At the Stratford Festival I had the good fortune to see an outstanding production of The Trojan Women
. So I was intrigued by a modern adaption being done at the local university called The Women of ...
I had mixed expectations, some positive based on the fact that it was written by a university professor who'd done an Alaskan Othello
with an Aleut admiral in the Russian navy a year ago that was fairly well received. It was performed by one of our community theatre groups instead of at the university, and I'm afraid I missed it. I was a little wary, however, about The Women of ...
in part because of this
photo. I realize these kinds of promotional pieces are usually prepared months in advance and indeed I know I never saw that outfit in the play (I'm unsure about the actress), but I didn't consider it a good omen.
The play started with a Hecuba as some kind of Eternal Spirit of Women Hurt by War, serene and wise. Uh oh, I thought, this is not a good sign. An hour and a half later my fears were fully confirmed as Hecuba agreed to read a portion of a letter to a soldier from his mother in Indiana, so that he could hear it in a woman's voice, and telling the soldier that no, she didn't hate him, that it was important to hate war and not the soldiers, because that only led to more hate and more war.
Yeah, one of enormously huge problems with this play is how often it fell over itself trying to say that Our Boys weren't soldiers who did Bad Things. At times it was almost nauseating. Mostly though it was safe and sanitized and a hell of a lot more comfortable than it should have been. It had the decency to not be 100% about white western women, but it was pretty close. It paid (just barely) lip service to Darfur and the rape camps of Bosnia, but the monologues we were offered included a young woman talking about the death of her sweetheart in Iraq after she'd cheated on him and gotten pregnant and he'd said he wanted to raise the baby as is own, and an American Muslim teenager talking about losing her Jewish friend after her friend's brother was killed in Iraq. A USO singer who got peritonitis and TB that killed her after spending a week or two in a Vietnamese jail. Yeah, these are poignant stories, sure, but they hardly compare to your entire family being murdered or enslaved and your homeland being destroyed. These were not women who'd had anything remotely resembling hope or a say in their fate taken away from them. These were not women who saw everything in their lives torn apart like wet tissue paper.
Those women exist today, right now, and they're the ones who deserve to have their stories told.