Arena Stage to Produce RUINED In-the-Round, 4/22-6/5

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Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater will produce the first in-the-round staging of Ruined, the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner for drama by Arena Stage Project Resident Lynn Nottage and directed by Resident Playwright Charles Randolph-Wright (Director of Arena Stage's Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies). Ruined is the stirring tale of Mama Nadi, a mother figure loosely based on Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children, who provides refuge for women affected by civil war ravaging the Democratic Republic of Congo. The production features an expanded company with cast members playing live music and additional ensemble roles featuring University of Maryland students. Ruined runs April 22-June 5, 2011 in the Fichandler Stage.

"Lynn Nottage is one of this country's fiercest playwrights, and we are so fortunate to work with her on this and future productions," says Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith. "Ruined takes us into the heart of the Congo, and the heart of Mama Nadi, and will resonate in the hearts of our audiences. I am especially pleased that the gifted Charles Randolph-Wright will direct this stunning play."

In war-torn Congo, Mama Nadi keeps the peace between customers on both sides of the civil war by serving everything from cold beers to warm beds. This shrewd matriarch both protects and profits from the women whose bodies have become battlegrounds "ruined" by the brutality of government soldiers and rebel forces alike. Inspired by interviews conducted in Africa, this searing play is an engrossing and uncommonly human story told with humor and song, revealing the immeasurable loss and hopelessness of war, yet finding affirmation in life and hope. Winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for drama, Ruined has been hailed as "a remarkable theatrical accomplishment ... sincere, passionate, courageous!" (Chicago Tribune).

"To me, Ruined is the greatest play of the decade," says Randolph-Wright. "Lynn's words take you on a journey that is surprising, important, funny, devastating and joyous. I am eager to stage this play in the Fichandler because one cannot hide in the round-it's raw and in-your-face, and the audience will be right there in Mama Nadi's place."

"When I was interviewing the Congolese women, they could easily access their smiles," recalls Nottage. "One moment they could tell these absolutely horrific stories, but then they resurrected themselves by finding happiness and accessing their resilience. Hopefully the play will get people to do something to help the Congo."

Randolph-Wright has assembled a strong team of designers for Ruined, several of whom he has worked with on previous productions. Lighting Designer Michael Gilliam has collaborated on nearly every production with Randolph-Wright, and Set Designer Alexander V. Nichols returns after designing the set for Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies. Costume Designer ESosa, best known as a finalist from Season 7 of Project Runway and who last designed Cuttin' Up for Arena Stage, is simultaneously designing costumes for Nottage's upcoming play in New York, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.

Arena Stage continues its commitment to outreach in the community by exploring the issues and themes raised in Ruined through a series of partnerships and discussion panels.The Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., has selected Ruined as the reading material for Live to Read this spring, a citywide celebration of literature and literacy. More than 200 11th graders are reading the play through Live to Read, and many of them will see the production at Arena Stage. See below for more information, or visit http://wdchumanities.org/. Arena Stage is also hosting weekly panel discussions on Fridays during the run of the show to further explore the topics range addressed in Ruined, such as women's advocacy, refugees, sex trafficking and playwriting. See below for the schedule.



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