On Wednesday the 6th of June and Thursday the 7th of June, Year 12 Drama students performed two plays: Blood Sister by Daniel Keene and Soldadera by Josephina Niggli. Two very different plays, set in different times, about different people.
At first glance, it might seem hard to make connections between the life of Kate Kelly, sister of Australia’s most infamous bushranger, and the women soldiers (the “soldadera”), who fought alongside their male compatriots in the Mexican revolution of 1910 – 1920.
However, these two diametrically different plays have a common thread: they tell the stories of women – brave women – who survived and were scarred by traumatic events in the society in which they lived.
The truth of Kate Kelly‘s story has been distorted by history, lost in romanticised folk tales or recounts which were biased depending on which side of history they were found. Kate believed herself responsible for her family’s fate, as while they had been involved in petty crime previously, the family only really became outlaws after her mother and brothers retaliated against the unwelcome attentions of a local policeman when she was only 14. Her mother was jailed and her brothers went on the run from authorities, leading to the death of three policemen and the eventual shootout at Glenrowan. This guilt followed Kate as she went into hiding under an assumed name, eventually marrying and having six children in Foster, NSW. The play begins as Kate, addicted to opium and suffering what we would term today as PTSD, is committed to a mental institution.
The soldadera of the Mexican revolution suffered similar trauma. The revolution began with political unrest, which led to the assassination of the President and Vice President. The Federal soldiers fought many battles in the mountain villages against the Rebels, and many women and children were caught up in acts of unspeakable violence. The Federals, mostly led by the wealthy elite, represented a class system who denied education, health care and any kind of power to those who didn’t own land. Thus, many women joined the Rebels as true soldiers, assuming roles as leaders and guerrilla fighters. They became known as “soldadera” or “Adelitas”, named for the folk song featured in this play, and were forever changed by their experiences.
The different plays were presented in differing styles, and through these experiences, the Drama class explored a variety of creative methods and techniques.
Audiences were captivated by these challenging and thought-provoking performances.
Directed by Lynn Jackson, USC Drama Teacher