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New play takes searing look at teen domestic violence

Thursday, October 08, 2015

LAWRENCE — “Johanna: Facing Forward” chronicles the true journey of Johanna Orozco, who survived a gunshot wound to the face from her ex-boyfriend. Johanna’s story made national headlines and started a movement against teen domestic violence. Playwright Tlaloc Rivas is a visiting artist in the Department of Theatre and will direct the play for its second time ever in production.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16-17 and Oct. 23-24 as well as 2:30 p.m. Oct. 18 and 25 in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre at Murphy Hall. In addition to the performances, there are community events related to “Johanna: Facing Forward.” A full listing is below.

“I think this play speaks to audiences on so many different planes and levels,” Rivas said. “It’s a family drama. It’s a social justice work. It’s a story about young love ripped apart by jealousy. It’s about the boundaries of being a journalist. It’s about how we still fear to talk about domestic violence. Not to mention the humor and dance breaks all mix together to create a visceral, theatrical experience.”

This play touches a second important issue as it addresses body image and cultural and gender expectations concerning appearance. When Johanna chose to not hide her disfigured face and the body shame visited upon her as a rape survivor, Rivas was inspired by Johanna’s courage. This very young Latina transformed herself into a visible, audible advocate for the large – and mostly silenced – population of fellow survivors.

 “The subject matter is extremely challenging, but the cast and crew are giving their all for the show,” Rivas said. “I appreciate the bravery and the passion the students have for the show – they are making it their own, which makes all the difference to me.”

The University Theatre has also partnered with Willow Domestic Violence Center to have volunteers at each performance in case any attendees would like the opportunity to talk with an advocate at intermission or following the performance. The cast will be doing a reading from the play for the women at the Topeka Women's Correctional Facility as well.

The company includes Joaquin Dorado-Mariscal, Lawrence High School senior, as Juan Ruiz; Jacinta Duong, Overland Park freshman, as Cathy, CEO and Gladys; Samantha Foreman, Leavenworth sophomore, as Carmen, Candida, Reporter, Surgical Assistant and Student; Becca Huerter, Chanute senior, as Juanita; Matthew Lares, Garden City freshman, as Wosbely and Alberto; Ethan Malin, Wamego freshman, as Dr. Fritz, Mr. Duesing, Editor-in-Chief and Judge McGinty; Cassidy Ragland, Hope Mills, North Carolina, freshman, as Maritza, Hilda and Surgical Assistant; Pamela Rodriguez-Montero, Heredia, Costa Rica, graduate student, scenic and lighting designer; Abby Sharp, Rossville junior, as Rachel; Eric Shin, Seoul junior, as Gus Chan; Diadra Smith, Jersey City, New Jersey, senior, as Pinkey Carr, Edna Brown and Nurse; Emily Rose Stanley, Carencro, Louisiana, senior, stage manager; and Alejandra Villasante Ramos, Arequipa, Peru, junior, as Johanna.

It also features Rivas as director as well as Kelly Vogel, visiting assistant professor of theatre, costume designer.

Tickets for “Johanna: Facing Forward” are on sale now at KU ticket offices and online at www.kutheatre.com. Tickets are also available by calling the University Theatre, (785) 864-3982, and the Lied Center, (785) 864-ARTS. Tickets are $18 for adults, $17 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff, and $10 for children.* KU student tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door.

*This production may not be suitable for children who are not of high-school age.

Oct. 24

  • Willow Domestic Violence Center Night: Staff and volunteers at the center receive special ticket pricing. Call the box office for more information.
  • Talk Back: Tlaloc Rivas, playwright and visiting guest director, and Rachel Dissell, the Cleveland Plain Dealer journalist who personally covered the original story, will lead an audience discussion immediately following the performance.

The Department of Theatre is one of four departments in the School of the Arts. As part of the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of the Arts offers fresh possibilities for collaboration between the arts and the humanities, sciences, social sciences, international and interdisciplinary studies.

For more information on the Department of Theatre visit www.theatre.ku.edu. For more information on the University Theatre, visit www.KUTheatre.com. Follow KU Theatre on Twitter and Facebook.