Authors' Names

Hannah GibbsFollow

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Category

Visual and Performing Arts (includes Creative Writing; sculpture, painting, video, dancing, music, reading, etc.)

Abstract/Artist Statement

Ariel Dorfman wrote Death and the Maiden in response to his return to Chile in 1990, when the Pinochet dictatorship was replaced by a democratic vote. The play is full of complex issues- democracy, love, betrayal, deception, and justice for past wrongs. In reading Death and the Maiden, it’s hard to not be curious about the past terrors endured by the main character Paulina, and how the society she is in developed around those and other tragedies. Thus, examining the horrors of Pinochet administration inflicted onto Chilean citizens and how it informed this play and its three main characters. With that examination, I will then set forth my own ideas on how this play could be produced for an American audience in current times. A production of Death and the Maiden would be a provocative exploration fitting for our current times, as we as a country move through tumultuous and unprecedented political and historical events, and we struggle to grasp how they may affect our nation’s future. Often to gain an understanding of the location and time period in a play, you have to understand the clues given in the script. Throughout Death and the Maiden, there is no explicit mention of where these events are taking place, other than the mention that it is set in Paulina and Gerardo Escobar’s beach home. Through an examination of events the Escobars have gone through in their pasts, including but not limited to: the imprisonment and torture Paulina endured in 1975, as well as the prompt introduction of a brand-new truth commission in the first scene of the play- we can infer the undisclosed location of this play is Chile, in 1990. During the Pinochet era (1973-90), Chileans were often forced into silence about their socialist beliefs to avoid being imprisoned or killed by the state. Their recollections of the early 1970s and the effects of the administration are deeply tainted and skewed by the time they reached 1990. Throughout this time, there was an era of censorship and silence - words could take on a restrictive and horrific significance. Paulina’s experiences mirror these events, and they also inform how the other characters, Gerardo and Roberto, exist in this play’s world. Through my examination of these characters, I will use their experiences and ideas to construct my vision of the setting of this play - the Escobar’s beach home - with my own scenic and lighting designs. While this play has been produced regularly since its world premiere in 1991, I find the unique political lens of America in 2020 and 2021 will allow for a novel design experience of how to portray the survival of extreme political ideologies and the outcomes of those ideologies coming to power in a society like our own.

Mentor Name

Michael Post

Personal Statement

In my presentation of Death and the Maiden, I am looking to showcase the importance of maintaining an interdisciplinary connection between the arts and humanities- especially in regard to history and the performing arts. As a student in the Design and Technology program in the School of Theatre and Dance, I am always looking for opportunities to build up my own design ideas and support them through the contexts of the work. For example, in this production, I am gazing through a lens of historical and current events to build upon my understanding of the characters of the play. This interaction between multiple fields deepens our artistic endeavors, and grounds them in an approachable context for our audiences. At the University of Montana, we strive to think critically, live ethically, and explore creatively. I believe my presentation is a prime example of the combination of all three of those values- in my exploration of the Pinochet administration in Chile through the lens of these characters’ previous lives, I strive to critically explore the past and discuss the ethical downfalls of the administration and how that hurt and disrupted the lives of the Chilean citizens. With that context, I then provide critical discussion regarding prior productions of Death and the Maiden and how I would create this world through my research informed design choices. This presentation would allow for a general audience to come to understand the process of examining a piece of literature and bringing it to life in an impactful and engaging way. This experience of examining characters and their lives, and then using their struggles and dreams to build a world around them is why I love theatre and design. I find that the act of imagining their worlds and finding details to ground them brings these important stories to life. While I cannot combine my designs with actors to truly bring this story to life- I provide real and descriptive accounts of the horrors these characters have lived through and why they make the choices they make in the play. In theatrical design, this is what we strive to do- bring stories to life in their most authentic ways, and provide audiences accessible and evocative frameworks to experience the stories in front of them.

Share

COinS
 

Incorporating the Chilean Experience into a Theatrical Analysis and Design of Ariel Dorfman’s play Death and the Maiden

Ariel Dorfman wrote Death and the Maiden in response to his return to Chile in 1990, when the Pinochet dictatorship was replaced by a democratic vote. The play is full of complex issues- democracy, love, betrayal, deception, and justice for past wrongs. In reading Death and the Maiden, it’s hard to not be curious about the past terrors endured by the main character Paulina, and how the society she is in developed around those and other tragedies. Thus, examining the horrors of Pinochet administration inflicted onto Chilean citizens and how it informed this play and its three main characters. With that examination, I will then set forth my own ideas on how this play could be produced for an American audience in current times. A production of Death and the Maiden would be a provocative exploration fitting for our current times, as we as a country move through tumultuous and unprecedented political and historical events, and we struggle to grasp how they may affect our nation’s future. Often to gain an understanding of the location and time period in a play, you have to understand the clues given in the script. Throughout Death and the Maiden, there is no explicit mention of where these events are taking place, other than the mention that it is set in Paulina and Gerardo Escobar’s beach home. Through an examination of events the Escobars have gone through in their pasts, including but not limited to: the imprisonment and torture Paulina endured in 1975, as well as the prompt introduction of a brand-new truth commission in the first scene of the play- we can infer the undisclosed location of this play is Chile, in 1990. During the Pinochet era (1973-90), Chileans were often forced into silence about their socialist beliefs to avoid being imprisoned or killed by the state. Their recollections of the early 1970s and the effects of the administration are deeply tainted and skewed by the time they reached 1990. Throughout this time, there was an era of censorship and silence - words could take on a restrictive and horrific significance. Paulina’s experiences mirror these events, and they also inform how the other characters, Gerardo and Roberto, exist in this play’s world. Through my examination of these characters, I will use their experiences and ideas to construct my vision of the setting of this play - the Escobar’s beach home - with my own scenic and lighting designs. While this play has been produced regularly since its world premiere in 1991, I find the unique political lens of America in 2020 and 2021 will allow for a novel design experience of how to portray the survival of extreme political ideologies and the outcomes of those ideologies coming to power in a society like our own.