Turkish-American Lawyer Faces Honor Killing Case in The Beauty Inside April 15-May 7

News   Turkish-American Lawyer Faces Honor Killing Case in The Beauty Inside April 15-May 7 The world premiere staging of Catherine Filloux's The Beauty Inside continues April 15 when it makes its New York City debut following the Philadelphia run of the co-production by New Georges and Philly's InterAct Theatre Company.
From Left: Tatiana Gomberg and Jennifer Gibbs in The Beauty Inside
From Left: Tatiana Gomberg and Jennifer Gibbs in The Beauty Inside Photo by Carol Rosegg

New York's New Georges (Susan Bernfield, artistic director; Sarah Cameron Sunde, associate director) is the Obie-winning theatre company founded in 1992 which produces "highly theatrical new works by women." Kay Matschullat directs The Beauty Inside, about a lawyer facing a case involving an "honor killing," at The Culture Project, 45 Bleecker Street at Lafayette.

"Somewhere in rural Turkey, a girl is thrown in a canal; floating downstream, she grabs a pole and holds on tight," according to production notes. "Across the Bosporus in cosmopolitan Istanbul, a young Turkish-American lawyer, Devrim, prepares to leave her country for a high-powered life in New York. But the last case she takes is not an ordinary one: a peasant girl, Yalova, has survived an attempted honor killing, and must be defended against her family. And so begins The Beauty Inside and the battle of wills between girl and lawyer, east and west, old and new, a battle that challenges Western assumptions about progress even as it binds their two stories together…"

Opening is April 19 at 7:30 PM, with performances continuing through May 7.

For the uninitiated, an "honor killing," the playwright told Playbill.com, "is the murder of a woman by members of her family because the family has determined that her behavior has resulted in a stain on family 'honor' that can only be eradicated by eliminating — killing — the person who is seen as the source of the stain."

Filloux said, "I had heard about honor killings for years, occurring in places all over the world. An article in the L.A. Times, about a young girl who survived an honor killing in Turkey, inspired me." Filloux said, "I spent time in Turkey in 1999 and witnessed a spectacular natural event, a full solar eclipse on the Black Sea, and six days later, experienced a huge earthquake in Istanbul, which changed my life. Life's circumstances shape our journeys: the eclipse for Yalova points to tragedy, though for Devrim it is supposed to be celebration. And yet a piece is missing for Devrim, and so her own journey begins. Also, Devrim's lawyer father gets pulled into the nefarious aspects of the earthquake when he represents a corrupt contractor, who is responsible for the deaths of many. In both directions — East and West — our lives cross: That's what this story is about. And when you're in Istanbul the magical Bosporus stands as a potent symbol of the divide between East and West."

Filloux continued, "Honor killings happen all over the world. A female California attorney who will serve on the panel after the play on April 30, responded well to the play because she herself just represented a woman in an honor killing and assisted her in getting asylum in the U.S. The attorney spoke of the way both in her own life and in the play, the lines between who is helping who —client and lawyer — are fluid. If you come see the play you'll see what ultimately happens to Devrim and Yalova, and how Devrim finds the missing piece. In Turkey there are places where women go topless on the beach; a practice that we in America never even see! When I was in Morocco doing a workshop of the play in Rabat, a young actress suggested we use shadow puppetry to represent Devrim in her bikini. We're still in a world where both women and men view a woman's body in extremely different ways. And still in a world where violence towards women is rampant. A woman's body is beautiful and dangerous."

The cast of The Beauty Inside includes Jennifer Gibbs (last seen in Museum with the Keen Company, she is also a member of The Transport Group); Tatiana Gomberg (The Living Theatre and Theatreworks USA); Edward A. Hajj (Off Broadway in Omnium Gatherum and soon to be seen in the remake of "The Pink Panther," starring Steve Martin); A-men Rasheed (Lisa Kron's Well at A.C.T. in San Francisco); and Michelle Rios (Broadway's Man of La Mancha, The Sound of Music and The Capeman )>

Designers are Takeshi Kata (scenic), Oana Botez-Ban (costume), Clifton Taylor/Carolyn Wong (lighting), Shannon Zura (sound) and Faye Armon (props). Music is by Elizabeth Swados.

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Catherine Filloux's plays include Eyes of the Heart (National Asian American Theatre Company, 2004; Kennedy Center Fund for American Plays Roger L. Stevens Award; she also developed a screenplay for "Eyes of the Heart" for the Lifetime Television network); Silence of God (commissioned by Contemporary American Theatre Festival; premiered 2002); and Mary and Myra (CATF, 2000; Todd Mountain Theatre Project, 2002).

As a member of the HB Playwrights Foundation, six of her short plays have been produced in HBPF's annual festivals and are published by Smith & Kraus. She was commissioned by Theatreworks/USA for Arthur's War , a new play with music. She wrote the libretto for the opera The Floating Box: A Story in Chinatown (with composer Jason Kao Hwang), a recipient of a Rockefeller MAP Fund award, which premiered at the re-opening of the Asia Society in New York City in 2001.

Kay Matschullat directed the world premiere of Catherine Filloux's Eyes of the Heart , produced by National Asian American Theater Company. She has also directed for The Red Bull Theater and NYU's HotINK Festival, and staged the world premiere of Derek Walcott’s To Die for Grenada, the New York premiere of Walcott's Pantomime , and the world premiere of Ariel Dorfman's Widows . She served as a resident director at Williamstown Theatre Festival where she also produced four seasons of new plays on The Nikos Stage.

Performances play Mondays through Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Saturdays at 3 PM, with the official opening night performance set for April 19 at 7:30 pm. All tickets are $25. Monday performances throughout the run, April 18, 25, and May 2 will be "pay-what-you-will" (at the door only) performances.

For tickets, call (212) 868-4444 or visit www.smarttix.com.

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New Georges' (www.newgeorges.org) recent productions have included: MANFEST, a two week festival highlighting six women playwrights who wrote short plays from the perspective of a man or men; Jenny Lyn Bader's None of the Above ; the co-presentation of "Permanent Visitor: A Festival Celebrating Dawn Powell" in New York and Carson Kreitzer's Self Defense, or death of some salesmen; Ellen Melaver's T he Right Way to Sue ; and Barbara Wiechmann's The Holy Mother of Hadley New York . The company, in addition to producing regular seasons, "is a play and artist development organization, providing essential resources and opportunities to a community of venturesome artists."

InterAct Theatre Company (Seth Rozin, producing artistic director), recipient of eight Barrymore Awards, has produced politically-themed plays in Philadelphia since 1988.

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