Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-11-27
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Lovers on the Lam: Barbara Lhota Talks about Los Desaparecidos
by Mary Shen Barnidge

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Don't be fooled by the title. Los Desaparecidos is not a grim sociodrama recounting atrocities in South American dictatorships. In this case, it is the 'vanished' who engineer their own disappearance in Barbara Lhota's swashbuckling romance set amid the repressive society of 16th-century Spain.


Los Desaparecidos. Photos by Beth Cummings


Los Desaparecidos is the winner of an international playwrighting competition, now in its second year, sponsored by the Joining Sword And Pen branch of the Babes With Blades—an all-female performance group dedicated to expanding opportunities for women in the field of stage combat. The eligible scripts were required to include, in addition to plenty of swordplay and fisticuffs, a replication of the scene depicted in the painting by José Ribera entitled Duelo de Mujeres or Duel of Women. ( The image chosen for last year's contest, based on 19th-century artist Emile Bayard's Affair of Honor, resulted in several actresses stripping to the waist before proceeding to slash at each other with rapiers. )

The challenge for Lhota, then, was to forge a coherent dramatic narrative incorporating a battle in a public square, fought by two women garbed in classical robes and armed with shields and espadas ( Spanish single-swords ) , while a crowd of surly commoners bear witness to the altercation. And since the Babes With Blades troupe boasts a number of trained female fighters—none of whom would be happy at being excluded from the martial action—this must not be an isolated spectacle, but one of many complications leading to the clash of steel on steel.

Two sisters of noble birth comprise the central characters in our play—Isabel Garcia de la Barrera and Diana Garcia Diaz, the former married and the latter, widowed. Isabel's straitlaced mother-in-law has been demanding grandchildren, but her husband cannot bring himself to fulfill his marital duties, instead spending his time with his 'business associates' in the city. Compounding his young wife's predicament is her curious attraction to her newly-hired maidservant, the hoydenish Eliana. In the meantime, Diana has her own problems, having fallen for her Muslim dressmaker, Antonio—a match likewise forbidden, despite the suitor's having long ago converted to Christianity.

Windy City Times: Are you, yourself, trained in stage combat?

Barbara Lhota: Not at all. When I was in graduate school at Brandeis University, David Woolley came to teach stage combat to the acting students. Unfortunately, it wasn't offered to the playwrights. We were expected to analyze the geometric structure of the absurdists and things like that.

WCT: You were part of the graduate playwrighting program in grad school, then?

BL: I wrote my first play when I was an acting major undergraduate at Wayne State University. It was later performed in the studio with my roommate directing. The professors seemed more impressed with my writing than with my acting, and frankly, I liked it better, too.

WCT: How did you hear about the Joining Sword And Pen competition? And what attracted you to try writing a play with such strict prerequisites?

BL: My partner, Lisa [ Herceg ] , has worked with the Babes throughout the years, so I've seen their shows, and I think their mission is totally empowering! I was at one of their benefit events, when Dawn [ Alden, founder of the troupe ] held up this Spanish painting and announced a call for scripts inspired by this image.

WCT: And you jumped at the chance?

BL: Oh, no! I didn't consider myself the appropriate playwright for this contest at all. Some of my plays had physical confrontations in them, but never sword fights—and certainly not in the context of a full-length period play.

WCT: So did you start out to write a fight play, or did you write a romantic comedy and then add the violence?

BL: Actually, it all came together symbiotically. I was writing specifically for the Babes, yes. But when I began reading about 16th- and 17th-century Spain, I was struck by the similarities to things happening today in the world community—especially the persecution of Jews, Muslims and homosexuals by religious groups looking to enhance their political power. Then I asked myself, 'Why would two women fight?' Growing up in Detroit, I saw lots of schoolyard fights, and none of them were over boys. They were mostly about a friend's feelings being hurt, or somebody 'messing' with somebody's sister or brother. That's when I decided that the characters and dynamics in my play would focus on siblings. I could easily imagine a woman fighting for her sister.

WCT: So the play is based in historical fact?

BL: It's true that homosexuals were not only suppressed, but punished severely, at that time. Where I took some liberties was in the equating of lesbianism with witchcraft, so that poor Isabel has to undergo exorcism. It's more likely that in the 16th century, homosexuality in women, as opposed to men, would probably go unnoticed almost altogether.

WCT: How have your gay sensibilities affected your artistic vision?

BL: I think everything about me—being from Detroit, being the youngest child, being short—affects my artistic vision in some way. The play deals with being gay, but it deals more with intolerance and the need to overcome intolerance. The prejudice of 16th- [ and ] 17th-century Christians against Muslims, the post 9/11 prejudice in our own country, the hostility faced by my own sisters' interracial relationships during the 1970s and '80s—they aren't so different.

WCT: So we've got a play with three gay and two het lovers. They're all being helped,or hassled, by well-meaning relatives. They can be imprisoned, starved or burnt at the stake. Everybody waves sharpened blades at each other on the slightest provocation. And it all ends happily?

BL: [ Laughs ] It sounds so dark and dreary, doesn't it? But I see it as more of a romantic adventure. I set out to make it entertaining—and there's a lot of humor—but I still wanted to explore some serious issues. I hope that's what I've done, even with the shifts in tone.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

About Face to run 'The Gulf' 2019-12-06 - About Face Theatre continues its 2019-20 season with the Chicago premiere of Audrey Cefaly's award-winning drama The Gulf, running Jan. 9-Feb. 15, 2020, ...

Gay News

Chay Yew departing Victory Gardens Theater 2019-12-05 - The Victory Gardens Theater board of directors and Artistic Director Chay Yew announced plans for Yew's departure from Victory Gardens at the end ...

Gay News

Hell in a Handbag Productions to hold annual "Hams4Hams" Holiday Fundraiser 2019-12-04 - CHICAGO ( December 4, 2019 ) — Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to bring back its annualHams4Hams fundraiser during the company's ...

Gay News

Black Ensemble Theater announces 44th Season 2019-12-03 - Chicago, IL—Black Ensemble Theater's Founder and CEO Jackie Taylor announces its 44th Season: The 2020 Season of Change. The 2020 Season includes tributes ...

Gay News

Congo Square Theatre to present rare production of Day of Absence 2019-12-02 - CHICAGO ( December 2, 2019 ) — Congo Square Theatre Company, well known for its powerful portrayal of African American classics and gripping ...

Gay News

Jewish theater arts conference takes place 2019-12-02 - The Alliance for Jewish Theatre ( AJT ) hosted the largest Jewish theater arts conference in the country Nov. 3-5 in Chicago. ...

Gay News

Chicago drag production in Louisville Dec. 21 2019-12-01 - For the past decade, Snow White and the Seven Drag Queens has played to sold out crowds in Boystown, at the SOHO House ...

Gay News

'I Am Going to Die Alone...' through Dec. 6 2019-11-30 - Prop Thtr is continuing its 2019-20 season with the world premiere of I Am Going To Die Alone And I Am Not Afraid—a ...

Gay News

Study reveals impact of storefront theaters 2019-11-29 - The Chicago-based Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation ( the Foundation )—an organization that offers unrestricted grants to Chicago theater companies with budgets under ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW The First Deep Breath 2019-11-26 - Playwright: Lee Edward Colston II At: Victory Gardens Theatre at the Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: and 773-871-3000; $31-$65. Runs through: ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.