Santa Cruz Good Times

Oct 06th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Unspoken Truths

blog lynnNottageUCSC’s African-American Theater Arts Troupe presents meaty play about women in the war-torn Congo

In the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Ruined,” by Lynn Nottage, Mama Nadi runs a whorehouse deep in the heart of a modern day, civil war-torn Congo. There, young women depend on Mama Nadi for more than just a job—in the fractured country where gunfire rattles the air and rape is common practice, Mama represents a chance for survival.

The story—reproduced Feb. 24-26 by the UC Santa Cruz African-American Theater Arts Troupe at Second Stage Theater—is a frank and frightening, but ultimately hopeful, portrayal of the gut-wrenching atrocities occurring in the Congo, and the incredible resilience of the women who endure it.

“It definitely brings about the idea that life is not guaranteed for everybody around the world—that people have to struggle just to maintain their sanity, let alone their survival,” explains actor Amanuel Zeryihun, who plays Christian, the poetry-spouting peddler who supplies Mama with such wares as American whiskey, lipstick, and women.

“It’s heartbreaking to see that these women are these battlegrounds,” adds actor Jessica Jones, who plays Mama Nadi. “Even though [the war] is so drastic, and people are saying it’s like World War III, it’s silent. Nobody is talking about it and that’s the problem.”

Both the actors and crew work hard to give voice to the struggle of the unheard by presenting an engaging play that provides insight into a hardly explored subject.

“For the person who has never been exposed to the ideas of war in the Congo, and war in any other country aside from the Congo, it definitely gives you the idea that ‘Wow, things are really happening,’” says Zeryihun.

Though complete with African accents, beautiful singing, and humorous drunken banter from stumbling bar patrons, director Don Williams says the play’s primary focus is on the struggle and survival of women in a society where they are often victimized.

“Being ‘ruined’ in this particular play refers to the women who have been de-veiled, torn apart from the inside out, where the joy and movement from living life has been taken from them,” explains Williams.

However, the play is as much about pain, as it is about love, strength, and the characters’ compelling relationships.

“Nothing has been changed [from the original script],” says Williams. “I value the playwright. They were impregnated with that word and they gave birth. And my job as a director is to make sure that the baby walks and talks and cries and smiles and laughs like it’s supposed to.”

One of the ways Williams and his cast are able to tackle such a sensitive subject, is by meeting in a circle before each rehearsal to discuss their thoughts and connect with one another.

“In doing this play, we have to go through this whole maze of shock and disbelief together,” Williams says. “The play should make you kind of pinch yourself or break out a tissue … but there are some stories that have to be told.”

“Ruined” runs Feb. 24-26 at UCSC’s Second Stage Theater, 1156 High St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $15/General, $12/Seniors & Students, No Cover/UCSC Students. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 459-2159, or visit

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Making a Scene

As it celebrates its 30th year, Santa Cruz County’s Open Studios is one of the most successful in the country—and a make-or-break event for many local artists


A Ritual & Initiation

The Pope has come and gone, but his loving presence ignited new hope and goodness in many. While he was in NYC, China’s ruler arrived in Washington D.C. East (China) and West (Rome), meeting in the middle, under Libra, balancing sign of Right Relations. The Pope arrived at Fall Equinox. Things initiated at Fall Equinox are birthed at Winter Solstice. The Pope’s presence was a ritual, an initiation rite—like the Dalai Lama’s visits—offering prayers, teachings and blessings. Rituals anchor God’s plan into the world, initiating us to new realities, new rules. The Pope’s presence brings forth the Soul of the United States, its light piercing the veils of materialism. The Pope’s visit changed things. New questions arise, new reasons for living. A new wave of emerging life fills the air. Like a cocoon shifting, wings becoming visible. The winds are different now. Calling us to higher vision, moral values, virtues that reaffirm and offer hope for humanity. A changing of the guard has occurred. Appropriately, this is the week of the Jewish Festival of Sukkoth (’til Oct. 4), when we build temporary homes (little huts in nature), entering into a harvest of prayer and thanksgiving, understanding our fragile and impermanent existences. We are summoned to reflect upon our lives, our humanity, our nature, our spirit and each other. Offering gratitude, becoming a magnet for others. We observe. We see the needs. We love more.


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Film, Times & Events: Week of October 2

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Extra Pop

Assembly’s pop-up space goes into regular rotation, Cabrillo wine dinner, and a visit to Mozaic


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

When people say they’re “going down” somewhere, and they’re actually traveling north. Julia Ragen, Santa Cruz, Psychologist


Downhill Cellars

An easy-drinking Chardonnay from Downhill Cellars


Gary’s Old Fashioned Snappy Dogs

Where to find the best hot dogs in Santa Cruz