Burien’s Rochelle Flynn has a long history of working in the theatre, extending back to her days as a student.
More recently, she has become a stalwart worker with Burien Little Theatre. But, appearing on stage as an actress is something that she only returned to in the past couple of years. Today, she is tackling a major part in the upcoming production of Women of Sand/Mujeres de Arena with Latino Theatre Projects. This challenging play allows her to stretch her acting chops to a degree that is both exhausting and exhilarating.
Rochelle, who works in the Burien Community Center, is spending long evenings rehearsing with her fellow cast members. In the play, she portrays the sister of a young woman who was kidnapped, raped, beaten, and murdered in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. In the border city of El Paso, Texas, more than 1,500 women have met the same fate as her character’s sister since 1993, while law enforcement has turned a blind eye to the tragedy. Rochelle’s monologue is heart-wrenching as she describes the horror that her sister experienced and excoriates the authorities for not putting an end to the crimes.
“When Fernando [Luna] from Latino Theatre Projects first gave me the script to read, I thought to myself that ‘there was no way that I could take on such an emotional piece as I am deeply sensitive,’” said Flynn. “However, working with Fernando and Robert [Harkins] has added a depth of understanding to my work that I now see just how important it is that people learn about what’s happening there. Now, I can’t imagine not being part of this play.”
“In the end, the play does not wallow in the tragic emotions of these women. It shows that the determination and perseverance of the women keeps hope alive that there will be a day in which women can again feel safe and live normal lives.”
Woman of Sand is written by the noted playwright Humberto Robles. Robles was so moved by hearing testimonies by the women of Juárez that he began collecting their words and stories. He has woven these into a powerful theatrical experience. The play is built around four dramatic and emotional monologues from women directly impacted by the violence—the mother of a victim, a cousin, an outspoken community activist (Flynn’s role), and a young teenager innocently writing in her diary, not knowing that she too will become one of the murdered women of Juárez. Framing these monologues are “choral” passages that blend poetry, searing satire, and, ultimately, messages of action and hope. There is also a narrator that gives the audience the facts surround the situation who eventually becomes enraged enough to become one of the activists fighting for the women.
“For me, this play has become a labor of love,” added Flynn. “I have rarely been blessed to work with such a strong group of actresses. Every one of them is a true professional. And, we have become very close through our work together.”
Latino Theatre Projects (LTP) was founded two years ago by Fernando Luna (Artistic Director and Director of this production) and Robert Harkins (Executive Director). They share a vision of presenting what they term “Teatro Útil” or “Useful Theatre,” that is, literature and productions that challenge audiences to think about things differently and to be exposed to cultures they may have never experienced.
LTP has been very active in Burien. Both Harkins and Luna have appeared multiple times on the Burien Little Theatre stage as actors. Harkins just signed on to direct one the winning plays in BLT’s Playwright’s Festival. The past two summers, they have taught theatre arts to students at a day camp at Hilltop Elementary School along with Burien Parks Department and Latinos for Community Transformation. Last summer LTP co-produced Anna in the Tropics with Burien Little Theatre. The Pulitzer Prize-winning play was a big hit with local theater-goers and was well reviewed on this blog. This summer, LTP will again be teaming up with BLT to present another Cruz play, Beauty of the Father. The company was recently honored as a recipient of a Fund Allocation Grant from the Burien/White Center Rotary Club to underwrite the marketing of this production to Latinos in the community.
“Burien has almost become our home away from home,” said Luna. “It is important to do theatre here because Burien is the heart of the Latino community and we want to give the community culturally relevant experiences. Latinos have a strong tradition of going to and participating in theatre in their home countries. It is an integral part of our culture.”
Women of Sand is being presented at the Southside Commons in South Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood. Performances are Thursday-Saturday nights at 8 pm from March 7 to March 16. Admission is by at-will donation with a suggested level of $15. Seating may be reserved by emailing Robert@latinotheatreprojects.org with the number of seat needed and the performance date for attending. There is limited seating, so reservations are recommended.
“I hope to see many of my fellow Burien residents in our audience,” Flynn added. “This is a theatre experience like none other. It’s just a short hop to Columbia City from here. You won’t regret going to this show.”
Here are the details:
WHAT: Women of Sand/Mujeres de Arena (in English) by Humberto Robles.WHERE: Southside Commons, located at 3518 S. Edmonds Street in Columbia City in South Seattle.WHEN: 8 pm, Thursday-Saturdays, March 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, and 16.INFO: Email Robert@latinotheatreprojects.org to reserve seats. Limited seating.