FEATURE ARTICLE FROM DAILY BRUIN
Read an excerpt here:
“A barrier between two neighbors will be torn down in ‘Houses Without Walls.’
Susannah Rodríguez Drissi, an alumna and lecturer in UCLA’s Writing Program, wrote, directed and produced the play set during the tumultuous years of the Mariel boatlift in Cuba. The show will premiere Sunday at Hollywood Fringe, an annual performing arts festival.
In the context of the Cuban Revolution, Rodríguez Drissi said the one-act play focuses on the trials of motherhood and womanhood in an effort to leave the audience with a better understanding of the complex ways in which political turmoil impacts women.
“It’s this conversation that takes place over the wall in much the same way as we would have a conversation with ourselves where you reveal things that you wouldn’t share with others, the fears, and those dark moments in your life that you don’t dare speak about, they speak to each other,” Rodríguez Drissi said.
In the play, two women, who each had daughters who joined the mass exodus of Cubans fleeing Fidel Castro’s regime, speak with one another through the wall dividing their houses. The women discuss their daughters’ potential fates, at times believing they are alive and well, and at other times believing they perished en route to America. The dialogue between the two women is reminiscent of internal dialogue people often have with themselves, making the distinction between the two women less clear, said actress Maria Hojas, who performs as the narrator in the play.
“All the characters are just one character, and it’s this sort of multiple personalities that a woman can have especially under these circumstances,” Hojas said.
Much of the play was inspired by Rodríguez Drissi’s experiences as a child in Cuba, when her own family was unable to leave the country. Rodríguez Drissi particularly remembers the fear she felt after her family was unable to leave. Groups of students and workers, contracted under the state-sanctioned acts of repudiation, were bussed to the homes of Cubans who had intended to leave, Rodríguez Drissi said. They were instructed to yell insults and threats, destroy the houses and brandish chains and metal rods.
Rodríguez Drissi’s family members were victims of the brutality about seven times, and the lasting impression prompted Rodríguez Drissi to include the experience in the play, she said.
“Very violent, very ugly, very traumatic, and I never forgot it … and so it was important to me to include this in the play,” Rodríguez Drissi said. “To me it was important to say these things, and for the characters to speak the insults and to write them on the wall, and to say exactly what’s going on.”