Matrix Theatre Company opens their 22nd season with Death and the Maiden and the director and cast could not be more thrilled to start it off with this intense show. The show is political drama that addresses the issues of justice, revenge, and both war criminals and victims. The show is centered on Paulina Salas, a former political prisoner, who is brought to life by Michigan actress Karen Kron of Livonia.
“This role has disturbed my sleep for weeks now with the research I have had to do to prepare for it,” Kron says, “I’ve looked into PTSD and what to expect, the triggers, the effects, and if it can lie dormant for years. I also had to research the effects of rape victims, especially repeat victims.”
Kron had to look into not only what it does psychologically to the victim, but it what it does to the victim’s relationship, especially the romantic ones. She also researched the Chilean dictatorship by General Pinochet, which the play has its basis come from. Her character, Paulina, at the time of the play, was a political prisoner fifteen years earlier and is now married to a lawyer that deals in war crimes. When her husband helps a man to their home after he gets a flat tire, Paulina realizes the man was the doctor that helped torture her while she was a political prisoner and she decides to hold her own trial in her home.
Director, Kate Peckham of Ferndale, had to do the intense research like Kron and also feels it was disturbing at times, but to her it was more important to bring the story to light. “I feel like I am doing something good and it outweighs the horror that I have to feel dealing with it, but that doesn’t compare to the people who actually experienced went through,” she says, “I have a desire to honor that truth and those stories.”
Peckham fell in love with the play when she first read it. “I felt it was a story that was very timely and I could tell well,” says Peckham, “plus I am very lucky with the cast because it would take people with a lot of skills to bring this to life, which is the cast I have.”
Peckham, a former actor, has been a directing around town for several years and for her every show comes together differently. “I don’t usually have too many expectations going into a project,” she says, “birthing a play is always different and with a play like this, that is emotional and intense, the most important part is to make sure the actors feel safe.” Her goal was to make sure the actors feel safe to make the journey into their characters because each rehearsal drives deeper and deeper into the intense material. “I think actors are so brave,” she says, “ especially these actors.”
The show is filled with intense emotion and feelings that are very dark, raw, and teeters on The Edge of insanity. Every rehearsal, Peckham asks to actors to go even deeper the next one. “Kate has us go deeper each time and increases the intensity,” says Kron, “and it’s scary because I don’t even think the characters know themselves what they want the entire time, so it makes our work even more interesting.”
Even with the emotional work that comes with playing Paulina, Kron is not only enjoying it, but grateful to have the role. “It is probably the most difficult role I have ever undertaken,” she says. “She’s a complext character and a role that most actors dream about. One that is full, rich, raw, and you can sink your teeth into. I am honored to have this opportunity and to be working with such a talented cast, crew, and director.”
Both Peckham and Kron say that this show is just one to be experienced, as adequate words cannot completely describe it. “It’s like Sophie’s Choice,” says Kron, “you can only watch it once and you never want to see it again, but it will be part of conversations for years to come.” Death of the Maiden is a show that should been seen once as it may not be able to be handled more that, but it will leave an impression that will last a life time.
Death and Maiden opens September 21 and runs through October 14 at the Matrix Theatre Company in Detroit. For more information or tickets, call 313.967.0599 or visit www.matrixtheatre.org.