Photo Flash: First Look at Antaeus Theatre Company's THE ABUELAS
"If you have doubts about your identity, contact Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo." So read billboards across Argentina, where thousands of people were "disappeared" between 1976 and 1983 under a brutal military dictatorship. Questions of truth and identity are explored when Antaeus Theatre Company presents the West Coast premiere of Stephanie Alison Walker's striking new play, The Abuelas. Andi Chapman directs for an Oct. 11 opening at the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center in Glendale, where performances continue through Nov. 25. Low-priced previews began Oct. 3.
The Abuelas explores the repercussions of Argentina's "Dirty War" on one family.
In March of 1976, a military junta seized control of Argentina. Those opposed to the new government were told "to make themselves invisible, or they would be made to vanish." By September of that year, the regime was already responsible for an average of 30 abductions each day. From these abductions, a new word came into common usage: desaparecidos, the "disappeareds." Among those detained and tortured were young pregnant women who rarely survived, and whose babies were then stolen and illegally adopted out to "politically acceptable" parents. Despite the atmosphere of fear promoted by the junta regime, two groups of women - representing the mothers and grandmothers of the disappeared - began protesting the disappearances of their relatives and striving for the reunification of their families. "The Madres" embarked on a crusade to obtain information about their missing children, demanding both the return of their children and punishment for their captors; "The Abuelas" have a sharper focus: to find the living. They call them los desaparecidos con vida ("the living disappeared"), referring to the babies who had been taken from their murdered daughters and sons.
Walker, whose stepmother is Argentine, began researching both groups while living for a time in Buenos Aires. "This is a way I can help bring international attention to the situation and inspire the continued search for these lost grandchildren," she says. "Number 130 was recently found, but an estimated 370 are still missing. It's a way to get people talking, thinking, Googling at intermission."
Argentine actress Luisina Quarleri stars as Gabriela, an Argentine concert cellist living in Chicago whose ordinary life is upended when she discovers a devastating secret from the past. The cast also features Argentine actors Irene De Bari and Carolina Montenegro, along with Denise Blasor, David DeSantos and Seamus Dever.
How does one go on after discovering her entire life is a lie? Does the restoration of truth bring freedom or suffering? Is it possible to integrate two identities into one life? The Abuelas explores these questions - as well as the heart's capacity for forgiveness, even in the face of the harshest betrayal.
The Abuelas opens on Friday, Oct. 11 and continues through Nov. 25. Performances take place on Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. and Mondays at 8 p.m. through Oct. 31 (dark Monday, Oct. 13); check the website for the performance schedule between Oct. 31 and Nov. 25, when performances will run in rotation with Eight Nights. Preview performances of The Abuelas begin Oct. 3. Seating is reserved, with all tickets priced at $35 except preview tickets, which are $15.
The Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center is located at 110 East Broadway, Glendale, CA 91205 (between N. Brand Blvd. and Artsakh Ave.). The first 90 minutes of parking is free, then $2 per hour, in Glendale Marketplace garage located at 120 Artsakh Ave. (between Broadway and Harvard). The theater is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. For reservations and information, call 818-506-1983 or go to www.antaeus.org.
Photo Credit: Jenny Graham
Irene De Bari and Luisina Quarleri
Luisina Quarleri, Denise Blasor
David DeSantos and Luisina Quarleri
Denise Blasor and Luisina Quarleri
Seamus Dever and Luisina Quarleri
Luisina Quarleri and Seamus Dever