I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me

By a Young Lady from Rwanda

by Sonja Linden



Rwanda

Director

Set Design

Lighting Design

Production Stage Manager

Costume Design

Sound Design

  Properties

Marketing/Public Relations

Technical Director

Master Carpenter & Set Construction

Lighting Crew


 

Scenic Artist

Lighting Operator

Sound Operator

Stage Crew

Production Photographer

Graphic Design

David Rose

David Potts   

Don Guy

Flori Schutzer

A. Jeffrey Schoenberg

Cricket Myers

MacAndME

David Elzer/Demand PR

Robert Kyle


Derek Bjornsen

Danny Barbosa

Katie Cadle

Amanda Ragan

Alex Callie

Spencer Howard

Kathryn Horan

Andrea Dean
Michael Lamont

Minh Chau


Cast

 

Juliette

Simon

    

Erica Tazel
Louis Lotorto


 

Time and Place


1999

Five years after the Rwandan genocide.

London


PLAYWRIGHT'S INTRODUCTION


Shortly after I started working with clients of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, I met a young woman from Rwanda, whose 'impulse' to write had started in a refugee camp shortly after the murder of her entire family. What started out as a testimonial act, the writing out of her family's experience of genocide, became in addition an act of healing, as a result of which she reported that she felt 'clean' and that her nightmares and headaches had ceased. For two and a half years she had worked on this book on her own, writing in her mother tongue and wrestling day after day with her enormously painful story, often tearing up the previous day's work at 5 o'clock in the morning, when she started her daily writing. Even while she was immersed in the process of writing her book, she recognised its therapeutic value, talking about writing in order to take the pain "away from my heart."


The healing she achieved was done at enormous cost, since it meant confronting and expressing with full force the negative emotions that overwhelmed her in the years following the genocide. So inspired was I by her story, that when I came to write something of my own as part of my writing residency, it was infused with her spirit and her struggle to write. I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me by a Young Lady from Rwanda tells the story of an uneasy relationship between Simon, a struggling British poet in his mid-forties and Juliette, a young survivor of the Rwandan genocide, who comes to him for help with her book. My challenge as a playwright was to transform this into a piece of theatre that would engage an audience. Humour, remarkably, became an important component, to create a sense of balance and draw the audience in, humour largely drawn from the cultural divide between the Englishman and the young African woman. It is this aspect of the play as well as Juliette's plight and feistiness that audiences have most remarked upon.


Many people have commented on the lengthy title of my play, some thinking it brilliantly arresting, others finding it annoyingly unwieldy: "it takes up all the answer-phone tape at the box office," "it uses up too much space in the listings column," "it'll frighten audiences away because it has the word Rwanda in it" are some of the criticisms I've received. Whenever I've been challenged in this way, I've been reminded of the response of another author of another work on Rwanda: Philip Gourevitch called his book We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families. Like my title, it was a quote from the text, but here the quote was taken from real life – the desperate cry for help from 7 pastors in charge of two thousand terrified Tutsis taking shelter in a church compound. The help was not forthcoming. For Gourevitch, impatience with his title seemed symptomatic of the West's indifference to a genocide taking place in a tiny country, off the map, in faraway darkest Africa. Similarly, my long title is a deliberate challenge to our short attention span where Rwanda is concerned.


As the daughter of refugees from Nazi Germany, I have felt all the more compelled to draw attention to this appalling late chapter in twentieth century history, a chapter that has such strong parallels with the Final Solution. Tragically, as I write this, a new genocide threatens in Western Sudan, transgressing once more the idealism of the post-Holocaust slogan of 'Never Again.'

                                      – Sonja Linden, September 2004

 


With Special Thanks to

Brad Brown, Jim Call, Call Brothers, City of Burbank,  Jeff Corum, Pomodoro Cucina Italiano, Heddi Cundle, Pomodoro Cucina Italiano, Leesa Freed , Wadler Data Systems, Inc., Eleanor Wood