Corthron's Venus de Milo Is Armed Gets Explosive Premiere in AL, Feb. 4-March 9

News   Corthron's Venus de Milo Is Armed Gets Explosive Premiere in AL, Feb. 4-March 9 The Southern Writers' Project of Alabama Shakespeare Festival launches another world premiere Feb. 4-March 9, when Kia Corthron's The Venus de Milo Is Armed debuts in Montgomery.

The play, by the author of Breath, Boom, involves the reunion of an African-American family in the South and the backdrop of domestic land-mine terror. This is SWP's 14th world premiere; the new works initiative was founded in 1991. The play runs in repertory with the winter's other world premiere at the Octagon of the Carolyn Blount Theatre, Aaronville Dawning.

"While the reunion dinner simmers, family secrets smolder," according to production notes. "28-year-old Rin still lives in her family's garage, working on her craft business; cousin Mari, who works for General Electric, still lives at home too. Rin's father W.J. is a musicologist, and his sister Lark is a piano teacher. Why haven't they seen each other in six years, since Rin and Mari visited Africa together? Reunited for Rin's cross-country travelogue slide-show, the two families' emotional explosions both hurt and heal while mysterious, maiming bombs go off around the country."

Corthron's work has been seen at Playwrights Horizons, the Royal Court Theatre, the Goodman Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club. Official opening is Feb. 7. The play's original title was Glimpse the Ephemeral Dot.

"After seeing some short films about landmines in 1999, I had the thought that Americans were not unsympathetic with these issues, they just never had to think about them," Corthron said in production notes. "I wanted to write something that would bring the issue home. Venus is more absurdist than any of my other plays, because of the nature of what I was writing about.  It is absurd that people step on landmines and have their limbs fly off.  But it was also very important to me to make it real."

Valerie Curtis-Newton directs a cast that includes Richard Allen, Spencer Scott Barros, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Hope Clarke, Leo V. Finnie III,  Margo Moorer, April Yvette Thompson and Chardé Manzy. ASF artistic director Kent Thompson said in notes, "SWP commissioned Kia to write The Venus de Milo Is Armed in 2000 and we signed the contract to produce the play on September 10, 2001.  Although the tragic events of the next day made me reconsider our commitment to this play, I ultimately decided that its subject matter and the moral debate it raises — the causes of terrorism, the use of landmines, our responsibility in the international sales of weapons — are even more important now."

ASF literary manager Gwen Orel told Playbill On-Line: "Kia's writing is a mixture of lyric realism that recalls the impassioned poetry of Eugene O'Neill.  Unlike some contemporary playwrights, however, Kia's rhythmic dialogue never becomes self-conscious or an and in itself, but always serves a framework that has some relation not only to a realistic, recognizable story but also to committed social commentary.  Her speech at once sounds eerily 'overheard' and beautifully shaped.  Her work always raises important questions without handing out easy answers.  An evening at one of Kia's plays is an evening at the best of what theatre can do: entertain, enlighten and unsettle."

Orel said the play is a "family drama-farce, an absurdist comedy with a naturalistic style, about a young woman obsessed with landmines." By Act Two, "nearly everybody has lost a limb somewhere or other," Orel said.

Designers are Ed Haynes (scenic), Elizabeth Novak (costume), Liz Lee (lighting), Don Tindall (sound).

Ticket prices range $15-$40 depending on performances and seating preferences. For more information, call the ASF box office at (334) 271-5353 or toll free at (800) 841 4ASF, or visit www.asf.net.