There are only three more performances of Our Dirty War (now at Georgetown University, Devine Studio, Davis Performing Arts Center). See one of them, if you can.
Thinking about challenges that face people of African heritage and descent, a colleague of mine has sometimes expressed his desire to figure out how he can live in such a way that white supremacy and the trauma it inflicts on non-white people becomes irrelevant to his life.
Similarly, Our Dirty War, which I previewed Thursday, looks at how we might extricate and heal ourselves from the trauma that some of us recognize that we are all experiencing now. Our Dirty War insists that the heart of this process is the necessity of entrusting our personal stories to each other.
The audience gathering for Our Dirty War already had the feeling of a family reunion, full of intersecting memories both joyous and challenging: a gathering of survivors. We all know how the trauma of war infiltrates families in part by erecting a wall of silence between the most intimate of family members and within the individuals who experienced the war firsthand. Those who experienced the horror in person rarely talk about it. And so, the family members build lives with each other that incorporate the walls of silence around the source of that trauma. The entire family then lives in a kind of exile from their own lives. In Our Dirty War, Playwright Camila Madero imagines and provides a platform and process that allows her father — who experienced the trauma of Argentine politics — to break that wall of silence and talk to her about his experiences. Breaking this wall of silence allows both father and daughter to fully share each other’s love and lives again.
Madero recorded and transcribed conversations with her father, who was exiled from Argentina. In the play, Madero plays her own father, Roberto. Another actress, Sabrina Perez, plays Madero. So the performance becomes a kind of house of mirrors in which father and daughter enter and exit from each other’s realities. The set (scenic design by Holden Gunster) reflects this house-of-mirrors aspect of the on-stage relationships, with its M. C. Escher-like architecture of stairways that lead to impossible vistas and doors at impossible angles. The father-and-daughter encounter and journey is contextualized by a chorus that impersonates other people in the drama and embodies shifts of consciousness and attention. Every performance is cleanly shaped, spontaneous, and heartfelt. The sound design (by Angie Dressel) is purposeful and effective. It permeates the audience’s awareness without battering it. The sound reshapes the space and our emotions in seconds.
Derek Goldman was the lead advisor to Madero on this play. Goldman noted that one of the beauties of this thesis production is that it is what amounts to a workshop production. Our Dirty War is thoughtful, competent, and compassionate theater that will probably continue to develop. It will very likely be seen again in a larger, higher visibility venue. This is your chance to see it at its beginnings.
Running Time: Approximately one hour and 40 minutes, with no intermission.
Our Dirty War plays October 27 and 28, 2023, at 8:00 p.m. and October 29 at 2:00 p.m., presented by the Georgetown University Department of Performing Arts at Georgetown University’s Devine Studio, Davis Performing Arts Center, 37th and O Streets NW, Washington, DC. Tickets ($10; free for Georgetown University students) may be purchased online.
Our Dirty War
Written by Camila Madero
Directed by: Camila Madero
Roberto: Camila Madero
Camila: Sabrina Perez
Chorus: Amelia Shotwell, Ayush Gupta, Celeste Viana
Lead Advisor: Prof. Derek Goldman
Advisors: Prof. Maya Roth, Anna Morales
Co-Director: Olivia Martin
Poster Artwork: Katie Heaton
Scenic Design: Holden Gunster
Lighting Design: Seoyun Yoo
Sound Design: Angie Dressel
Sound Engineer: Molly Kenney
Costume Shop Manager: Dorothy Barnes-Driggers
Stage Manager: Olivia Martin
Sound Design Mentor: Veronica Lancaste
Lighting Design Mentor: Jason Brinke
Deck Crew: Winnie Ho
Light Operator: Seoyun Yoo
Sound Operator: Angie Dressell