LAWRENCE – The next University Theater production will focus on elevating LGBTQ and trans voices of color with an emphasis on appropriate casting and care for difficult subjects. “The Devils Between Us,” opening Dec. 3 at the University of Kansas, is unusual in many ways for a college premiere.
“In ‘Devils’, Latifa comes into the room not as an unfinished or irreparably damaged person from her past. Instead, when she returns to her hometown, she appears to have been the only one who did the work to grow, change and start loving who she is, ”said Cara Hinh, the director. “Something great that Sharifa Yasmin, the playwright, did in this script is that she showed how the people who have the most privilege, who have societal positioning and influence like George, a white man middle class cis, can make the decision instead of trapping themselves in a world where they cannot express themselves or be who they want in order to maintain the status quo of patriarchal power.
Some of the highlights from KU’s production of “The Devils Between Us”:
- Yasmin, via Zoom and in person, has collaborated with guest director Hinh and the cast to revise portions of this original script, which will premiere at KU.
- With the help of casting director Charlie Hano, the KU Theater hired an Arab-American trans person, professional actor, writer, musician and stage performer named Elle Walker.
- Four rehearsals were set aside for cast members to learn from intimate choreographer Jenise Cook.
- Post-show discussions on December 3, 5 and 7 and a pre-show discussion on December 4 are planned to enrich the experience and broaden the show’s themes.
The play could simply change the way audiences perceive members of the transgender community, people who practice Islam, or both. Anger and regret are portrayed in the work, but there is also a sense of hope and fulfillment, Hinh said. Yasmin’s writing takes audiences to rural South Carolina, where a trans Muslim woman, Latifa, returns to her hometown for her father’s funeral and reunites with her teenage lover, George.
The play will be performed December 3-9, except December 6, at the William Inge Memorial Theater in Murphy Hall. The performance on December 5 is at 2:30 p.m. All others are at 7:30 p.m.
Calendar of discussions after and before the show:
- December 3, Post Show: A conversation with the playwright between Yasmin and Hinh follows the show and will primarily focus on centering the trans voices.
- December 4, Pre-Show: Chat about and with local queer artists and activists at 4 p.m. at 354 Murphy Hall.
- December 5, after the show: panel with executives from KC Transformations.
- December 7, after the show: Listen to news about being a Muslim in America, with an emphasis on intersectionality.
All post-show panels will be held at the Inge Theater. Dates and subjects are subject to change.
Tickets for “The Devils Between Us” are available for purchase by calling 785-864-3982, by visiting the University Theater box office in Murphy Hall or online via kutheatre.com.
The play includes sexual themes and depictions of violence against the LGBTQ + community. For more information on the play’s content, please visit the KU Theater website.
Hinh is a queer, fat, and mixed-race Vietnamese American director and educator from Indiana. As the child of a refugee, they are drawn to work on and for people in the diaspora that broadens ideas of American identity. Hinh rejoices in a work that talks about the complicated and messy intersectionalities of possessing a multiplicity of cultures and identities. Hinh is a member of the 2021-2022 Drama League Hangar and a proud member of the Roundabout Directors Group. To learn more, visit carahinh.com.
Walker (elle) is a Chicago-based actor, musician and performance artist represented by Paonessa Talent. Chicago stage credits include Madge in “Picnic” (American Theater Company), Gavriella in “Mosquitoes” (Steep Theater), “Cinderella at the Potato Theater”, “Dracula” (The Hypocrites), “The Addams Family “(Mercury Theater), and three summers as a featured artist with” The Fly Honey Show “(the Inconvenience). His film and television work includes “Work in Progress” (Showtime), “Soundtrack” (Netflix), “Alex / October”, “Kappa Force” and “Two in the Bush”. She is a member of SAG-AFTRA.
In addition to Walker, the cast of “The Devils Between Us” consists of Chris Pendry, a senior to Lawrence, as George; Isabella Lind, a Solvang, Calif., Junior, as Barb; and Jordan Ray, a sophomore from Topeka, as Hunter. The creative team is complemented by KU students Cassandra Ludlum, third year student from Topeka, as costume designer; McKenzie Needham, an Andover senior, as a lighting designer; Marzieh Ashrafian, doctoral student, as playwright; and India MacDonald, a Topeka junior, as manager. In addition to Cook, a professional freelance choreographer of intimacy, the production also stars Dave Wanner, director of the stage boutique in the Department of Theater and Dance, as a set designer; and Kayleigh Shaffer, a recent graduate and freelance lighting and sound technician, as a sound designer.
The College Theater is a production wing of the Department of Theater and Dance at the University of Kansas, offering six public productions during the academic year. College theater productions are funded in part by Student Senate fees and supported by the Truity Credit Union. For more information on the University Theater or to purchase tickets, visit KUtheatre.com.
The Department of Theater and Dance is one of the three departments of the School of the Arts. Part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at KU, the School of the Arts offers new possibilities for collaboration between the arts and humanities, sciences, social sciences, international and interdisciplinary studies. To learn more about the Department, visit theatredance.ku.edu.