Kidnap Road

A play by Catherine Filloux

Looking at a vista with the clouds rolling in"Kidnap Road" is a play by Catherine Filloux, directed by Stan Cahill and starring Kimber Riddle and Steve Guevara. The play focuses on Ingrid Betancourt, a presidential candidate in the country of Colombia in 2002, who while conducting her campaign was kidnapped by the terrorist organization the FARC. Details of Ingrid Betancourt's story can be found in the public record. The story is imagined as a two-person play based in part on those events.

In its first public reading the play headlined the staged reading series at Planet Connections Theatre in New York City on June 27, 2015. A community discussion followed the play, which included: the artists; audience, including members of Encore Community Services; Michael Soussan, a former U.N. humanitarian worker; Jenny Pacanowski, a poet, combat veteran in Iraq, and veteran's advocate, especially doing outreach for female vets issues and concerns. Joining the discussion was also Mariette Kalinowski, a fiction writer who served in the Marines in Iraq and a contributor to "Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War." The discussion addressed: women's rights, discrimination and abuse against women, the backlash against women leaders and a survivor's quest for social justice and spirituality.

The following background about the play's development includes the convening of the play's leading contributors — director Stan Cahill, actors Kimber Riddle and Steve Guevara, sound designer Darren R. Sussman, and playwright Catherine Filloux — and their reflections on the subject of the play and their contributions in bringing it to life:

"Kidnap Road:" WOMAN: "For Camus it's all Absurd. Time moves fluidly, there is no past, present, future in the jungle. The existentialists, the absurdists, it's the perfect time to talk about the Absurd. Camus was happy in the theater. He called the theater 'The night when the game is played.' Le soir où la partie se joue."

The play's director Stan Cahill says, "Kimber, Steve and I have shared language, thanks to our training at NYU's Graduate Acting Program." Kimber Riddle, the play's actress describes her role: "This is a powerhouse of a woman, who speaks three languages fluently, a jewel but it does have its challenges. Full of complexities, a woman who was thrust into more than six years of day-to-day survival."

"The Edinburgh Fringe is the world's largest performing arts festival that celebrates challenging material," says Cahill. "We are looking to put the show into a venue in August 2016 that is intimate and immersive, allowing the audience to take the journey alongside Kimber. A centrally located venue that focuses on socially-conscious material."

"When I first got out of the Grad Acting Program at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts my focus was film and television which I happily did for awhile," says Riddle. "I then started working with the theater artist Anna Deavere Smith, as an actress, and subsequently as an artistic associate traveling with her to collect her interviews and working on her productions. I believe this is what solidified my interest in human rights theater. Working with real peoples' plights specifically on the subject of injustice."

Riddle was first introduced to playwright Filloux by the Argentinian visual artist and human rights activist, Claudia Bernardi, and by Roberto Gutiérrez Varea, the Argentinian theater artist. In 2012 Riddle played the lead attorney in Filloux's play "Luz," which premiered at La MaMa. "I brought the story of Ingrid Betancourt to Catherine because it affected me deeply and I had always wanted to explore it. I learned of it by watching a breaking news report of her rescue from 6.5 years of captivity in the Colombian jungle. She was kidnapped by the FARC while running for president in Colombia. I didn't know of her story and started to dig into it. It has never left me," says Riddle.

The director Stan Cahill was in Riddle's Graduate Acting Class at NYU. "Kimber Riddle brought the script to my attention last year — and basically, when Kimber is interested in something, I intuitively know I should take a look! A few years back, I had seen her in Cat's production of 'Luz' at La MaMa and when Kimber mentioned the script was written by Cat, I knew it was a project that deserved, at least, my consideration. I was immediately intrigued by the story, especially Cat's fluid storytelling style. The piece is very challenging— it moves back and forth through time and it asks actors to quickly transform in front of the audience. And the notion that we would be collaborating to bring the play to its current state was very attractive. Ultimately, the opportunity to explore the story of a woman at the dark edges of experience, as well as the chance to work with Kimber again, brought me to this wonderful script," says Cahill. "The process on 'Kidnap Road' has felt a little like an excavation project. The show is so dense that we work slowly and deliberately — the script has transformed over the process, from a one-woman show to a two-hander, with one actor playing multiple roles. The process has resulted in a wonderful collaboration with the playwright, actors and sound designer and my process has been to keep open to all ideas, with a willingness to explore."

Playwright Filloux was thrilled when Cahill and Riddle introduced her to the actor Steve Guevara. He was the perfect match for "Kidnap Road." "There is nothing more exciting than when your collaborators come up with a dramaturgical idea that works better than what you had imagined yourself. They told me they needed Steve in the play. I love that Steve, Stan and Kimber trained together at the beginning of their careers. Their rich history adds great depth and humor to our project."

"This show is continuously underscored from beginning to end," says sound designer Darren R. Sussman. "But instead of using music, the underscore is a constant soundscape. Any moments of silence in the show were intentionally chosen for the impact that silence would have. The goal was to recreate the oppressive noise present in a jungle setting, to give the audience the same unease the character would have in that setting. There is no escape from the noises of the jungle. In addition to helping place the setting within reality, we simultaneously needed to heighten the notion that much of the play takes place within the character's memory, so it was necessary to not only create the sounds of those spaces, but the sounds of those spaces as she remembers them. Some sounds are exaggerated; some are unrealistic. The cast has described the sound design as the 'third actor' and in addition to helping the audience transition through the play, it also helps the actors to inhabit that world."

Playwright Filloux recently led a workshop for the Teen Leadership Global Action Summit of the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York, at John Jay College, surrounding themes of "Kidnap Road" primarily focusing on women's leadership. Catherine read an excerpt from the play and led the group in a writing exercise about their own favorite woman leader; and facilitated a dialogue about what the girls themselves have had to fight for. The first public staged reading of "Kidnap Road" took place at the Paradise Factory in New York City on June 27, 2015, headlining the Planet Connections staged reading series. There was a community discussion after the play with Michael Soussan a former U.N. humanitarian worker whose CNN article about education for women inspired Filloux.

Also present for the discussion were Jenny Pacanowski, a poet, combat veteran and veteran's advocate conducting outreach for female vets issues and concerns; and Mariette Kalinowski, who served with the Marines in Iraq. Kalinowski is a fiction writer and a contributor to "Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War." The audience also included members of Encore Community Services.

"We can't wait to continue to share this new play with a wide variety of audiences around the world, and build community around the performance," says Filloux.

Catherine Filloux was awarded the Planet Activist Award to honor her long career as an activist artist in the theatre community.