Where women vanish

Ambika Shaligram
Monday, 11 November 2019

An English play shedding light on the femicide or murder of women in Ciudad Juarez, will be staged in the city this evening

Its name says it all — Teatro Travieso or Troublemaker Theatre. The group from USA, in the city to present the English adaptation of Spanish play Women of Ciudad Juarez, say, “We want to be able to do performances that sometimes provoke the audience, make them feel uncomfortable by talking about certain topics that other theatre groups or performances don’t normally bring up, stir up.”

The actors — Stephanie Castrejon, Jesi Rojo and Christian A Ryes — will be performing the play on Tuesday evening, the last day of IAPAR International Theatre Festival. The play, written by Cristina Michaus, deals with the femicide of women in Ciudad Juarez, a town/city on USA-Mexico border. The play has been translated into English and directed by Jimmy A Noriega. 

We, in India, are very much aware of female foeticide and its repercussions on society. In this Mexican city, thousands of women are killed, or they disappear. The reasons are both political and social. Ryes, who plays three roles in the play —  examiner of the bodies of the victims, father of a victim and a culprit, says, “There are so many people who can be responsible for the situation. They could be fathers, politicians, police officers. It also depends on the government policies. It’s a border city and the girls work in the factories on the border,” adds Castrejon, who is one of the original cast member.

Michaus conducted the ethnographic interviews of the women of the region, and she also acted in the one-woman show. She was threatened, her husband and son also got threatened. “That was the time when femicide was high in Mexico, in early 2000s. So there were people, telling her not to tell these stories. At that time, she had to stop touring,” says Castrejon, who works with Chicago public schools as a counsellor. 

The Troublemaker Theatre started performing this play since 2014 and they took it to colleges and major universities, besides staging it in Belgium, Canada and several cities in USA.

“The documented cases against the murders and sexual torture of women began in 1986-87. But there are many cases that we don’t know of. As actors we did our own research by reading newsreports, articles. We also watched videos and films on the subject. When we started, we went to major universities and colleges. And, a lot of response that we got was positive feedback. A lot of ‘thank yous’ because we were talking to women and women were talking to us about how they faced harassment on college campus, women in general are objectified,” she says.

Castrejon plays the role a mom who has lost her daughter, a prostitute and a girl who is already dead. Jesi Rojo, another actor, plays the role of Ornesta, a politician charged with talking with the government. Her second role is that of a factory worker who is murdered when she is 17. 

“The play is a devised one because that’s how Christina has developed it. One of the important playwrights, she said our bodies have to be used as a medium, for the process,” says Castrejon. 

Ryes adds, “We take the name of a woman (victim) on a stage and dedicate the performance to her.

Women of Ciudad Juarez is a political play, but it is universal, because violence and crime against females are common to all cultures, in all countries. “We took this performance to Arizona where we had a different reaction. The audience felt that this was Mexico’s problem. We tried talking to them, ‘Yes, it’s what’s happening in Mexico. But it’s violence against women and it affects everyone, in different countries and a variety of cultures’. There have been couple of instances where we had men in the audience who felt uncomfortable. They would either hide their face, or they would not look at us while we were performing. And, we also had couple of people leaving the show,” says she. 

Working on a production as profound and deeply disturbing as this, the director, Noriega, has made it into a travelling performance. “We have two boxes that includes all the props. So we just travel with them. We hope to have a show soon in Mexico,” adds Castrejon.  

ST READER SERVICE
Women of Ciudad Juarez will be performed on November 12, 7 pm at Jyotsna Bhole Sabhagruha, Tilak Road

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