Two Sarah Lawrence students have put their creativity to work writing and producing a theatre piece on the issue of land mines, something they say has never been attempted before. "Watch Your Step" premiered in the Frances Ann Cannon Workshop Theatre at the College this past weekend. The production is a project of the Vietnam Veterans Foundation of America, co-founder of the 1997 Nobel Prize winning land mine campaign. "Watch Your Step" also has the active support of the United Nations Association of the United States of America's Adopt-A-Minefield™ Campaign, dedicated to the eradication of land mines.
Citing statistics available from the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) that every 22 minutes a person is killed or maimed by a land mine, the students have created the theatre piece in order to make the devastation of land mines more immediate to those not directly affected by them.
Adrienne Willis, a senior from Toronto, Canada, initiated the project and is director of the theatre piece. For her, land mines have never been a distant story to forget with the turn of a newspaper page. Her uncle died from a land mine. Her mother does extensive work with the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation’s Campaign for a Landmine Free World. Last summer, wanting to draw more attention to this issue, Willis called her friend Jason Wells, a senior from Newark, Deleware, and asked him to write a script about land mines. Willis said she wanted the script to "localize the issue," to bring it home to an audience that probably does not feel the impact of land mines on a day-to-day basis.
Willis and Wells, who have collaborated extensively in the past, describe their piece as a theatrical quilt in which the fabrics of five different scenes are stitched together. This structure, according to Wells, reflects the idea that humanity is also quilted together – that land mines are not only a concern for "those who have to tread the dangerous ground of mine fields, but for all of us who have to tread the earth, despite where we plant our feet."
James F. Lawrence, director for partnership programs for the President’s Representative for Global Humanitarian Demining, Department of State, attended one of the opening performances as did representatives of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and UNA-USA. The performance will go on extensive tour in the U.S., Canada, and internationally beginning in the spring or summer of 2001. It will also be entered in international theatre festivals including the Edinburgh Festival.
Willis, Wells and producer Ruth Moe, a Sarah Lawrence Theatre Program staff member, need to raise at least $200,000 to put the piece on tour. They are organizing backer’s auditions in New York City, Los Angeles and Toronto to gain sponsors. Any funds raised beyond the needs of the tour will be donated to the VVAF for their work in eliminating land mines.
Cast members for the opening performances were: Karl P.M. Allen '02, Robin Barnier '02, Alicia Cardoso '03, Nikki Ghiseline '01, Kate Hettesheimer '03, Brendan Hoyle '03, Annelies Lottmann '01, Kit McKay '01, Elsie Jamin-Maguire '03, Justin Okin '03, Margo Brooke Pellmar '04, Kate Reilly '01, Andrew Rothschild '04 and Carly Smith '04.