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The Department of Theatre of University of Southern Maine presented the world premiere in English of a play by Germaine Tillion, written in French in 1944 in Ravensbrück women's concentration camp. In the Underworld was staged April 18-27 at Russell Hall on the USM Gorham campus.

In the Underworld
Photo, left: Dr. Meghan Brodie, director of the play, with Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel. Photo, right: Members of the cast and crew posed for a photo with Rochelle Saidel before their April 8 rehearsal. Top row, left to right: Jonathan Marro, Madelyn James, Elinor Stranskov, Mary Kate Ganza, Rochelle G. Saidel, Hannah Perry, Callie Cox, Clare McKelway Bottom row, left to right: Caroline O'Connor, Meghan Brodie, Helena Crothers-Villers, Sable Strout, Maria Tzianabos. Not pictured: Virginia Hudak, Rhiannon Vonder Haar. Photo by Erin Bartoletti

In the Underworld

Tillion's original play, entitled Le Verfügbar aux Enfers: Une opérette à Ravensbrück (roughly translated, the lowest-class worker goes to Hell), survived intact, was published as a book in French, and had a full-scale production in Paris in 2007. Most likely, French political prisoner Tillion read the play to her barrack mates after they came back from work in the evening in order to lift their spirits and morale. The English-language translation by Annie and Karl Bortnick was commissioned by the University of Southern Maine Department of Theatre. Directed by Meghan Brodie, a professor in the university's theatre department, the play runs at the university in April 2014. Remember the Women Institute is proud to be a co-sponsor of this historic English-language premiere of a rare and extraordinary play.

Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel attended a rehearsal of the play in Gorham, ME, on April 8 and spoke for an hour with the cast and crew. She gave them some background on Ravensbrück and had a lively discussion about the camp, the French prisoners, and the play.

Directed by Meghan Brodie
Musical direction by Jonathan Marro
Translation by Annie and Karl Bortnick
Musical arrangement and composition by Christophe Maudot

Read reviews in The Portland Daily Sun and The Portland Phoenix.

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