So many decades and productions have washed against the muddy wheels of Bertolt Brecht’s play “Mother Courage and Her Children” that the title has sunk deep into the ordinary and familiar. But when the playwright Lynn Nottage spoke the first two words of the title to Congolese women in the refugee camps of Uganda in 2004, she said, they repeated them in such a way that the words became woundingly new.
Related Times Topics: Manhattan Theater Club Ms. Nottage had traveled to Africa to research the brutalities and damage Congolese women had suffered in their country’s civil conflict, and incorporate her findings into an adaptation of Brecht’s 1939 work. Hearing the women, in French, speak the words “mother, courage” back to her — emphasis on “mother,” a sorrowful pride inflecting “courage” — “changed everything,” she said.
She called the new work “Ruined” and gave its seminal character the name Mama Nadi. Currently in previews at the Manhattan Theater Club’s Stage I on West 55th Street, it opens Feb. 10 under the direction of Kate Whoriskey in a co-production with the Goodman Theater in Chicago, which presented the premiere there this fall.
One of the first things Ms. Nottage was able to jettison by developing her own conception rather than staging a version of Brecht’s was the “kind of distancing Brecht strove for from his audience so he could engage it intellectually,” she said. “I believe in engaging people emotionally, because I think they react more out of emotion” than when they are “preached to, told how to feel. It was important that this not become a documentary, or agitprop. And that Mama Nadi is morally ambiguous, that you’re constantly shifting in your response to her.”
Read the rest of the New York Times article here. And mark your calendars for PCTC's production of "Ruined", playing April 26 - May 5, 2012.