The First World Theatre Ensemble presented on September 23rd its first production of the year in its new theater located in the lower level of Swarthmore’s United Methodist Church at 129 Park Avenue. Billing its season as “powerful moving theatre that incites the spirit,” this highly experienced group of performance artists is headed by Zuhairah McGill, Founder/Producer Artistic Director, who believes there is a place for professional quality theatre that does more than entertain audiences.
First World Theatre Ensemble (FWTE) brings to the stage selected original works intended to raise audience awareness regarding critically important social issues that impact all our lives. LADIES IN WAITING provides a perfect example of the how precisely well FWTE goes about fulfilling its self-appointed artistic mission. This two-hour, two-act drama explores the lives of three women inmates, each struggling within their own often harshly uncaring past life-circumstances to now survive in a prison cell managed by an oppressive matron guard whose cruel disregard for the inner humanity of these women becomes symbolic of the larger society whose tax dollars blindly support the building of ever-increasing numbers of prisons.
Playwright Peter DeAnda injects into the prison cell occupied by these three inmates, Lana, a considerably inexperienced twenty year old student, who while protesting inhumane conditions in the prison system gets arrested and sentenced to serve thirty days in the same prison she was picketing. What Lana does have experience with that the other women serving longer sentences do not, is experience in caring deeply about the humanity of others and a desire to connect with and help others who are victimized and suffer within unjust social systems. The ensuing dynamics of relationships between these incarcerated women, each carrying in her own way painful past burdens, creates a fully engrossing backdrop against which the audience is compelled to consider the interactive effects on these women’s lives of racism, poverty, domestic violence, and sexual abuse.
As for the actual performances of each of the roles in this intense, sometimes humorous, and always engaging drama, my reaction is best summed up by a word whispered to my wife during one of the scene changes near the close of the first act, “awesome”. None of the performances can be singled out as superior to the others because each actor performed her role with impressive energy, believability and commitment to projecting DeAnda’s beautifully written lines out to all audience members. The stage was simple in design and more than adequately conveyed the atmosphere of a prison cell. Director, Larry Moses, delivers to the audience a truly inspiring and well-crafted performance of this inaugural FWTE production.
Running through October 10th at the new home of FWTE in Swarthmore, LADIES IN WAITING is highly recommended theatre and a welcomed new addition to Delaware County.
LADIES IN WAITING
by Peter DeAnda
Directed by Larry Moses
September 23 – October 10, 2010
First World Theatre Ensemble
Swarthmore United Methodist Church
129 Park Ave