IN THE UNDERWORLD Closes USM Department of Theatre Season, 4/18-27

IN THE UNDERWORLD Closes USM Department of Theatre Season, 4/18-27

While imprisoned in Ravenbrück concentration camp for women in World War II Germany, Germaine Tillion, a French ethnologist and Resistance fighter, secretly wrote an operetta script that turned her own experiences into a powerful testament to the triumph of humanity.

The University of Southern Maine (USM) Department of Theatre will close its 2013-2014 season with the English-language world premiere of Tillion's operetta, "In the Underworld," next month in Russell Hall on the USM Gorham campus.

"In the Underworld," directed by Meghan Brodie; show times vary, April 18-27, Russell Hall, University of Southern Maine Gorham campus, 37 College Ave., Gorham; tickets: $15, general public, $11, seniors and USM employees, $8, students; call (207) 780-5151 or go to

The operetta is a dark comedy and reality-based fiction, focusing on the concentration camp and the prisoners; it is a brutally honest story about a time of genocide and survival.

"Tillion has crafted a sophisticated, meaningful and educational account of life in Ravensbrück," said Meghan Brodie, director of the production and USM assistant professor of theatre. "Tillion was an intelligent and cultured woman who produced an amazing piece of art under the most horrific circumstances. The play is an artifact of resistance and hope."

The show is narrated by a character called "the Naturalist," who has discovered a new species of animals that she calls "the verfügbar," meaning "the disposable." The verfügbar (pronounced "fair-foog-bar") is described as "crazed and perpetually hungry...feeble and hunted, yet alive."

Throughout the production, the Naturalist presents the various physical attributes and lifestyle characteristics of the "verfügbar" and notes that "its temperament is nervous. We could say a very anxious
one. ... It shows signs of being preoccupied with the perspective of seeing its life abruptly interrupted."

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