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August 16, 2012

Play showcases ‘Seven’ women’s contributions to human rights

Not long before he left his job as director of Ohio University’s School of Theatre, William Fisher received in the mail a script for a play called “Seven.” Along with it was a letter from playwright Paula Cizmar asking him to consider producing the play, which she and six others had written about seven women who had made extraordinary contributions to human rights in their home countries.

The script sat on Fisher’s desk for a while.

Then last year, after Butler Theatre produced a staged reading of the play “The Exonerated,” Fisher took out the “Seven” script and read it through.

“I really liked the idea of doing something current and something about current issues or people or events in this straightforward way,” said Fisher, now the Theatre Department chair at Butler. “This is one of the important aspects of theater to me — doing plays about subjects that matter right now.”

It also coincided with his desire to further connect with the Indianapolis professional theater community, so he approached Bryan Fonseca at the Phoenix Theatre about co-producing a staged reading performed by a company of the Phoenix’s professionals and Butler Theatre students. That staged reading will take place at 8 p.m. Sept. 5-8 at Butler University’s Lilly Hall Studio Theatre. (Tickets are $15 for the public, $5 for students. Call (317) 940-9247 for more information.)

The history of the play:

In 2006, Vital Voices Global Partnership President Alyse Nelson connected seven award-winning playwrights with seven women from its large international network of women leaders. The woman are: Hafsat Abiola, Nigeria; Farida Azizi, Afghanistan; Annabella De Leon, Guatemala; Marina Pisklakova-Parker, Russia; Mukhtar Mai, Pakistan; Inez McCormack, Northern Ireland; and Mu Sochua, Cambodia — all of whom worked to improve the lives of women in their countries, often against daunting odds.

Their stories were captured and turned into monologues for Seven by playwrights Anna Deavere Smith, Ruth Margraff, Gail Kriegel, Paula Cizmar, Susan Yankowitz, Carol K. Mack and Catherine Filloux.

The Butler-Phoenix staged reading will feature what Fisher describes as “a relatively minimal level of production and staging” – perhaps some slides and video. He is bringing in a guest sound designer, Sharath Patel, a former student of his who served as the sound designer of the original production and the international touring productions of “Seven.”

“These are compelling real people and real stories,” Fisher said. “Our aim is to present theater that inspires and moves people, and, as always, to produce a performance that people want to watch. As a department, we are committed to theatre that is steeped in important questions and the actuality of our world.”

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    March 12, 2010