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by Jean Genet directed by Katie Bales

In the 1930s, two maids - Christine and Lea Papin - murdered their employers by tearing out their eyes and then mutilating the corpses and bathing one another in the blood. This horrific scene and these images must have intrigued Jean Genet because, in the 1940s, he wrote The Maids. Genet colored the bizarre psychology of women who may be capable of murder with the improvisation of a child's game of dress-up and make-believe, and shrouded it all in the veil of ritual and ceremony. What we are left with is not only a chilling tale but a compelling journey through the moments that lead to destruction.

The Shotgun Players invite you to experience this captivating drama and lose yourself for a while. Where desperate obsession and relentless subjugation infuse a fantasy with sensuality, and truth mingles with invention, you have The Maids.

I am amazed at how often I am asked why I would even consider casting women in The Maids. I have yet to find anything in the text that really supports the common belief that Genet preferred men in the roles. In fact, when I ask people why they believe it should be cast this way, they cite Jean-Paul Sartre's Saint Genet instead of any of Genet's own writings. I am concerned for people who simply take Sartre's word as truth. Read his book, decide for yourself, and remember that it was Sartre who seemed to worship Genet, not the other way around. Actually, there is no definitive proof that Genet did intend his characters in The Maids to be played by men. According to biographer Edmund White, Genet actually preferred Jacques Derrida's study of him to Sartre's. In Derrida's interview with Genet in the 1970s, in the wake of a number of all-male produictions, Genet claimed never to have even suggested such casting!

What is important to me is that the play is relevant and accessible. I find the truth of these characters captivating, disturbing, intriguing. In a world where every day we hear of unimaginable acts and wonder how someone could do that or what could have been going through their minds, Genet offers us this peek inside. I want to bring the audience into Claire and Solange's world, to believe in them and care about what happens to them. That, to me, is the stuff of interesting theatre.

Susan Papa as Claire
Mary Eaton Fairfield as Solange
Beth Donohue as Madame

Katie Bales, director
Andrea Bechert, production designer
Anne C.S. Barron, musical arrangement
Bob Borwick, fight director
Alex Lopez, lighting and sound technician
Richard Reinholdt, publicity
Benjamin Lovejoy, graphic design
Patrick Dooley, artistic director

Opened: Saturday, August 17, 1996
Performed: Thursday & Friday & Saturday at 8:00 pm
Performed At: La Val's Subterranean Theatre, 1834 Euclid Avenue, Berkeley
Closed: September 14, 1996

Patrick went to Virginia for the summer to direct some Shakespeare play and left the reins (reigns?) of the Shotgun Players in the hands of these five women. When he got back (two days to opening) they had created this beautiful and delicate yet alarmingly vicious play, and sandblasted steam-cleaned the bathrooms. This play also ushered in the era of Ben Lovejoy of lovejoy(creative) (yes, the name is real): a skate punk turned hotrod graphictician who decided he would rather thrash out designs on a computer screen and leave the world's parking lots alone.

Dennis Harvey for the SF Bay Guardian
iC.L. for The East Bay Express

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