have literally been torn to pieces by soldiers on both sides of the conflict. View All Characters in Ruined. Guide written by Nemuna Ceesay. Sign up today to unlock amazing theatre resources and opportunities.
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She conceded:. In I went to East Africa to collect the narratives of Congolese women, because I knew their stories were not being heard. I had no idea what play I would find in that war-torn landscape, but I traveled to the region, because I wanted to paint a three dimensional portrait of the women caught in the middle of armed conflicts; I wanted to understand who they were beyond their status as victims. I was surprised by the number of women who readily wanted to share their stories. One by one, through tears and in voices just above a whisper, they recounted raw, revealing become battlefields. I remember the strong visceral response that I had to the very first Congolese woman who shared her story.
A searing drama set in chaotic Congo that compels audiences to face the horror of wartime rape and brutality while still finding affirmation of life and hope amid hopelessness. By Lynn Nottage. Set in a small mining town in Democratic Republic of Congo, this powerful play follows Mama Nadi, a shrewd businesswoman in a land torn apart by civil war. But is she protecting or profiting by the women she shelters? How far will she go to survive? Can a price be placed on a human life?
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