Coming "Full Circle"

Edith Billups | 11/23/2009, 3:29 p.m.

In Full Circle, Actress Finds Similarities between Oppressed Berliners and African Americans

Actress Jessica Dukes says that playing a 20-something German student in The Wooly Mammoth€ Theatre Company€s current production, Full Circle, can be a bit daunting, but the 29-year-old actress said the role is rewarding, nonetheless.

€It is a complex role, but in my research, I found that the East German struggle was similar to the struggle of Blacks in this country,€ says Dukes, who plays East Berliner Dulle Griet, in the comedy written by playwright Charles L. Mee.The play commemorates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and is innovative in that the cast and audience move from scene to scene throughout the Wooly Mammoth€s 7th and E St., Northwest facility.

Dukes, a graduate of Frostburg University in Frostburg, Md., and Catholic University in Washington, D.C., has been seen previously in three other Wooly Mammoth productions, including Antebellum, FeverFew and Eclipsed. In Antebellum, Dukes played an African American in Berlin 1939, when the Nazis were rising to power.

In Eclipsed, the Riverdale, Md., native played a Liberian soldier who loves to kill. As Dulle Griet, Dukes plays an innocent and almost nave character who is thrilled about the wall coming down, noting €We can change the world.€ €She, like a lot of the East Berliners, has been oppressed and she seems nave because she is seeing a New World. But, Dulle has more common sense than any other characters,€ Dukes says.

Howard Shalvitz, artistic director for the Woolly Mammoth says the theatre prides itself on being provocative and edge-cutting, and Mee€s political satire is one that one audience member called €an experience.€

Amidst the chaos of the wall€s demise, two women, a German student and an American socialite, launch a madcap chase to save an abandoned baby and outrun the vultures of both communism and capitalism. In this quirky setting, Mee also manages to ask questions regarding economic justice and the role of arts in an era of transformation.

For Darron West, a sound engineer who traveled from New York to see the production, €Mee takes a lot of different characters and the event is about bringing these people together. Usually, people are so buried in trying to follow the narrative, but Mee challenges the audience to see what is buried enough. He presents these ideas and poses a series of questions.€

For Maya Jackson, another African American actress in the production, €I was three-year-old when the Berlin Wall came down, so I didn€t know a lot about that event. With this play, I realize how big of an event it was. The East Berliners were cut off from the West Berliners and didn€t have the same opportunities.

It reminds you of the Jewish people who lived in ghettos, and the people under apartheid in South Africa.€
For those attending the show, be prepared to wear comfortable shoes as half of the play takes place onstage, while the remainder takes place in different parts of the facility.

Full Circle plays through Sun., Nov. 29th. For tickets, visit www.woolymammoth.net.