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"And I and Silence" - Small Ensemble, Large Poetic Statement

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Naomi Wallace’s And I and Silence will be performed in the William Inge Memorial Theatre Oct. 25-26 and 29-30 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 27 at 2:30 p.m.

General admission tickets are on sale now at KU ticket offices and online at www.kutheatre.com. Tickets are also available by calling the University Theatre, (785) 864-3982, and the Lied Center at (785) 864-ARTS. Tickets are $15 for the public, $14 KU staff and senior citizens, and $10 for students and children 5-18.

Naomi Wallace, a Horton Foote Prize-winning playwright, was inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poetry to write this emotionally charged piece that explores the friendship between two young women and their struggle to rise above poverty, racial inequity and class. The characters, Jamie and Dee, become friends while serving time in prison as teenagers. The action swings back and forth between their time in prison and nine years later, where we view the women’s lives on the outside.

And I and Silence originally premiered at the Finborough Theatre in London as part of the 2011 summer season entitled, “In Their Place.” This season was a celebration of female playwrights in theatre and this play was soon named to several Critics’ Choice Lists.

For director Lynn Deboeck, a Ph.D. candidate and graduate teaching assistant for theatre, And I and Silence is an examination of female friendship and unspoken love in a harsh world. Deboeck said when she first encountered the script in 2011 she was enraptured by Wallace’s ability to use humor and grace as the two women attempt to transcend their surroundings. As director, Deboeck said she works with her actors to delve into the depth of the script.

“There are so many layers with this piece, and the plight of these women is the focus of my vision.” Deboeck said. “These two are incarcerated, both literally by the prison bars and figuratively by the conditions of society in the 1950s. They are cornered, they are contained, and ultimately they are prevented from doing what they want due to societal pressure.”

For Deboeck, the beauty of And I and Silence lies not in the rhythmic language, but in the characters’ refusal to surrender. Wallace’s challenging script calls for four actresses – two playing the role of “Dee” and two playing the role of “Jamie.”  A large component of the rehearsal process involved creating an ensemble between Young Dee (Jaclyn Nischbach, Wildwood, Mo., sophomore), Young Jamie (Diadra Smith, Jersey City, N.J., junior) and their older counterparts Dee (Laurie Winkel, Topeka senior) and Jamie (Timaira Smith, Kansas City, Kan., sophomore). Preparing the piece for performance took six weeks of intensive character study.

“I wanted this show to be an entirely collaborative effort.” Deboeck said. “In our movement-based rehearsals we worked together to insure each pair of actresses portraying the central characters had similar features in their movement and acting work.  It was challenging, but such an honor to see how an ensemble can work together to engage in moving storytelling.”

Cynthia Evans, Roeland Park MFA student, is the scenic, lighting and costume designer for the production. Bianca Jimenez, Staten Island, N.Y., student, is assistant director and Katie Turkalo, Topeka junior, is stage managing.

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