‘Ruined’ Play Brings Glimpse of Congo to D.C.


Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Ruined” has been traveling the country in recent months and has arrived at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. At Enough, we have long promoted the play and worked with Nottage and the New York cast to bring a staged reading to the Kennedy Center in 2009. We are thrilled that a full production has now opened in Washington, so that audiences here – with a concentration of policy makers and influentials – can be moved by the story.

I went to the final dress rehearsal last week at Arena Stage, my first time seeing the full production. “Ruined” follows Mama Nadi, who runs a brothel in eastern Congo, as two women, Salima and Sophie, arrive in need of a place to turn. As militia groups vie for control of local areas it becomes increasingly clear that although Mama Nadi has tried to stay above the fray and has managed to create an unlikely oasis, her world too will soon be engulfed by the region’s ubiquitous conflict. We hear Salima’s and Sophie’s stories of surviving sexual violence, meet Josephine who has embraced the identity of a prostitute to hide her own past, are awed by the doggedness of Mama Nadi, and witness the debauchery of armed groups and minerals traders, the nightly patrons of Mama Nadi’s.

Nottage and the cast of “Ruined” bring the stories and experiences of women and men in eastern Congo to audiences far removed from the ongoing conflict, but who are, as Nottage examines, inherently connected through the use of Congo’s minerals in our electronics products. These stories, from the humorous to the horrifying, provide a window into the strength and humanity demonstrated by those living their daily lives surrounded by violence. As the play concluded, I was reminded of how not a single person in the region remains untouched in one way or another by the conflict.

For many in the audience, seeing “Ruined” may be an introduction to the conflict in eastern Congo; for others, it is a reminder of the work left to be done to help put an end to the ongoing violence. The fact that we are connected to the conflict through the minerals trade provides unique leverage to help end the violence and stand in solidarity with those who are fighting for peace as part of their daily lives in Congo.

We’ve teamed up with Arena Stage to offer Enough supporters a small discount on tickets to select showings. Join the Raise Hope for Congo team on May 27 for a panel discussion with Free the Slaves following the performance. Tickets are on sale for “Ruined” at the Arena Stage, now through June 5.