The Two Sisters – Test Scene

2012 – The Two Sisters – Test Scene

The final change to the script of this full length play was its name, The Two Sisters.  For it’s previous development of a year or more it was simply known as The Armagh Women’s Prison Project.  

Written by Dennis Corcoran, it was the first time he combined music, dance, voice over poetry, a cappella song with fairly traditional dialogue. And the dialogue, itself, was often very rough.  During a first read thru, Corcoran apologized to the eight cast members, all women, for the harshness and obscenity of the language.  Scenes of violence, harsh language, punctuated by extremely artful lighting by STLCC-Meramec’s Darren Thompson, Technical Director for the producton, attempted to re-create a realistic sense of incarceration, the physical and emotional abuse inflicted on the predominant population of Her Majesty’s Prison for Women in Armagh, Northern Ireland during The Troubles.

In June, 2012, a test scene was staged in the STLCC-Meramec theatre.  The purpose was to run the final scene, the only one ‘completed’ at that time, before an audience to elicit information for going forward, if an audience even felt going forward was warranted.

Somewhere between 60-100 people attended the test.  During the feedback, the audience felt the various components, the mix, worked.  The language and depictions were harsh, yes, but deemed realistic.  And it was generally agreed work should continue, the play should be fully developed.

It was a bit of an unusual exercise.  A set was designed by student Chuck Winning and constructed, painted by cast and other student workers in the theatre’s shop.  The cast consisted of all but two students, one, a professional dancer who flew in from New York to participate, and Michelle Rebollo, director of the Theatre Program who played the sole Loyalist prisoner.  The remaining cast were all students:  Ashley Bauman, Katherine Robinson, Abigail Lampe, Holly Napper, Haley Kemper, and Crystal Owen.  The scene was directed by student Brian J. Rolf.  Lamar Fitzgerald, a student in the college’s music program, was musical and choral director.

It was an extensive effort and all for the sake of testing the viability, desirebility of set of theatrical components in the service of a difficult, demanding script.

The play was completed in late 2012.  The college opted to give it a full production as its entry to the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival.  Black Mirror had no direct hand in the ultimate production – other than being able to witness the incredible artistry of STLCC’s theatre faculty, staff and student body.

800 people came to see the 5 shows and permission was subsequently sought by students in Ulster Univesity’s (Derry) theatre program to use portions of the play in its own exploration of methods for depicting women prisoners and women’s prisons.