Ruined is currently in rehearsals at La Jolla Playhouse and will come to the Huntington in Boston. Actor Adrian Roberts offers an inside look at the process.
The Ruined cast for the La Jolla Playhouse/Huntington Theatre Company/Berkley Rep production, directed by Liesl Tommy, gathered in NYC on October 14 for three days of table work before coming to the Playhouse for rehearsals. Meeting everybody for the first time was great; we all seemed to click right away. I think it’s really important for the cast to be close, not only because we’re going to be together for a long haul, but especially when dealing with the subject matter of this play.
Ruined deals with the complicated armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the war being waged against women with sexual violence. We started out by watching a few documentaries. The first was King Leopold’s Ghost, an adaptation of Adam Hochschild’s book about Belgian King Leopold the II. He looted the Congo of its natural resources in the late 19th century by enslaving the Congolese and wreaking all manner of human rights abuses and atrocities on them. His exploits paved the way for what is happening in the Congo today.
We also watched a movie about Patrice Lumumba, a nationalist hero who helped the Congo gain its independence and how his assassination irrevocably changed the path of the country from hope to despair. Another documentary was extremely moving — The Greatest Silence, about how rape victims deal with the sex crimes they have experienced. It was a very sobering film. I learned what it means for a woman caught in the Congo conflict to be ruined. It made me very, very sad. I could tell by looking at the men around the room that they felt as I did. After watching the film, I have to admit that found it hard to believe in humanity. But that is the joy of the play — that despite the horror, there is hope.
I felt by doing that bonding table work in NYC we were well on our way. Thus we have begun our journey as a cast and also as individuals. Rehearsals have been intense so far, but everybody has jumped right in, including our fantastic musicians. Soji and Alvin are playing Soka music, which captures the fantastic energy and spirit of the characters in the play. Our choreographer Randy is teaching us to dance Congolese-style, so we’re having a lot of fun using muscles we’ve never used before!
I feel honored to be a part of this project, and to be working with all these wonderfully talented people to bring to life the stories of these women and the Congo. It is important work — it’s the reason why I wanted to become an actor in the first place.
Adrian Roberts appeared as Asagai in the Huntington’s production of A Raisin in the Sun. Mr. Roberts was last seen as Shaka in Tough Titty (Magic Theatre). Other regional credits include Ken in Playboy of the West Indies (Lincoln Center Theater), Booth in Topdog/Underdog (Sacramento Theatre Company), Daniel Jamison in First Person Shooter (The SF Playhouse), plus two seasons at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He has also appeared in such television shows as “Scrubs,” “Brothers & Sisters,” “Criminal Minds,”and the Sci-Fi channel movie Vampires: Out for Blood. He is a graduate of American Conservatory Theater's M.F.A. program.