2015-11-13 / Arts & Entertainment

Gender identity in 19th and 21st centuries explored in new play at UofSC

Contributed by UofSC Department of Theatre and Dance

The UofSC Department of Theatre and Dance will present Herculine and Lola by Dipika Guha November 15-21 at the Center for Performance Experiment.

Show times are 8 p.m. nightly, November 15-19; 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., November 20; and, 8 p.m., November 21. Admission is $5 at the door. The Center for Performance Experiment is located at 718 Devine Street, between Huger and Gadsden Streets. Herculine and Lola contains adult themes and language which may not be suitable for children.

Dipika Guha’s inventive script, which is receiving its first full staging with this production, centers on two characters living in different time periods who are both dealing with issues surrounding their intersexuality.

Herculine, a schoolteacher living in 19th-century France, is based on the real-life figure, Herculine Barbin, whose diary expressing her troubled life as an intersex person was published in 1980. Her counterpart, Lola, is a present-day American who has travelled to Amsterdam with her parents, and there finds herself struggling with her gender identity.

Herculine and Lola playwright, Dipika Guha Herculine and Lola playwright, Dipika Guha The three-act play blurs the lines between past and present, as the two characters seek comfort and safe haven in a world that offers very little understanding. Herculine and Lola is being directed by theatre professor Steven Pearson.

A protégé of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel ( How I Learned to Drive, The Baltimore Wal tz), Dipika Guha has received accolades nationwide through readings and stagings of her work at prominent theatres like The Roundabout (NYC), Playwrights Horizons (NYC), and Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Guha says it was Vogel who encouraged her to pursue the writing of Hercul ine and Lola , which began as a short play called Habeas Corpus. “It featured the same American family who had an intersex daughter, raised as a girl, and it was spliced with scenes from Guantanamo Bay,” says Guha. “It was my effort to look at the connection between the way we view political prisoners and the way we view our bodies and gender — a ‘for us or against us’ kind of attitude. I think I spent a whole summer trying to expand that play and just couldn’t do it. Paula found me at the end of that summer and suggested I read the diary of Herculine Barbin. The next thing I knew it was showing up in pages.”

The up-and-coming playwright has traveled to the University to be part of the first-ever full production of Herculine and Lola . She’s even making on-the-spot rewrites to the script’s third act while here. “It’s thrilling to be involved for this production,” she says. “[The creative team] have given me this great, generous gift of staging what’s on the page. Usually playwrights are asked for rewrites long before staging happens, and the truth is you only get to understand a play once it’s on its feet.”

A talented cast of UofSC students and guest artists will bring Guha’s poignant script to life. Included are second-year MFA acting students Rachel Kuhnle (as Herculine), Carin Bendas (as Lola), Matthew Cavender, Benjamin Roberts, and Dimitri Woods, undergraduate theatre major Brooke Smith, and guest artists Melissa Reed (an MFA acting alumna) and Lindsay Rae Taylor. The production’s scenic, lighting, and sound designs are being created by Steven Pearson. Costumes are by graduate costume design student Vera DuBose.

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