Prison Beauty Contest Is Subject of José Rivera's New Play, Debuting in Chicago Today

News   Prison Beauty Contest Is Subject of José Rivera's New Play, Debuting in Chicago Today
Chicago's Goodman Theatre presents the world premiere of Another Word for Beauty, a new music-and-movement-filled play by Oscar nominee José Rivera ("The Motorcycle Diaries") beginning Jan. 16. The work is inspired by an annual beauty pageant at El Buen Pastor women's prison in Colombia.

The new work, helmed by Steve Cosson and featuring seven original songs by Grammy Award winner Héctor Buitrago, officially opens Jan. 25. The show was developed through a co-commission between the Goodman and Cosson’s New York-based, investigative theatre company, The Civilians.

The artists traveled to Bogotá to interview some of the incarcerated women in the lead-up to the pageant, where the inmates compete for the title of "Señorita Simpatía." From their research, they created "a fictionalized but based on true events look at the lives of these women—including their flaws and failures, but also humanity and potential—and the annual event intended by their jailers to motivate and rehabilitate them."

"Rivera’s raucous, moving and exhilarating new play takes us to a world where the concept of ‘beauty’ may seem unlikely—and reveals images of beauty, physical and otherwise, that none of us has ever imagined,” said artistic director Robert Falls in a press statement. 

The cast features Stephanie Andrea Barron, Helen Cespedes, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Dan Domingues, Danaya Esperanza, Zoë Sophia Garcia, Marisol Miranda, Yunuen Pardo, Socorro Santiago, Heather Velazquez and Carmen Zilles.

Performances run through Feb. 21 in the Albert Theatre. Tickets can be purchased by visiting, by phone at (312) 443-3800 or at the box office, located at 170 North Dearborn, Chicago. 

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