UNL theater professor to stage reading of controversial Ugandan play

2013-01-25T11:00:00Z 2013-11-03T21:17:54Z UNL theater professor to stage reading of controversial Ugandan playBy JEFF KORBELIK / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

When Sarah Imes Borden saw a report on MSNBC about British theater producer David Cecil’s arrest in Uganda for offending the country’s Ministry of Ethics, she was moved to do something about it.

Cecil’s crime: He staged a play about homosexuality in the African country.

Imes Borden, an adjunct theater professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, had just finished writing a book about theater in dangerous circumstances.

“I thought, ‘This is dangerous drama ... and I’m going to find them,'" she said.

And so she did.

She connected with Cecil through Facebook and volunteered to present the American debut reading of British playwright Beau Hopkins’ controversial play, “The River and the Mountain” at 7 p.m. Sunday at Saint Paul United Methodist Church. The reading is free and open to the public.

“River” explores the story of a gay Ugandan businessman who faces violent reactions from his family and his colleagues after he comes out at a party following a promotion.

Charges were dropped against Cecil, who was arrested in September, but Uganda still is trying to pass through its Parliament an anti-homosexuality bill. In its original form, the bill sought to punish with the death penalty those who were gay. The penalty reportedly has been reduced to life in prison, but there has been no public confirmation of it. That’s expected in February.

The bill has become known around the world as the “Kill the Gays” bill.

Imes Borden said she hopes to shed light on “The River and the Mountain” while exposing the underlying social issues.

“There’s lots of reasons to present this play,” she said. “It’s not only about (exposing) the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill. It’s about corruption and political activism and being a moral person.”

The Lincoln reading will feature Darin Hemmer as Samson, the gay character. Other performers are Daniel Kubert, Max Antoine, Bill Bryant, Lisa Steiner, Brittanie Witter and Brodrick Kudron, with special appearances by UNL English Professor Kwakiutl L. Dreher and Seattle actor Jeff Kingsbury.

“At the end of the day, this is the right thing for me. … To make certain this play lives on here,” Imes Borden said. “I think people in Lincoln are ready and willing to have these kind of discussions.”

After Lincoln, Imes Borden will present four more readings of the play in March in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Those will include playwright and Ugandan actor Okuyo Joel Atiku Prynce.

She’s raising money through kickstarter.com -- search for “The River and the Mountain” -- to fund the East Coast readings.

For more information about the Lincoln reading, visit facebook.com/TheRiverandtheMountainUs.

Reach Jeff Korbelik at 402-473-7213 or jkorbelik@journalstar.com, or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/LJSjeffkorbelik.

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