If you thought a women’s conference was supposed to be where women sat around talking nonstop about mundane topics, then you have never participated in the Phenomenal Women’s Conference put on by Kennesaw State University’s Siegel Institute. And thanks to an interview on March 12 with Karen Robinson, the school’s Interim Chair of the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, as well as a professor in the department (and the director of their most recent play Ruined), you are about to learn a little bit about what will go on at this year’s 14th annual conference.
When the PWC attendees gather together at the KSU Center on Busbee Drive on March 21 at 8:30 a.m., Linda Johnston, the Executive Director of the Siegel Institute will give the welcoming remarks before KSU actors perform a scene from Lynn Nottage’s play Ruined,
The Atlanta Top News Examiner caught up with Robinson to ask which portion of Ruined would be excerpted for guests of the conference. And for those who are unfamiliar with this powerful play, you will be interested to know that the story is essentially about the bodies of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which have become literal battlegrounds, and how these women, and the woman they come to work for in a brothel in Africa afterward, deal with their victimization and the osterization that immediately followed their brutal rapes.
We have excerpted short sections throughout the script,’ Karen Robinson said, ‘beginning with the first scene of the play, where we learn how two of the women have been brutally violated. Christian (one of the characters) has brought them to the bar/brothel owned by Mama Nadi, because they have been shunned by their families and have nowhere else to go.”
This description reminded the Atlanta Top News Examiner, in a small way, about the similarity of the story to that of Bonanza Season 10 Episode 9, which is about a white woman’s capture by Indians, forced to live with one of them as his “squaw,” and to bear his child before being rescued and returned to Virginia City. But following her victimization, she, like the women in Africa’s real-life scenario, was also shunned by her husband and the townsfolk, who should have embraced her with compassion instead.
Karen says that her KSU actors–Meagan Dillworth, Avery Sharpe, Anita Bennett and DeShon Green–will passionately act out additional excerpts of this important look at the brutality some women go through in the DRC. And that such excerpts will include a look at the brothel owner Mama Nadi and her “beliefs about life, survival, resilience, and her justification for how and why she runs her business.” The talented acting group will also tell the story about one of the women’s “capture” experiences; and how one woman victim needs money for an operation in order to restore her body after the damage she experienced.
Daring to touch on the topic of rape as an opening to a women’s conference might seem like a quick way to dampen enthusiasm for a one-day leadership and ethics workshop event, but one only has to have access to the full agenda to know that nothing could be further from the truth.
KSU’s Karen Robinson and her talented theatre actors will only have 30 minutes of the almost six-hour event to make their point about the victimization of women in the global community. And in that short amount of time, she hopes that the conference attendees will feel that she succeeded “in bringing depth and authenticity to the characters created by Lynn Nottage.” But more importantly, Karen Robinson hopes that her actors’ efforts will “elicit emotional and intellectual responses to the excerpts that catalyze a discussion around various dimensions of women and leaderhip…”
Lynn Nottage would be proud, as her play is based on actual interviews and interactions with those who have really been Ruined in Uganda. But she doesn’t want the focus of the play to be about the victimization of women as much as it is about the hope and drive that some women manage to find in the worst of adversities. And part of that can come from the women in leadership roles in their communities, who can help them weather their own traumas, as Mama Nadi attempted to do, in her own way.
Those interested in registering for the one-day 14th Annual Phenomenal Women’s Conference being held at the KSU Center have until Friday, March 14. The cost is $99 per person for general admission. Those who are affiliated with the campus as an alumni, faculty member, staff or student receive a discount. You can register online through Friday, or call 678-797-2000 and ask for Joann Trodahl.
For more about the Phenomenal Women’s Conference event and the workshop speakers who will be in attendance on March 21, click here.