Silent Voices is a powerful poignant war crimes story that mirrors the views and emotions of actual victims of the Northern Uganda war (which do relate in many ways to the victims of the Rwanda genocide and the Kenyan’s post-election violence). It explores how victims have been ignored in the constant calls to “forgive” and “reconcile” at the expense of justice. Through the protagonist, (Mother – a symbolic representation of life and death) Silent Voices examines what good citizens can be driven into by unhealthy policies.
Play Inspiration and Journey
As an Acholi woman born and raised in the region, Silent Voices Playwright ADONG Lucy Judith was one of the young people who walked every evening to spend the night at the infamous Gulu bus park referenced in the viral “KONY 2012” video. Adong attended the high school from which 44 girls were abducted by Joseph Kony and his LRA rebels in 1991 (Sacred Heart Girls Boarding School in Gulu). These horrifying events are deeply personal to her, and yet she was fortunate: due to miracle of a chance, she was able to leave war-ravaged Gulu for college and thereafter work in Kampala. As a result, she knew only the feeling of terror, but was not aware of the bitterness, betrayal and injustice that so many Acholi survivors feel towards local and national government leaders.
In 2006 Adong returned to Gulu and began to interview the men, women and children who survived Kony’s reign of terror. She visited rehabilitation centers for child soldiers in Gulu to study how theater was being used in the psychosocial therapy of the children who filled the ranks of Kony’s army, one of the largest child armies in human history. She also listened to the anger and frustration expressed by victims about the Amnesty Act, which they felt ‘rewarded’ perpetrators for confessing to often heinous crimes. So rather than write a research thesis that would gather dust on the shelves of Makerere University Library, she felt so strongly that these stories – these war-weary yet defiant voices – needed to be heard and witnessed by the world. This is why she wrote Silent Voices. The title isn’t a reference to the people of Northern Uganda, whose voices are powerful, raw and stunning. Rather, it speaks to the repressive silencing these victims feel that their government is forcing on them in the name of forgiveness.”
Developed at the Sundance Theater Lab 2010, Silent Voices had its world premiere at the National Theater of Uganda in 2012 funded by STICHTING DOEN (DOEN FOUNDATION). This production brought victims, political, religious and cultural leaders, members of the Amnesty Commission and transitional justice leaders together for critical, transformative conversations about the compensation of victims and the National Peace and Reconciliation Bill. For many in the Kampala audience, the atrocities in Gulu were unfamiliar and shocking. It was stunning to realize that so many in southern Uganda were oblivious to the horrors taking place in the north. The performance was a huge critical success, playing to sold-out audiences.
Silent Voices English Production 2012
ADONG Lucy Judith
Playwright & Producer
SSEBAGGALA Andrew Jedidia
Playwright & Producer
ADONG Lucy Judith
Winner of the 2012 Prestigious Fulbright Scholarship for Film Making at Temple University, ADONG Lucy Judith is an acclaimed Ugandan Playwright/Filmmaker of her times, who lives in her home country. She is a graduate of B.A Arts (Hons.) with the subjects of Drama, Literature and African (Luo) Language and a First Class Diploma in Music, Dance and Drama both of Makerere University, where she currently lectures Film and Media Studies in the Department of Performing Arts and Film.
In October 2011, Adong was the first Ugandan and lone African playwright, whose play Just Me, You and THE SILENCE, a fictional account of event around the anti-gay bill of Uganda 2009, won a participation place in the famous New York City based black theatre festival, The New Black Fest among four other plays by African-American playwrights. In the same year, Adong was the lone African Playwright that won the London based Royal Court Theatre International Residency for Emerging Playwrights that ran from June 30th to July 23rd 2011, where she developed the same play, Just Me, You and THE SILENCE that participated in the The New Black Fest. During this residency, she joined 9 other international playwrights from U.S, Germany, Lebanon, Cuba, India, Lithuania, Georgia, Poland and Mexico, together experiencing a number of London based theatre productions including productions from the acclaimed West End.
Just Me, You and THE SILENCE has recently been selected to feature at the September 2012 TRAMEDAUTORE, a theater festival in Milan dedicated to theatre and new dramaturgy from African countries. It will be directed and performed by an African-Italian director and cast respectively.
In 2010, Adong was selected to the New York acclaimed Robert Redford founded Sundance Institute Theatre Program, East Africa Lab with her play project, Silent Voices. The play, Silent Voices, based on interviews with victims of the Northern Uganda conflict, raises some crucial discussion points about forgiveness versus justice as peace and conflict resolution approaches. In April 2011, she was invited by Sundance Institute Theatre Program in collaboration was 651 Arts, an arts organization that supports African stories, for a follow up visit to New York City, where she attended a number of workshops and productions in Broadway as well as Off-Broadway.
In 2007, she was also the lone Ugandan screenwriter employed on the first Kenyan M-Net original television drama series, The Agency alongside five writers from Kenya and Tanzania. The series aired on M-Net in 2009.
In the same year 2009, Adong was among 20 East African screenwriters selected for the M-Net East African Screenwriters Workshop aimed at increasing the creation and production of television drama series in East Africa. During this workshop, she created a television drama series, Seekers Unlimited based on the popular Ugandan culture commonly known as ‘detoothing’ and subsequently shot its pilot episode in 2010.
Adong is intrigued by how low human beings can stoop and loves to write about the dark side of man, which she believes if ignored the world would get darker. In 2006, ADONG wrote her first short film script Shadow of Tainted Soul based on a true story of a family caught up in the dilemma of the northern Uganda conflict. This script was among the 16 film scripts that won the French Film Fund out of 40 submissions from around Africa. Together with two other scripts, Shadow of Tainted Soul was later adapted into a feature film Imani directed by renowned Ugandan film director and producer Caroline Kamya. The film was nominated and screened at the popular German Berlinale International Film Festival, the African Movies Academy (AMA) and lmany other film festivals around the world.
Adong is also an Alumna of the Maisha Film Lab, an East Africa-Asia film Lab initiated by Mira Nira, the renowned Hollywood director of Salaam Bombay, Moonsoon Wedding among many other notable films. During the Maisha Film Lab of 2008, her script project was one of 3 out of 9 projects that were shot yielding a 15-minute film, DownCast, which she directed. She has also written and directed a couple of NGO films, namely Dangerous Opinions commissioned by UNICEF and Together Fighting Hepatis E commissioned by International Rescue Committee.
Adong’s writing career began in theatre and was followed by her full time scriptwriting job on the popular Ugandan radio serial drama, Rock Point 256 (2005). Her writing career blossomed to new heights earning her a lucrative independent contract to put together a radio serial drama on Human Rights, Democracy, Good Governance and the Rule of Law for Southern Sudan, River Yei Junction (2007). She is also currently writing a 26 part Modern Family Planning awareness radio drama series commissioned by the Hopkins Communication Partners (HCP) The Nurse Mildred Drama (2011-2012).
Adong’s writing is however not limited to the performing arts. She is a published writer with Macmillan and Fountain Publishers with a number of children’s storybooks in her Mother Tongue Acholi as well as an Acholi-English bilingual dictionary.
With Silent Voices as his first work in an African country, Dennis Hilton-Reid has worked in theater, entertainment and academia for more than 25 years. As a graduate of both the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Yale School of Drama, he is a skilled performer and director with experience in every genre from the classics to comedy.
As a director working both regionally and internationally, Hilton-Reid has developed a technique known for inspiring great performances and production quality from the most diverse talents. Known as an ‘actor’s director,’ he is especially skilled at working with substantially large casts to collaboratively utilize technology, music and dance. He has directed plays at the National Theater in Uganda, SUNY Purchase, Fordham University, Powerhouse Theater, Avalon Theater; Arc Lite Theater; AADA and EST. His short film, “You Cannot Eat Art,” featured his work as an actor and writer, as well as director. In addition to writing screenplays and dramatic works, he is also a published essayist.
Hilton-Reid is also a skilled performer. He was awarded a Jerome Fellowship for his one-man show “Mandingo of Manhattan,” as a resident artist at the Mabou Mines suite. He has performed at regional theaters including the Spolleto Festival; The Cidermill Playhouse; Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park; the Guthrie; the Kennedy Center, Yale Rep; Voice and Vision (Smith College); and Rites and Reason (Brown University). In New York he has performed at HERE, NADA, the Public Theater, CSC, La Mama, Ohio Theater, En Garde Arts and Mabou Mines. He originated the role of Nabo in ‘Las Meninas’ by Lynn Nottage. In addition to his stage work, he has appeared in independent films, commercials, and print.
Hilton-Reid has also worked as a professor at Vassar College, Fordham University, and Columbia University. He has conducted private classes at Stella Adler and other studios. He was specifically invited to teach a Chekhov workshop at the Theatro-Ergastirion Drama School in Athens, Greece, integrating his work on Emotional Core Release Voice work. He is a sought-after coach for movement, voice and audition techniques.
Originally born in the UK, Hilton-Reid has lived in London, Hong Kong, Wales, and Indonesia. He currently resides in New York City.
“Live violently in your art to be serene in your life.” - Dennis Hilton-Reid
SSEBAGGALA Andrew Jedidiah
Andrew Lwanga Ssebaggala comes to Silent Voice project with a rich background in administration and finance management. He is the Founding Director and vision bearer of House Of Talent East Africa Ltd, an Entertainment and Performing Arts Company.
Andrew holds a Diploma in Music, Dance and Drama, Bacherlos Degree in Human Resource Management and is currently pursuing a Postgraduate Studies in Business Administration (MBA) in Marketing at Makerere University. Andrew doesn’t only sit behind the management desk, he is an actor, singer, director and creator.
Andrew has worked as an Executive Officer in charge of 3 Sida (Swedish International Development Agency) funded Artistic Projects. EATI (East African Theatre Institute), PACSEA-Performing Arts Cooperation Between Sweden and East Africa and Dramatool. During his time his majo achievements were organizing Ugandan Artists that represented the country in Theatre Festivals in Bagamoyo, Tanzania (2006), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2008), Swedish Storytelling Festival, Gothenburg, Sweden (2007) and Sigana Motomoto Storytelling Festival Nairobi, Kenya (2010).