It's 1978 in Buenos Aires, Argentina where people are disappearing right off the street but no one is talking about it. Carolina and her mother Josefina are searching for their pregnant daughter/granddaughter, Belén, who has been missing for twelve weeks. When they receive a surprise visit first from a former neighborhood priest who is now stationed at the ESMA (the Navy Mechanics school turned concentration camp in the middle of the city,) they come up with a plan to try to see Belén one last time. Will it work? Will they be able to save her baby? Will they be able to save themselves?
The first time I visited my father in Argentina was during the military dictatorship when the Junta was forcibly disappearing its own people as part of the "National Reorganization Process" or "El Proceso." It was 1980, I was five and I remember seeing uniformed soldiers carrying rifles in the airport. I didn't understand the significance then, but the images stayed with me. It wasn't until I was living and working in Buenos Aires and beginning to learn more about the junta and the Desaparecidos (the Disappeared) that I reflected back on those early childhood images. It was after marching with Las Madres one Thursday at the Plaza de Mayo that I knew I had to write about them one day. It wasn't until I became a mother many years later that I found a way to try. Silvia, my Argentine stepmom was one of my very first readers. My mom, my stepmom and my grandma were the inspiration for the strong women portrayed in The Madres.
THE MADRES is a story about the strength and resilience of women. It's about brave women who refused to be silenced. When they chose to speak out, to stand up and march, they were called "crazy/ Las Locas" - as women who speak truth to power often are. No one believed their stories of their missing children. No one believed the government could or would do such a thing. No one wanted to believe them. This didn't stop Las Madres from speaking out, demanding justice and showing up every Thursday to march right in front of the Casa Rosada (Argentina’s equivalent of our White House.) Las Madres - the original Women’s Marchers- were the first to resist the Argentine dictatorship.
The timing of the world premiere of The Madres is remarkable because it seems people are finally listening to women. I pray that we never stop listening. There is so much we can learn from Las Madres and their brave act of resistance. Let us never forget, let us never be complacent in the face of injustice, let us always be as brave as Las Madres. Ni olvido, ni perdón!
New Play Exchange members can download and read THE MADRES here.
Others may request to read the play by contacting Stephanie's agent: Samara Harris at the Robert A. Freedman Agency: samara at robertfreedmanagency.com
LOS ANGELES - Skylight Theatre Company - March 3 - April 29, 2018 - part of the NNPN Rolling World Premiere
CHICAGO - Teatro Vista - April 21 - May 27, 2018 - part of the NNPN Rolling World Premiere
SAN DIEGO - Moxie Theatre - May 13 - June 10, 2018 - part of the NNPN Rolling World Premiere
AUSTIN - Shrewd Productions - August 31 - September 15, 2018 - part of the NNPN Rolling World Premiere
Reviewed by Neal Weaver
Through April 29
Stephanie Alison Walker’s stirring drama is set in Buenos Aires in the 1980s, when Argentina was ruled by a ruthless military junta. Anyone who spoke out against the regime could be taken into custody and “disappeared,” and even those who privately disagreed with the government and its policies were in danger and subject to constant scrutiny by an extensive network of spies and informers.
There was no governmental acknowledgement of the Desaparecidos (the Disappeared), and the women who tried to speak out about their missing children were mocked as crazies and disbelieved. Nobody wanted to believe them or acknowledge that the government would do such a thing. The Madres were a group of mothers who began an organized resistance, employing white head scarves as a symbol of their protests, and marching every Thursday night in front of the Casa Rosada, the Argentinian White House.
Walker’s play is centered largely on one woman, Josefina Acosta (Margarita Lamas) whose granddaughter Belen (Natalie Llerena) is among the disappeared. The family clings to the fiction that she is living in Paris with her husband and pregnant with their first child. The girl’s mother, Carolina Acosta (Arianna Ortiz) is a militant who has joined the Madres on their Thursday marches, but Josefina is deeply conservative, and believes they must at least pretend to support the regime, to preserve their own safety and that of Belen. And she strongly objects to Carolina’s marching with the Madres.
But her convictions are being steadily worn down by events and the seeming betrayals of those around her. The well-meaning but equivocating priest Padre Julian urges conformity and going along to get along. And her former neighbor, Diego (Alexander Pimentel), who was enamored of Belen till she rejected him, has become a fanatical supporter of the repressive regime, and seems willing to use his power to wreak his revenge on Belen and her husband.
This is essentially a story of the radicalization of a far-from-radical woman, and as such calls to mind Bertolt Brecht’s The Rifles of Senora Carrar, also about a mother who is finally driven to revolt. And it is beautifully acted by Lamas, in a splendidly subtle and deeply nuanced performance.
Walker’s play begins in a fairly conventional way but builds up a strong head of steam as it progresses, culminating in in a harrowing, gut-wrenching climax at the shower for Belen’s expected baby. And director Sara Guerrero has assembled an exemplary cast. Ortiz creates an indelible portrait of a woman passionately attempting to protect her child, while as Diego Pimentel is impressive as a smug, hateful true believer.
Christopher Scott Murillo created the handsome set.
BWW Review: A Mother of A Performance Given By Two Female Powerhouses In An Involving THE MADRES
*Finalist for the 2016 Saroyan/Paul Playwriting Prize for Human Rights
*Winner 2016 Ashland New Plays Festival
*Runner-Up Jane Chambers Playwriting Award
*Finalist for Kitchen Dog Theater's 2016 New Works Festival
*Finalist for the 2016 O'Neill Playwrights Conference
*Winner of Boulder Ensemble Theater Company's Generations Contest
*Finalist for the CTG/Humanitas Playwriting Prize
*Finalist for the 2016 Source Festival