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The Artist’s Journey: Adrian Roberts - La Jolla Playhouse Blog

The Artist’s Journey: Adrian Roberts

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Each week, The Artist’s Journey will provide an insider look at the creation of a production, from first rehearsal to opening night, through the eyes of one of the show’s key players.

Adrian Roberts is playing Commander Osembenga in Ruined. His credits include Tough Titty (Magic Theatre); Playboy of the West Indies (Lincoln Center Theatre); Top Dog Under Dog (Sacramento Theatre Co.); First Person Shooter (San Francisco Playhouse) and A Raisin in the Sun (Huntington Theatre Co.).

Adrian Roberts

Adrian Roberts

The Ruined cast for the La Jolla Playhouse/Huntington Theatre/Berkley Rep production, directed by Liesl Tommy, gathered in NYC on October 14 for three days of table work before coming to the Playhouse for rehearsals. Meeting everybody for the first time was great; we all seemed to click right away. I think it’s really important for the cast to be close, not only because we’re going to be together for a long haul, but especially when dealing with the subject matter of this play.

Ruined deals with the complicated armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the war being waged against women with sexual violence. We started out by watching a few documentaries. The first was King Leopold’s Ghost, an adaptation of Adam Hochschild’s book about Belgian King Leopold the II. He looted the Congo of its natural resources in the late 19th century by enslaving the Congolese and wreaking all manner of human rights abuses and atrocities on them. His exploits paved the way for what is happening in the Congo today.

We also watched a movie about Patrice Lumumba, a nationalist hero who helped the Congo gain its independence and how his assassination irrevocably changed the path of the country from hope to despair. Another documentary was extremely moving — The Greatest Silence, about how rape victims deal with the sex crimes they have experienced. It was a very sobering film. I learned what it means for a woman caught in the Congo conflict to be ruined. It made me very, very sad. I could tell by looking at the men around the room that they felt as I did. After watching the film, I have to admit that found it hard to believe in humanity. But that is the joy of the play — that despite the horror, there is hope.

I felt by doing that bonding table work in NYC we were well on our way. Thus we have begun our journey as a cast and also as individuals. Rehearsals have been intense so far, but everybody has jumped right in, including our fantastic musicians. Soji and Alvin are playing Soka music, which captures the fantastic energy and spirit of the characters in the play. Our choreographer Randy is teaching us to dance Congolese-style, so we’re having a lot of fun using muscles we’ve never used before!

I feel honored to be a part of this project, and to be working with all these wonderfully talented people to bring to life the stories of these women and the Congo. It is important work — it’s the reason why I wanted to become an actor in the first place.