Written by Lynn Nottage
Directed by Liesl Tommy
A co-production with the Huntington Theatre Company and La Jolla Playhouse
In association with Lorraine Hansberry Theatre
Main Season · Roda Theatre
February 25–April 10, 2011

Running time: 2 hours and 35 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission

Berkeley Rep proudly brings you Ruined, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. This powerful new play provides a bleak yet beautiful look at the lives of women in a land ruled by whiskey and bayonets. As civil war ravages the Congo, the lucky ones find a home—and a regular meal—in a ramshackle building that serves as both brothel and refuge. Whether merchant, miner or soldier, the man you meet in the morning may be your enemy by sundown. Yet all of them come through Mama’s door for booze and a bit of comfort. Mama Nadi protects her girls with rough compassion, even as she profits from their bodies. This celebrated script from Lynn Nottage tells an intense and important tale filled with humanity, hope and unexpected humor. When Mama talks, you better listen.

Creative team

Lynn Nottage · Playwright
Liesl Tommy · Director
Randy Duncan · Choreographer
Clint Ramos · Scenic Design
Kathleen Geldard · Costume Design
Lap Chi Chu · Lighting Design
Broken Chord · Sound Design / Original Music
Shirley Fishman · Dramaturg
Steve Rankin · Fight Director
Anjee Nero · Stage Manager
Alaine Alldaffer · Casting
Amy Potozkin · West Coast Casting


Oberon K.A. Adjepong · Christian
Pascale Armand · Salima
Jason Bowen · Fortune
Carla Duren · Sophie
Wendell B. Franklin · Jerome Kisembe
Zainab Jah · Josephine
Joseph Kamal · Mr. Harari
Adesoji Odukogbe · Musician 2
Kola Ogundiran · Laurent
Okieriete Onaodowan · Simon
Tonye Patano · Mama Nadi
Adrian Roberts · Commander Osembenga
Alvin Terry · Musician 1

Leaping man“Nottage finds hope for us all in the resilience of a few…Ruined seethes with the brute energy of combat and soars with hard-won compassion and love…Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize winner and a dynamic cast make the drama as engrossing as it is thought-provoking…More remarkably, Nottage finds a ray of hope, even joy, for the women and men trapped in this ongoing nightmare. The pain and the glory make an indelible impression in director Liesl Tommy’s richly textured staging.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Emotionally gripping…The wonder of Ruined emerges in moments of beauty—whether in a song performed by Sophie (backed by musicians Adesoji Odukogbe and Alvin Terry), an athletic dance performed by the male patrons of Mama Nadi’s (choreographed by Randy Duncan) or a flash of brave compassion from a surprising source. In the face of mankind at its worst, there can be sparks of beauty and enlightenment, of fleeting joy amid horror. Those sparks—much like extraordinary pieces of theater—are what we aim for.”—Theater Dogs

“Undeniable…Randy Duncan’s choreography is explosive. The cast is uniformly riveting. Each actress sensitively delivers her own aria of suffering [and] for her part, Patano captures Mama’s gentleness as well as her steel. She’s tough enough to suggest a diamond hardened under pressure but soft enough so that the play’s rare moments of uplift ring true. Sophie’s singing has a transcendent quality that suggests the healing power of art. Christian’s mockery of the butchers that plague the land is unexpectedly funny. And an unexpected romance has tearful charm.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group

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Prologue: from the Artistic Director

Many people cringe when they hear the word “political” associated with theatre. Taken together, the two words conjure up images of preachy, didactic plays, plays that describe some form of injustice in wildly melodramatic terms with no real discourse. Nothing engenders boredom quite like a bad political play. And some audience members become furious if they feel they have been unjustly implicated, accused of endorsing the horrific events being portrayed on stage after they have spent their money to support the production.

But the playwrights who most skillfully traffic in politics and history are all united around a singular purpose: they seek to create great art, art that is wildly imaginative, that creates a wide spectrum of complications through plot and character development, that entertains us in a way that is surprising and insightful, moving and transcendent. Kushner and Hellman and Brecht and Hansberry (to name a few), all of them are dramatists first, activists second. The most compelling arguments in their plays are often the least progressive, voiced by characters with whom the playwrights themselves often violently disagree. But the dramas work precisely because these characters are so compelling, so entertaining, so authentic, and because the truth of what they say cannot be denied.

We now have another name to add to the list of great writers who are unafraid to write about cataclysmic historical events. With Ruined, Lynn Nottage has proven that she is capable of taking a subject that is shocking and upsetting (the rape of thousands of women as an assertion of personal and military power) and creating a story that allows us to freely enter into that world. Because of her ability to invent an array of astonishing characters in a situation where we understand the forces moving around them, and to imbue them with a life force that is powerful and ultimately triumphant, Ruined holds us in a way that we did not expect. By the end we are released, liberated from our preconceived ideas, and connected to people we don’t know. For any play, political or otherwise, such a result is spectacular.

To bring Lynn’s work to the stage we have elicited the talents of director Liesl Tommy, whose star is fast rising in the American theatre. She has assembled a great cast that has already performed at the La Jolla Playhouse and the Huntington Theatre. Berkeley is the last stop on their tour. We hope and trust that this will be the culmination of their journey.

Tony Taccone

Prologue: from the Managing Director

Lynn Nottage’s powerful, Pulitzer Prize-winning play Ruined takes an unflinching look at the lives and spirits of women in the war-torn Congo. It’s a bleak yet absolutely beautiful play, and I’m honored that we’re able to bring it to you this season. Prior to arriving here in Berkeley, this production played to standing ovations and critical accolades at La Jolla Playhouse in Southern California and Huntington Theatre Company in Boston, our two collaborators on this project.

It’s serendipitous that Ruined follows Mike Daisey’s plays, specifically The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, because there’s a surprising, if subtle, connection between them. In The Agony and the Ecstasy, Mike Daisey uncovers the human cost of the iPhones we love so dearly. Ruined centers on a war, at the core of which is the mining of minerals—specifically, the mineral coltan, an essential component of our tech gadgets. Both of these plays remind us of our connection to people halfway around the globe—a connection made, ironically enough, by the very devices we use to stay connected with loved ones.

Connection and collaboration are at the very heart of Berkeley Rep, from our artists and administrators working together at our new Harrison campus to our partnerships with theatre companies from across the country and around the world. And connection and collaboration are at the heart of our relationship with you, our audiences. Through plays like Ruined the Theatre endeavors to be a place where people who are actively engaged with their community can engage with each other and with substantial, global ideas. We invite you to take full advantage of the many opportunities we provide for you to make connections of your own through plays like Ruined and many more to come. Visit our website to find out more about the many events, the background information, the calls to action and the opportunities for learning. Ruined is a moving evening in the theatre. But it can also be a taking off point for further knowledge and discovery.


Susan Medak

Lynn Nottage writes about the journey in search of Ruined

Six years ago, I travelled to East Africa to interview Congolese women fleeing the armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). I was fueled by my desire to tell the story of war, but through the eyes of women, who as we know rarely start conflicts, but inevitably find themselves right smack in the middle of them. I was interested in giving voice and audience to African women living in the shadows of war.

The circumstances in the DRC are complicated; there is a slow simmering armed conflict that continues to be fought on several fronts, even though the war officially ended in 2002. You have one war being fought for natural resources between militias funded by the government and industry; you have the remnants of an ethnic war, which is the residue of the genocide in Rwanda that spilled over the border into the Congo; and then you have the war that I examine in my play Ruined, which is the war being waged against women. To throw some statistics at you, according to International Rescue Committee, nearly 5.4 million people have died in that country since that conflict began; every month, 45,000 Congolese people die from hunger, preventable disease and violence related to war. The fact is the war in the Congo is the deadliest conflict since World War II. It is sometimes called World War III, because of the international interests that fuel the conflict in order to exploit the land, which is rich in minerals such as gold, coltan, copper and diamonds.

In 2004 I went to East Africa to collect the narratives of Congolese women, because I knew their stories weren’t being heard. I had no idea what play I would find in that war-torn landscape, but I travelled to the region because I wanted to paint a three-dimensional portrait of the women caught in the middle of armed conflicts; I wanted to understand who they were beyond their status as victims.

I was surprised by the number of women who readily wanted to share their stories. One by one, through tears and in voices just above a whisper, they recounted raw, revealing stories of sexual abuse and torture at the hands of both rebel soldiers and government militias. The word rape was a painful refrain, repeated so often it made me physically sick. By the end of the interviews I realized that a war was being fought over the bodies of women. Rape was being used as a weapon to punish and destroy communities. In listening to their narratives I came to terms with the extent to which their bodies had become battlefields.

I remember the strong visceral response that I had to the very first Congolese woman who shared her story. Her name was Salima, and she related her story in such graphic detail that I remember wanting to cry out for her to stop, but I knew that she had a need to be heard. She’d walked miles from her refugee camp to share her story with a willing listener. Salima described being dragged from her home, arrested and wrongfully imprisoned by men seeking to arrest her husband. In prison she was beaten and raped by five soldiers. She finally bribed her way out of prison, only to discover that her husband and two of her four children were abducted. At the time of the interview she still had not learned the whereabouts of her husband and two children. I found my play Ruined in the painful narratives of Salima and the other Congolese women, in their gentle cadences and the monumental space between their gasps and sighs. I also found my play in the way they occasionally accessed their smiles, as if glimpsing beyond their wounds into the future.

In Ruined, Mama Nadi gives three young women refuge and an unsavory means of survival. As such, the women do a fragile dance between hope and disillusionment in an attempt to navigate life on the edge of an unforgiving conflict. My play is not about victims, but survivors. Ruined is also the story of the Congo. A country blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and resources, which has been its blessing and its curse.

Reprinted with permission of the author and Almeida Theatre Company.

From director Liesl Tommy

Ruined opened in New York City in 2009 to rave reviews and rapt audiences. The play received numerous extension dates—and a Pulitzer Prize.

I was thrilled to get the opportunity to direct this production of Ruined for Berkeley Rep, La Jolla Playhouse and the Huntington Theatre, and previously at Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

One of my great challenges as an African artist is to get people to care about African stories. The average person is, in my experience, somewhat numb to the decades of news about strife and brutality in various African countries. It is all terribly confusing. And it seems very far away.

The war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is acknowledged to be the deadliest world conflict since World War II. In the eastern part of the Congo, where our play lives, 200,000 females have been reported raped in the past decade. Villages have been destroyed, and the very fabric of community life is gone. Territorial control means access to the mineral riches found in the forests of the Congo, specifically coltan, a key element in cell phones, computer chips and PlayStations.

In many ways, the war in the Congo is not so far away from us. In fact, we all carry a little piece of this war, daily, right in our pockets and purses and homes and offices. We don’t have flying cars, but we are massive consumers of all kinds of futuristic electronics—gadgets that improve our lives in lots of ways but that also have consequences, good and bad, in other parts of the world.

I believe our great cause as human beings in this century is to continue to find compassion—and to understand that people everywhere are interconnected. We must, because we are them. And they are us. Lynn Nottage shows us this in Ruined. Through her play, we reconnect with our humanity and with those people in that faraway war.

Web of violence: Untangling ‘Africa’s World War’

By Rachel Steinberg

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was one of 17 African countries that gained independence from colonial powers in 1960. Liberation, however, brought with it new trouble as a multitude of parties fought for control of the young country and its wealth of natural resources, like diamonds and valuable minerals. In 1998, a number of factors, many of them tied to then-President Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s ambition to gain and retain increased power, resulted in the outbreak of a war resulting in the greatest number of casualties since World War II.

Independence can be greatly credited to Patrice Lumumba. He and his Congolese National Movement sought to create an independent country on the terms of the nationalists, not those of colonial Belgium. In 1959, after Belgian forces crushed a riot in Leopoldville, nationalist and militant attitudes spread and reached a new fervor. Though the Belgians had been orchestrating a plan eventually leading to an independent Congo, the Leopoldville riots resulted in increased expediency; the force of the Congolese reaction to the riots surprised the colonial powers and, sensing an increasingly hostile and unstable environment, the Belgians organized a Roundtable Conference in Brussels, resulting in an agreement to hand over power to the Congolese in the summer of 1960. On June 30, 1960, the new independent Congolese government, led by President Joseph Kasa-vubu and Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, took power.

The government didn’t last long. A disagreement over Soviet intervention led to the dissolution of the Kasa-vubu–Lumumba partnership, with each claiming the right to rule. In a military coup, Joseph Mobutu, Lumumba’s former chief of staff, took control of the country, renaming it Zaire. After a Mobutu-initiated campaign intended to mar Lumumba’s reputation both at home and internationally, Lumumba was assassinated, some say with the assistance of the United States, Belgium or both. What followed were 30 years of oppressive, tyrannical rule under Mobutu, who exploited his country’s natural resources, amassing millions (some say even billions) of dollars for himself and his family, crippling and debilitating the country he claimed to be freeing from years of exploitation by former ruling powers.

In 1994, Zaire received an influx of Hutu refugees from neighboring Rwanda. An extremist wing of Hutus had recently been responsible for the genocide of an estimated half-million to million people, the majority of whom were members of the Tutsi ethnic group. Backed by Mobutu, a group of the Hutu refugees in Zaire launched attacks against Tutsi in Rwanda. Seeking an ally in Zaire, the Rwandan Tutsi government turned to Laurent-Désiré Kabila, a Lumumba sympathizer hoping to topple the Mobutu autocracy. Kabila readily aligned himself with Rwanda. An alliance of Kabila-led rebels and Rwandan forces finally defeated Mobutu in 1997. Mobutu fled the country, and Kabila, touted as a liberator and a savior, rose to power. Like his predecessor, Kabila’s first order of duty was to change the name of the country he was to rule: the Democratic Republic of the Congo was born. Peace, however, was short-lived. Kabila, once a rebel on the fringe, was now in a position which many argue he was not prepared for. He proceeded to make a number of tactical decisions that would plunge his country into its most deadly conflict yet.

Kabila’s rise to power did not stop the cross-border violence between Hutu and Tutsi. By 1998, Rwanda and Uganda were upset that Kabila was unable to fulfill a promise of border protection. They became further incensed upon discovering that Kabila had begun to make alliances with the very Hutu he had previously declared his enemy. Furthermore, Kabila had ordered all Rwandan staff out of his government—and the country. Kabila had also been steadily alienating and angering the people within his own borders, banning other political parties, imprisoning dissenters, bungling opportunities for Western alliances and refusing to cooperate with the United Nations. This was not the Kabila that people hoped would be key to their country’s renaissance. This was rather the Kabila that Che Guevara witnessed in 1961 when he visited the Congo and briefly entertained supporting Kabila’s rebel group. Instead, Guevara dismissed the leader, declaring him incompetent.

With former allies Rwanda and Uganda against him and rising resentment within the Congolese people, Kabila needed to find some allies quickly. With the promise of natural riches, Kabila convinced Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia to align themselves with his army. Over the next few years, a number of other countries moved in and out of the conflict. Many viewed the chaos as an opportunity to take advantage of remaining Congolese resources; groups also acted in self-interest, extracting valuable minerals from Congolese mines on occupied territory. Others joined seeking revenge or retribution for enemy actions elsewhere on the African continent. Meanwhile, rebel groups broke out, most notably the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD), which provided a constant challenge for Kabila. A clash in the Kisangani region led to a breakup of the alliance between Rwanda and Uganda, leading to infighting between the former allies within the borders of the Congo.

In 1999, the first major attempt at a peace treaty occurred in Lusaka, with six countries signing a ceasefire. The two major rebel groups, the RCD and the Ugandan-backed Congolese Liberation Movement, agreed to what became known as the Lusaka Accord. Stipulations of the accord included the disarmament of militia groups, a joint military commission and the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers in the region. It also called for talks, led by a neutral facilitator, to outline the conditions of the political regime that was to be established in the region. Unfortunately, the United Nations Stabilization Mission for Congo (MONUC), which began in 2000 and has since become the most expensive UN mission in the world, was unable to control simmering tension between the groups and to this day struggles to maintain order amongst the many factions.

On January 16, 2001, President Kabila was sitting in his presidential suite when one of his own bodyguards entered the room and fired several shots at him. Kabila attempted to escape but was shot again as he left his office. He was taken to a hospital where he later died of his wounds. Ten days later, Kabila’s son, Joseph, was sworn in as president. Unlike his father, Joseph Kabila remained open to the United Nations. A year later, Joseph negotiated peace and withdrawal deals with both Rwanda and Uganda. Though smaller clashes continued to occur, the central conflict seemed to have subsided. A constitution was ratified in 2006 and Joseph Kabila was declared winner of the DRC’s first free election since 1960.

All is not well, however, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In January 2008, the International Rescue Committee reported that 5.4 million people had died since 1998, either in or as a result of the conflict. In the years since his election, Joseph Kabila’s government has been forced to deal with constant violent outbreaks, in addition to a recurring threat from a Ugandan rebel group and a Rwandan militia. Kabila’s ethics and leadership have come also into question as NGOs and humanitarian organizations continue to issue reports of human rights violations in the country, including the looting of villages and rape of Congolese women by both rebel forces and the Congolese army, as well as corruption on both sides. On New Year’s Day, 2011, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported a mass rape of 33 women in an east Congo village.

Is there hope on the horizon? Four days after the MSF-reported rapes, the DRC announced that 2011 elections will occur on schedule, despite reported delays. Several candidates are rumored to have the intention of running. Only time will tell if a regime change will at last result in a peaceful, empowered independent Congo.

Coltan: From the Congo to you

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world. It is also richly endowed with vast natural resources. Despite ongoing wars, its bountiful water systems and massive forest reserves protect its varied indigenous wildlife: chimpanzees, gorillas, forest elephants, Congo peacocks, Nile crocodiles and leopards. Its mineral resources—gold, diamonds, tin, copper, cobalt ore, petroleum, zinc and coltan (an African abbreviation for columbite-tantalite used as a high-charge conductor for mobile phones, digital games, microprocessors and other electronic equipment)—are coveted worldwide and, in part, fuel the ongoing crisis in the eastern Congo.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, coltan emerged as a globally significant commodity essential to the production of digital technology. As world demand for mobile phones, laptops, PlayStations and digital cameras exploded, tech industries came to increasingly rely on coltan from the Congo, which has an estimated 80% of the world’s reserves.

Warlords and armies in the eastern Congo converted mining operations in small villages into forced labor camps, earning hard currency to finance their military operations. Scores of men stand in muddy pits picking through layers of rock looking for lumps of dull gray coltan as militia stand watch with AK-47 rifles in hand. Sacks of coltan are transported, often on the backs of miners who trek to towns where trading houses prepare the mineral for sale to regional middlemen. From there it’s sold to multinational companies who use the mineral to feed world demand for the latest digital innovation. An estimated $1 million worth of coltan per day is transported out of the Congo. The miners receive little compensation for their part in its excavation.

The issues surrounding conflict-mineral mining has gained worldwide attention and, while tech companies have begun to insist that their suppliers use conflict-free minerals, activist groups are pushing them to be more proactive in sourcing the minerals they purchase.

Weapon of war: Rape in the Congo

Despite the official end of the Congo Wars in 2003, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was recently named by a UN official as the “Rape Capital of the World.” Over 200,000 women have been raped and they are still not safe.

It is well documented that throughout history rape has been used as a weapon of war to break the will of a people. In more recent history, similar strategies were used in East Timor, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Kosovo and Algeria. Rape in the DRC, however, is not considered just a military tactic. Soldiers from all sides of the Congo conflict have stated that rape and sexual slavery are their entitlement. Young girls to elderly women are considered the spoils of war. Recent reports have begun to include sexual brutality toward men and boys as well. Soldiers have been allowed to brutalize with impunity, and few have been prosecuted.

There are grave consequences for victims of sexual violence in the Congo. Stigmatized by chronic medical and psychological problems due to brutal beatings, genital and bodily mutilation, life-threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS, forced pregnancy and infertility, they face rejection by their husbands, families and communities. Women and girls in refugee camps are often regarded as common sexual property and are forced into prostitution in exchange for food, documents or refugee status. Some are able to find their way into hospitals or safe havens established by women’s rights groups. Little has been done to control the extent of this violence.

On October 17, 2010, thousands of women, led by the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s First Lady, marched into the town of Bukavu, one of the country’s most intense conflict areas where 303 women were raped in nearby villages between July 30 and August 2. With increased international awareness and advocacy by women’s and human rights groups, perhaps the tide has begun to turn.

Watch now

Production trailer

Get a preview of the powerful, Pulitzer Prize-winning Ruined in this short video trailer.

Lynn Nottage

Watch Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage issue an inspiring message in celebration of World Theatre Day.



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