The Trojan Women: Women, Homeland and Resistance
By Adonis Milan
HAVANA TIMES — Persefone Theater Group is a project which was born out of the search for a starting place for independent theater in Cuba. Three themes define its theater: Woman, death and physical or psychological defects. These themes create a channel of questions and answers about what humanity thinks and does. The project is developed looking for its own style of creation and perceives theater as something that stems from rituals, the mystical, the occult, the sacred and sacrifice.
Its members are a group of young people who were born in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, who look for a place where they can express and voice their opinions about our current problems here in theater. We need to express our fears and misunderstandings, our personal utopias and our ideologies, all of which are compressed into something that needs to be expressed, released and thrown out to Cuba and the rest of the world.
In our new play, Las Troyanas (The Trojan Women), we will take Euripides’ original script as a starting point, and therefore Greek myth, to perform a story that will take on an interrelationship with our own social situation. Subjects such as abuses of power, gender discrimination and oppression will be touched upon.
The Trojan Women will be a perfect mirror for us to reflect on the women who are being repressed in Cuba today. The myth tells the story about the women of a people who were being subjected to destruction, demoralization and defeat; the mothers, wives, daughters and sisters of men who were defeated and have no other choice but to look for a way to break their chains.
We won’t be talking about mythical characters from Classical tragedies, instead we will transform these into icons of our civic activism in Cuba. Therefore we will be talking about the leaders of the Ladies in White, Laura Poyan and Berta Soler, journalist Yoani Sanchez, artist/activist Tania Bruguera, and the director of the Cuba decide campaign, Rosa Maria Paya, to name a few. The story will be carefully tied to personal experiences from the perspective of women engaged in activism and a fight for survival in the face of a dictatorship.
It’s crucial to talk about the future for our play, a future which moves away from any kind of pleasure for our audience. Showing a dystopy of reality is maybe the only way to teach, by showing the ashes before the fire is started. The future we will show in the play could be our country’s imminent future if nothing is done to stop it. It will be the image of a society that is crushed by dictatorships, epidemics, hunger and the loss of everything we recognize as being human values.
The mother Hecuba character says: “And this calamity, the Revolution, fell open me, upon my wretched Cuba.”
Different visual effects will be combined which have to do with post-modernism and futurism in order to show this apocalyptic world. In order to do this, we will combine theatrical language with audiovisual displays that will be created for the show. Costumes and set design will give this idea of playing with surrealism where naturalist symbols will also be manifest. The aesthetic we are going for will mix shapes and symbols from Classical to Post-Modern times, from fictional to documentary, from subtle to grotesque, from hope-filled to utter chaos.
We want theater to be an eye-opener where the audience can awake their social conscience and where the government is judged on a completely rebellious stage, creating a space free of falsity which is vital for those involved. Transgression will be expressed to the actors and viewers’ limits, where politics, religion, society, the physical and psychological will be infringed.
Taking Antonin Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty as our methodological source, we will create an explosive, transgressive mise-en-scene that will especially be a platform where we can rethink the future of humanity. Artaud wrote: “The theater like the plague is a crisis which is resolved by death or cure. And the plague is a superior disease because it is a total crisis after which nothing remains except death or an extreme purification. Similarly, the theater is a disease because it is the supreme equilibrium which cannot be achieved without destruction.”