The Press Room
VOYEURS DE VENUS PITCH THREE:
FOUR IN ONE: TOP ARTISTS COME TOGETHER TO GIVE THE PAST A VOICE
BOSTON — VOYEURS DE VENUS, playing now through November 22 at the Boston Center for the Arts, tells the story of Sara, an modern—day African—American scholar of pop culture trying to write a book about Saartjie Baartman, better known as the 19th—century sideshow sensation The Hottentot Venus. Baartman, a native South African, was taken to Europe and exploited for her exotic physical features — specifically, her genitalia — through a life of humiliation and shame.
Though many themes are interwoven into the complex show, one that stands out is that of voice — the need to have our stories resonate beyond the small circle of our immediate existence. In VOYEURS, Sara Washington is struggling to give voice to Saartjie’s story, long forgotten and seemingly invisible to present America. As an African American woman, she feels strongly that Saartjie’s life should not continue in historical obscurity; that her harsh existence can serve to shed light on present—day indignities. At the same time, however, Washington is vying to establish her own voice as significant on the literary scene and struggling with whether that means pandering, at least in part, to the populist craving for gory details. This tension drives the play and forces several realizations — for Sara and the audience — over the course of the evening.
Apropos, then, that the artistic core behind this play of voices — specifically African and African—American female voices — is four of Boston’s premiere African American female theatre artists: Lydia R. Diamond as playwright, Summer L. Williams as director, and Kortney Adams & Marvelyn McFarlane on stage. The four women have worked with each other in smaller groupings in the past, but VOYEURS marks the first experience for all four women on one production.
Lydia Diamond’s list of credits, awards and accomplishments reads like any playwright’s dream of lifetime professional achievements. Even more impressive, then, that Diamond is in the beginning stages of her blossoming career. Working in Chicago for a number of years, Diamond amassed a slew of premieres and awards at the Steppenwolf and The Goodman, in addition to a handful of other well—respected smaller houses. Her work has played nationally and internationally at theatres including the McCarter, The Kennedy Center, and the Old Vic. Ms. Diamond was a 2006— 2007 Huntington Playwrighting Fellow and is currently a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists, an ’07/’08 TCG/ NEA playwright in residence at The Steppenwolf, and a TCG Board Member. Lydia Diamond is on faculty at Boston University and VOYEURS marks her second collaboration with Company One. Her adaptation of Toni Morrison’s THE BLUEST EYE, played to sold—out crowds and was nominated for IRNE and Elliot Norton Awards. Diamond was an actively involved in that production and soon forged a close artistic and personal bond with Company One director, Summer L. Williams.
Williams has been with Company One since its inception in 1998. She has directed many productions for the company, among them THE BLUEST EYE, which garnered her an IRNE nomination for Best Director, and SPELL # 7, featuring Kortney Adams, which also received rave reviews. Adams is a mainstay on the Boston stage, having worked most recently at Gloucester Stage in DOUBT and in periodic stints with SHEAR MADNESS, as well as many other theaters in the city. Williams had admired Adams’ work for a while and finally had the opportunity to work with her on SPELL # 7. Their working relationship grew throughout that process, leading Adams to be Williams’ first choice for the role of Sara in VOYEURS. “From the moment I read the script, I knew that Kortney had to be in that role,” said Williams. “She has all the right qualities to portray Sara’s strength and vulnerability with equal aplomb.”
For the role of Saartjie, Williams brought in another ringer in Marvelyn McFarlane. Though fairly new to the Boston acting scene — McFarlane has also acted with Our Place Theatre and Roxbury Crossroads — she had a major role in THE BLUEST EYE, for which she was nominated for an IRNE award, and Williams sought her out for the role of Saartjie. Though much of Saartjie’s story is tied to her greatly accentuated feminine features, Ms. McFarlane was cast, despite her svelt physique. “When it came down to it,” recalls Williams, “I wanted the best actress for the role and I knew that Marvelyn was it.” Lydia Diamond, who had input into casting for the production, agreed with Williams on the choice.
The four women come together to form the vibrant pastiche at the heart of VOYEURS, each lending their own voice to form the complex world of the play. The show, which is the first in Company One’s tenth season (dubbed “Season X”), opened on October 31 and runs until November 22 at the Boston Center for the Arts
VOYEURS DE VENUS runs October 31 – November 22 at the Boston Center for the Arts. Tickets are $15 - $38 and are available at bostontheatrescene.com. Press inquiries, including interview requests, should be directed to Company One Director of Public Relations, Mason Sand at msand@CompanyOne.org or 617-230-6753.
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Contact: Mason Sand —617.230.6753 — msand@CompanyOne.org