Carolyn Gage spent three months in New Mexico and came away with a play.
The Portland-based feminist playwright will debut her latest work, “Little Sister,” as part of an evening of two one-act plays at Acorn Studio Theatre in Westbrook beginning this week.
“Little Sister” explores domestic violence on a Native American reservation, and how the legend of a Two-Spirit woman warrior offers a model for ending the inter-generational drama.
The new play pairs with one of Gage’s most enduring one-acts, “Harriet Tubman Visits a Therapist,” which has won numerous awards.
Friday’s performance marks the premiere of “Little Sister,” which runs through April 28.
Gage began thinking about the new play during a residency in New Mexico. She learned of the struggles of indigenous women and the cycle of abuse that exists on the reservation, as well as the inability of reservation police to effectively combat it.
“The bottom line is that nothing ever gets done,” Gage said. “It was understood that it was open season on women on reservations. I wanted to write a play to draw attention to it.”
Stephanie Ross, director of drama at Massabesic high and middle schools, directs the show, as well as “Harriet Tubman Visits a Therapist.” The cast includes Beth Somerville, Beth Chase, Carolyn Ezzy and Angela Moline. “Harriet Tubman” stars Alfine Nathalie and Gwira Kabirigi.
Both shows are linked by a common theme of the enslavement of women of color, and how those women draw on a traditional of spirituality to resolve issues.
And both find Gage at her creative best: confronting difficult situations and not settling for an easy or predictable answer.
“The world presents you with A or B,” she said. “All of my plays are refusing that choice and trying to find C, or none of the above. In both of these plays, there is an A and a B presented, and the women come up with a C.”
ALSO ON the calendar this week, the Maine Humanities Council presents scenes from Tennessee Williams’ classic play “A Streetcar Named Desire” as part of a statewide discussion about domestic violence.
Actors from Outside the Wire, a New York City theater troupe, will perform in Portland, Lewiston and Bangor, then turn the stage over to community partners for a forum about domestic violence.
Elizabeth Sinclair, program director of the Maine Humanities Council, said the scenes from “Streetcar” are timely and important.
“Every half-hour or so, there is another domestic violence assault reported to police in Maine,” she said. “As a community, we don’t necessarily understand some of the complexities of the issues.
“This is an opportunity for us to use art as a platform to talk about domestic violence. It is a chance for people to see scenes from a play that raises a lot of issues about control and behavior and issues of love, and then talk about those issues.”
The presentation is timely because of an initiative by Gov. Paul LePage to focus on domestic violence. The Maine Attorney General’s office estimates that 60,000 people – 22 percent of Maine’s population – are direct victims of domestic assault annually.
Half of the murders in Maine result from domestic violence, according to the state.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: