War to the Stage
Smith theatre presents a
premiere of a new work, Sarajevo Phoenix, by Ellen
W. Kaplan, professor of theater, on January 24 at 7 p.m.
in the Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre; free and open to the
Directed by Peg Denithorne,
Sarajevo Phoenix is based on interviews with Bosnian women
who survived the Siege of Sarajevo and the 3rd Balkan War
in the former Yugoslavia.
In the 1990s, Europe saw the
worst carnage since WWII. In summer of 2011, Peg Denithorne
and Ellen Kaplan interviewed Bosnian women who lived through
the 3rd Balkan war and are now trying to recover from what
they endured. Rather than share their horror stories of the
war, the women shared their stories of survival, how each
became a part of the group, how the group had given them
Denithorne left Bosnia determined
to help the women. “I realized it is their
story that needs to be told, the story of courageous women rising up from the
ashes of Sarajevo,” says Denithorne.
The locus of interviews is Sarajevo
Phoenix, a collective of Muslim, Croat and Serb women who
lived through the siege of Sarajevo and worked as their families’ primary breadwinners, making and selling hand-stitchery.
In addition to the primary group,
Kaplan and Denithorne interviewed: women in Srebenica still
searching for the missing bones of their relatives; survivors
of rape camps; refugees rebuilding their lives; and Serb
women who opposed the slaughter. Their stories form the core
of a play exploring war and its aftermath, as seen through
the eyes of women who work together as a means of survival
and an act of courage.
Their translators, Vjekoslav
and Asra Saje, were translators for the United Nations during
the war, and have been part of Sarajevo Phoenix since its
inception. They are deeply involved in the entire process,
including selection of Bosnian music, which underscores the
Kaplan and Denithorne have a
deep commitment to theatre as a form of activism, and as
a means to improve lives and give voice to the disenfranchised.
“This 'theatre of memory' is
of vital importance to the women who tell us their stories,” said
Kaplan about the Sarajevo
Phoenix stage project. “They tell us that
this is how they ‘let the bones (of their loved ones) speak.’ It
is important to record survivors' testimony to speak against
the grain of official history.”
The play is presented in English,
and will be re-translated for presentation at the MESS Festival/Theatre
of Memory in Sarajevo.