by Erin Layton
"A layered, powerhouse performance where every gesture, mannerism, regional accent and posture fully captures the essence of these people." - Stephanie Rodriguez, StageBuddy.com
★★★★ “[Layton] is riveting to watch.” - Edinburgh News
★★★★★ “Breath-taking. Uncompromising Artistry Productions have valiantly given us a drama to remember.” - Female Arts
★★★★★ “Layton sustains the highest level of performance throughout” - The Public Reviews
“Layton’s physical transformations are a masterclass in acting, nuanced and complete” - Fringe Review UK OUTSTANDING SHOW
★★★★ "A tight, well-structured script... marvelous performance" - The Scotsman
THE IMMIGRANTS. 1665. An Irish immigrant is forcibly removed from his native land to set sail on a slave ship heading for Barbados. An unlikely bond is established on his journey across the Atlantic where Africa meets Ireland. 1900.
A white landowner's wife and her black maid are confronted with opportunities to pursue freedom in post-abolition Missouri.
Friendship spans the constraints of time and space as both of these histories converge in an unlikely story about individuals bridging the wide abyss of race and solidarity.
MAGDALEN is a fictional exploration of the women and children who passed through the
Magdalene Laundries as slave laborers to orders of nuns in mid twentieth century Ireland, and
the complicity of the church and society that tried to keep their stories hidden.
MAGDALEN made its original debut at the New York International Fringe Festival in the summer of 2012 to sold out houses and rave reviews by the theatre community — "the performance of the festival" (H uffington Post ).
Since then, MAGDALEN had a highly successful international debut at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe "A well crafted, sympathetic piece of theatre ****" (The Scotsman) , and through national Fringe Festivals in CA, Off-Broadway at Theatre Row through the United Solo Festival for two years in a row and in and around the Tri-state area including venues in Westchester, universities in the Bronx and Long Island and with the New York Irish Center in Long Island City.
May 2010: I boarded a plane to Ireland with a notepad and pen, a couple maps, very few belongings and email correspondence from Mari Steed who assisted me with the first leg of my research: finding abandoned Laundry sites in Dublin. I was both fascinated and deeply grieved by what I’d learned about the history of these church run institutions and felt driven to create something based on the lives of the women and children who worked there.
I stayed in a dusty hostel on St. George Street for one week on a specific solo expedition I was on a mission to “meet” the Magdalene Laundry women. While I couldn’t physically speak with the Laundry survivors, (their identities and stories are protected by an advocacy organization called Justice for the Magdalenes), I gave my imagination free reign, crawling the streets of Dublin, piecing together stories from encounters with homeless women in little, dark alleyways off Temple Bar, to a man who ran a youth hostel for heroin addicts out of an abandoned Laundry, to a taxi driver, to the protester on a hunger strike outside of a Catholic Church on Drumcondra Road.
I allowed everything I experienced and everyone I met to inform my knowledge of the Laundries and of Ireland. When I returned to the States, I felt an immense weight, a responsibility to be a voice to the voiceless and to use the only medium I knew to craft together an important and compelling narrative through theatre and performance.
I was highly aware through the entire development and research process that somewhere
out there are real people, survivors who are deeply scarred by their experiences in the
In an effort to balance the conflicting desires to remain sensitive to the real people who were affected while giving myself creative license to write an unflinching play, I did not manipulate the historical facts or push to conduct interviews of any kind. All of the characters in MAGDALEN are fictional, and should not be misconstrued as real people.
The characters in my play are women and girls who would have been incarcerated in the Laundries in the early to mid twentieth century are built from the ground up, carefully constructed from months of research, my travels abroad, intense development and audience feedback. I sought to craft a language that would make the church authority characters sound as persuasive as they were oppressive or create moments that are as mundane as they are filled with longing and desire, an unwed mother scrubbing dirty linen as she’s dreaming of the life she once had.
The voice of Ireland is translated into a strong, male character someone who was complicit in the secrecy and shame of the Magdalene Laundries but also blindly uninformed, never truly knowing the depth of abuse that happened beneath the convent walls.
When I first heard about the Magdalene Laundries I was interested in exploring its roots in
ancient history, something belonging to centuries old behaviors and beliefs. I recall
thinking that something so incredibly traumatizing and oppressive to thousands of women
and children could not be part of our present.
Then I read an article in the Irish Times from 1993 about the discovery of a mass grave on the grounds of a Dublin convent, thousands of bodies identified as the Magdalene Laundry women. I then learned that the last Laundry shut down not in the late 18th century or early 19th century, but in 1996. Last year a mass grave was discovered on the grounds of Mother/Baby Home in County Galway, 800 bodies identified as the orphaned children of the women who worked in a neighboring Magdalene Laundry.
Atrocities like these toward women and children are universal, reported in news headlines around the world, some even in our own cities. MAGDALEN is important because it is a global narrative about today. Stories like MAGDALEN bind us together as people, broadening our awareness of the world and of each other, challenging us to consider our individual and collective roles and how we respond to human suffering if even as a singular performer on stage or as an audience member.
Through the making of MAGDALEN , I have embraced my role as a solo performing artist and writer who seeks to represent the shunned, hidden voice, longing to shine a light on a dark and broken world.
“Be strong, and love each other, and the world will surely change."
1997, Gavriela Maxime Ze'eva Person (Amy), Adoptee, Magdalene Laundry, Celtic Sister
Requiescat en Pace
Writer/Performer: MAGDALEN (2013 United Solo Festival - Winner Best Documentary Script, 2013 Santa Cruz Fringe Festival, FringeNYC 2012, Kumble Theater, Ryan Repertory Theater); two-person adaptation of THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE (Off-Broadway, Off-Broadway Alliance Nominee), LET US GO THEN, YOU AND I (Undergroundzero Theatre Festival), WEIRD SISTERS (East Third Ensemble), PITCH (East Coast Artists, LaMaMa), DARGER (Stage Left Studios), PEARL MERCHANT (Threads Theatre Company), among others. Regional credits include CANDLES TO THE SUN (Actors Theatre of Louisville), SALTWATER (International Theatre Collective), HECUBA, THE RIVALS (St. Louis Shakespeare Company); guest performing artist with Long Island University's Performing Arts Dept. in their productions of FIRES IN THE MIRROR, THE GLASS MENAGERIE and TWELFTH NIGHT (The Kumble Theater). She has facilitated workshops in Suzuki and Viewpoints and has trained extensively with Ann Bogart’s SITI Company. Erin’s one woman play, MAGDALEN is published by Indie Theater Now in their Best of Fringe 2012 and Plays By Women Collection.
Script Development and Director: Artistic Associate of Rising Phoenix Repertory, and served as Interim Artistic Director for Roots&Branches Theater. For the past two years, Julie was selected by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council as an Artist-in-Residence with the SPARC program - Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide. In collaboration with oral historian Liza Zapol, Julie conceived and directed SENIORS AND THE CITY - original theater works based on the life-stories of the community at St. Peter's Church senior center. Other recent directing credits include MAGDALEN at United Solo Festival, FringeNYC, Santa Cruz Fringe, Kristen Palmer’s THE STRAY DOG (Rising Phoenix Rep CINO Nights), and the ensemble-created LET'S EAT! and GOING DUTCH (Co-Director, Roots&Branches); Assistant Director: LADY (Rattlestick), RABBI RABINO (PS 122), TOO MUCH MEMORY (Rising Phoenix Rep/NYTW). As an actor, Julie has worked with 3-Legged Dog, The Women's Project, EST, Stillpoint Productions, HERE Arts Center, Steppenwolf, the DC and NYC Fringe Festivals, and has presented her solo show, REMEDIES, at the Ontological-Hysteric Theatre, and as part of the Estrogenius Festival. Film: HOW TO MAKE MOVIES AT HOME - Domani Vision Award Winner. BFA in Acting from The Theatre School, DePaul University, Chicago. www.juliekline.com