In collaboration with the Alliance for Global Justice, Tucsonan Frida Espinosa Cárdenas is staging a production of Beyond the Walls: A Visit With the Women of El Buen Pastor, Patio Six. The play is part of Woman, Mother, Political Prisoner: A Colombian Reality, an event at 6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 20, in Guadalupe Hall at Most Holy Trinity Church, 1300 N. Greasewood Road. Admission is $10 to $15, with all proceeds going to help women prisoners and their families in Bogotá. The play, based on testimony, poetry and statements from political prisoners in Colombia, will be accompanied by live music. For more information, go to afgj.org.
How did you get involved in this project?
I started directing in Tucson the annual production of The Vagina Monologues in English and Spanish. This year, we weren't able to put on the production. When I first saw Beyond the Walls, I had already traveled to Colombia as a public-health professional. In December, at the Derechos Humanos human-rights forum, they presented this play, which is really testimony from women who have experienced being political prisoners. When I saw it, I realized it has potential to have so much more, with acting and music, to really send out the message about the women who are living through this.
You wanted a chance to put your directing skills to use?
Yes, because I have experience directing and working with women, I knew I wanted to work with this project. Still, this isn't a super-artistic show; it is community theater. Most of the women have never acted, but wanted to bring these stories onstage and to the public, and work through these testimonies. These stories are hard to grasp, and it can be hard to understand what women lived through during their status as political prisoners, and the status of their families. It's challenging.
Is there something that draws you to telling stories of women?
I love telling the stories of other women. No matter where they are on the planet, there is this connection that happens, especially between mothers. Here in Arizona, we have our own issues that are similar to those in Colombia with prisons and the separation of families. Family members are sent off, and family is not always able to visit them. Also, like here, the private-prison model is being used by corporations in Colombia. Tucson's James Jordan, from the Alliance for Global Justice, is going to talk about that and how U.S. companies are investing in private prisons in Colombia.
What can you share about the women volunteers?
It's a diverse group of women. One woman has experience in that her mother recently became detained. There's a UA Mexican-American studies professor who is Colombian herself. ... One woman, who was adopted, her family was murdered in Colombia when her and her brother were very young. She was adopted by a couple in the Latin American Solidarity Network in the 1970s and raised in Minnesota. She's trying to connect with her biological roots. Another woman has actually gone to the prisons where the women are held in Bogotá. Her sister is also in the show. I'd say everyone in the group has a commitment to the community. We also have a woman from Wisconsin who is just learning about everything and is so dedicated, and another woman who is ... in the Danza Azteca (group). They are all amazing.
What do feel your main purpose is in doing this event?
Our main purpose is not only to inform the community of what is happening, but to also create a presence in the U.S. to pressure our own government. We have to be a constant voice in order to make sure there is a base watching, and let people know what is happening, and that human rights are not violated over and over again.
What are you most excited about in the production?
One of the most-beautiful things is three poems that are in the play that are accompanied by cello-player Laurel Bellante, and there is also a Latino-American folk group, Entre Peruanos. There will be Colombian foods from Sabor Tropical, and Taller Sin Miedo will be there printing T-shirts and posters. I think it's really important to mention how supportive Most Holy Trinity has been. They have a prison ministry, so it seemed like the perfect place to have it.