ITHACA, N.Y. — For the better part of seven months, recent Cornell graduates Trevor Stankiewicz and Rudy Gerson have been working on a play entitled “The Darfur Compromised.”
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On Sunday, there will be a staged reading at the library of Beverly J. Martin School. Since its inception, the idea for the play was to make it to bigger markets, in order to generate more buzz and awareness around the play and ultimately the situation in Darfur. After the reading in Ithaca, the play will premiere in New York City at The Cherry Lane Theater on November 2.
The idea for the play came back in the fall semester of 2014. Stankiewicz was enrolled in a History of the United Nations class with John Hubbel Weiss, a professor in the history department at Cornell University. Weiss, knowing that Trevor had taken theater classes before, asked Stankiewicz to write a play that focused on the Darfur genocide. The play would be a piece of the Caceres-Neuffer Genocide Action Group’s Human Rights Month Event, a project that Weiss was leading.
Starting in February, Weiss began giving Stankiewicz stacks of books and material to read that detailed the genocide in Darfur in preparation for the project. Trevor then shared the readings with his roommate Rudy Gerson, who became the director of the play. The two were able to discuss the material together and began to tease out different ideas with one another. It took the two an entire month of reading to get through the material before they even began working on the play. This ensured that the play would be accurate and authentic to the issues that were happening in the Darfur region.
“The Darfur Compromised” chronicles the Darfur genocide and explores American activism surrounding the area through fictional and historical characters including the main protagonist Jackson, his mentor know as Professor, and figures such as George W. Bush, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Gerson said of the project, “We’re trying to create some following of theater people, political activist people and cultural groups, like refugee groups and Sudanese groups, so that the play creates this exchange across a lot of different communities interested in similar things.”
The play is written in a style called documentary theatre. This type of play uses historical documents and quotes them directly as part of the dialogue in order to narrate the story and give it context. This style is used in conjunction with the fictional characters of Jackson and Professor so that the audience can be given a human experience to connect with, in the hopes of emphasizing the horrors of the situation.
Stankiewicz and Gerson hope that the play will be well received in the New York City, where there are many activists and resources for them to raise money. This will allow them to put on the play in other places. The initial plan is to perform the play domestically for a little, while continually refining the writing. They then aim to perform the play in actual areas that are or were being affected by the Darfur genocide.
Gerson added, “Long term the goal is to use much of the proceeds from the play and direct that directly to ground support in the Nuba [Mountains] region.”
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