Our first-ever production, Kenley Smith's MAIDENS, came to the Darkhorse Theatre July 5-13. The play examined the aftermath of the 1946 Stutthof war crimes trial in Gdansk, Poland. Poster design by the incomparable Lee Moyer.
Playwright Kenley Smith recently was a guest on The Inexplicable Dumb Show! Listen to the podcast here.
MAIDENS is inspired by real people and events. Click below to learn more about Jenny-Wanda Barkmann, Elisabeth Becker and their trial for crimes against humanity.
Jozef, a 10-year-old boy in Gdansk, Poland, has an odd souvenir -- a woman’s shoe. It comes from a hill called Biskupia Gorka, where he has witnessed something on a warm July day that he’ll never forget.
In the spring of 1946, five SS Aufseherinnen (female guards) from the Stutthof concentration camp are sentenced to death by a Soviet/Polish tribunal. Jenny-Wanda Barkmann, infamous for her cruelty and known as the “Beautiful Spectre” by the camp inmates, shares a cell block with 22-year-old Elisabeth Becker; together, they wait out the five weeks until they are scheduled to hang. Elisabeth maintains her innocence and enlists the help of Lech, a Polish guard, to begin crafting a letter-writing campaign to the President of Poland. Jenny, who knows Lech from his previous job, uses that information as leverage to begin a project of her own.
Content warning: Adult content, language, sexuality
Kenley founded Tennessee Playwrights Studio with Molly Breen in 2018 and serves as its director. Recent productions include AKUMA-SHIN in Los Angeles and EMPIRES OF ETERNAL VOID at the University of Memphis.
On writing MAIDENS:
I ran across some images in 2012 of the Stutthof hangings, and one picture of Jenny Barkmann just haunted me. I worked on the first few pages for one afternoon; I didn’t return to it until the spring of 2015, when I was facilitating the Writing Room at Nashville Rep. I finished the first draft in around 10 days just to get Jenny’s voice out of my head. To articulate that kind of raw, unrepentant hatred, I had to delve into the ugliest parts of my own psyche. Even so, I thought then that Nazis were a metaphor, not something we literally face in America today. I was wrong.
Becky Wahlstrom -- actress, writer, teacher and director -- studied at The Chicago Academy for the Arts, graduating with honors. While in Chicago she also studied with Steppenwolf, The Piven Theatre Workshop, Improv Olympics, and The Neo Futurists. Becky worked professionally at various theaters in Chicago before moving to London to study classical theater at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA). She spent the next decade of her life in Los Angeles writing and acting for television, film and theater.
As an educator of the arts, Becky is dedicated to the idea that an arts education serves every aspect of a person’s life. Becky continues to teach and direct young people at both Nashville Children’s Theater and Centennial Performing Arts Studio.
Molly Breen works with many Nashville area theatre companies and also has appeared on stage in Atlanta, Kentucky, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. Favorite roles include Jessie in CRY IT OUT, Agnes White in BUG , Woman C in the stage play and feature film SINGLEVILLE and Lady Capulet in VIOLENT DELIGHTS. She also volunteers as a neurotypical actor with Tandem Troupe — a theatre group for adults with disabilities at Friends Life Community — and is the Program Coordinator for Tennessee Playwrights Studio.
Preston Crowder is a Nashville native and is thrilled to be part of this production of MAIDENS. Previous acting roles include SWEAT (Humanity Theater Project), CLYBOURNE PARK (Circle Players) and WHAT WE LOOK LIKE (Seattle Repertory Theater). Preston received his BFA in Theater from Oberlin College (2016). He is also an associate playwright with Tennessee Playwrights Studio for 2019. Preston was also named Best Featured Actor at the 2017 Circle Players Awards.
Megan Dianne DeWald graduated from APSU with her BFA in acting and directing. Some of her favorite credits include: SPIRIT (Betsy Bell), GHOSTS (Helen Alving), TOSCA (Nun), and TURANDOT (Moon Maiden/Temptress). Megan works as an acting instructor and dialect coach at Franklin Brentwood Arts Academy when she isn't performing around Nashville. She sends all her love to the people in her life that love and support her.
Andy Kanies has been acting professionally for over a decade now. He was born and raised in Nashville and attended Nashville School of the Arts. Andy has also been producing and directing independent theatre since 2011. Local credits include: A CHRISTMAS STORY, HAMLET, RABBIT HOLE, THE GOAT, HOLES, LILLY'S PURPLE PLASTIC PURSE and LYLE THE CROCODILE. He is thrilled to be a part of this powerful production.
Tosha Marie Pendergrast is so excited to be performing again! She has been focusing on choreographing and directing, but is ready to step back onstage herself. You may have seen her critically acclaimed choreography with Circle Players (NEWSIES, HAIR, A CHORUS LINE — director and choreographer, etc.), Street Theatre Company (IN THE HEIGHTS, MARY POPPINS JR., HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH), and CoPlayers Theatre (YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN! — director and choreographer), among others. She is looking forward to opening shows later this summer with choreography for Audience of One Productions (NEWSIES... yes, again) and Nashville Shakespeare Festival (THE TEMPEST and PERICLES). Thank you to Kenley for creating the work!
Becky Walhstrom is excited to be a part of a second new play by Kenley Smith. She graduated from The Chicago Academy for the Arts, and LAMDA Theater Conservatory in London, UK. Theater credits include: EVERY BRILLIANT THING (TWTP), KIMBERLY
AKIMBO (Verge), IN THIS CORNER (NCT), KING LEAR (NSF), DEVIL
SEDAN and SCARECROWS WILL NEVER SEE THE SUNSET (Playhouse Nashville) FRANK ZAPPA'S JOE'S GARAGE (Open Fist), LOOKING FOR NORMAL (Geffen Playhouse)
and FAHRENHEIT 451 (Falcon Theater). TV/film credits include: BRIGHTBURN, MEGAN LEAVEY, NASHVILLE, SOUTH OF HELL, NCIS, MAD MEN, COLD CASE, 24, GREY'S ANATOMY, CSI, BONES, GHOST WHISPERER, CHARMED and JOAN OF ARCADIA.
Abby West is a young actress who has been working in Nashville since 2009. She has performed in a wide variety of roles, from Nathan Lukowski in THE FULL MONTY to Tilly Evans in SHE KILLS MONSTERS. She graduated high school in December and will be attending NYU Tisch School of the Arts in the fall for theatre production and design. She is excited to be a part of this production and hopes you enjoy the show!
Daniel is a professional theatre artist based in Nashville, TN. Recent lighting designs include MR. BURNS (Verge Theatre Company), IF/THEN, andHAIR (both Circle Players). Daniel has worked throughout Nashville for a variety of companies such as Nashville Repertory Theatre, Cirque Dreams, and Southern Stage Productions. He was the production stage manager at Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre from spring 2015 to spring 2018, and the resident lighting designer beginning in 2017. Daniel is also the founding artistic director of The Humanity Theatre Project. He holds a BA in Theatre Performance and Design from Roanoke College.
Alexis is an arts enthusiast who grew up in Nashville by way of Chicago. She recently worked as stage manager on the productions of SISTAS (Tennessee Women's Theatre Project) and SWEAT (Humanity Theatre Project). She has numerous productions to her credit and has worked with the following companies in Nashville: Sista Style Productions, Kennie’s Playhouse Theatre, The American Negro Playwright Theatre, Destiny Theatre Experience, Dream 7 Productions, Circle Players, Street Theatre, Nashville Children's Theatre, Chaffin's Barn and Humanity Theatre Project. She is happy to be a part of this production with Tennessee Playwrights Studio. Enjoy the show and thank you for supporting live theatre!
Jacob Stenson joins Tennessee Playwrights Studio this spring and summer as a marketing intern. A rising senior at Berea College, Jacob is a theater and communication double major. He has worked as a student publicist for the International Student Society in Ireland. With the Berea International Summer Term Jamaica program, he was tasked with researching the era surrounding an assassination attempt on Bob Marley and helping devise a related piece. Most recently, he played the part of Gwendolen in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST with Berea's local Spotlight Theater and worked as a carpenter on Berea College's production
of DISGRACED. Working on TPS’s premiere of MAIDENS, Jacob said that he is “very excited to market a production closely tied to the era of World War II, an era that still holds strong importance in the present day."
William Kyle Odum is from Harlem, GA, but now calls Nashville home. He currently works at the Harpeth Hall School as an Assistant Technical Director, IT specialist, and as a Director. Although Kyle has a degree in directing, he is also a sound designer, light designer, and set designer who has worked with many theatres and schools across the Nashville area including Nashville Children's Theatre, Nashville Rep, Studio Tenn, NSF, TSU, Belmont University, Fisk University, Verge Theatre, and Pipe-line Collective. Recent credits include the world premiere of OPUS: THE TOTALLY REAL NOT MADE UP STORY OF A BOY AND HIS SKELETON, TRUTH/DARE and THE PITCHFORKS with Woven Theatre, SMART PEOPLE and INHERIT THE WIND with the Nashville Rep, KIMBERLY AKIMBO and THE FLICK with Verge Theatre, WELLESLEY GIRL with Pipeline Collective, and GHOST and DRAGONS LOVE TACOS with the Nashville Children's Theatre. He is also a Co-Founder and an Artistic Council member with Woven Theatre Company and serves as a producer on all productions. He holds a BFA in Theatre Directing and is a member of the Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association (TSDCA) and the Association of Sound Designers (ASD). woventheatre.org
After graduating from Lipscomb University in 2012, Sawyer has been working around town as a teacher, director, actor and carpenter. He currently works as the Youth Director for ClassAct Dramatics, the Youth wing of Street Theatre Company. Sawyer has taught in high schools in Nashville, TN, and Dundee, Scotland, as well as the Tennessee Prison for Women as a part of the Lipscomb Life Program. Some of his favorite acting roles have been Antipholus of Ephesus in THE COMEDY OF ERRORS (NSF), George Bailey in A WONDERFUL LIFE (Chaffin's Barn), John Willard in THE CRUCIBLE (Blackbird), Pete/Lounge Singer in DOGFIGHT (Street Theater) and Brian in AVENUE Q (Nashville Rep).
Colleen Garatoni is thrilled to be working with Tennessee Playwrights Studio on MAIDENS. Previous credits include: Costume Design: TOPDOG/ UNDERDOG, BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON for Nashville Repertory Theatre; HENRY V for the Conasauga Shakespeare Coalition; A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (2018) for Nashville Shakespeare Festival; THE WHALE, THE FLICK, KIMBERLY AKIMBO, MR. BURNS A POST ELECTRIC PLAY for Verge Theatre; KODACHROME, CITIZEN, MEN ON BOATS for Actors Bridge Ensemble. Hair and Makeup Design: HAMLET, ANTONY & CLEOPATRA, WINTER’S TALE (2017), COMEDY OF ERRORS (2016) for Nashville Shakespeare Festival. Wig Design: SWEENEY TODD, CHICAGO, DEATH OF A SALESMAN, RAISIN IN THE SUN for Nashville Repertory Theatre;
MAN AND SUPERMAN for Blackbird Theatre. Colleen holds a BA in Theatre from Brenau University.
We are proud to take part in Playwrights Welcome, which offers available tickets to professional playwrights on the day of a performance, free of charge. To receive a ticket through Playwrights Welcome at a TPS production, arrive at the theatre within half an hour of the performance and present your Dramatists Guild membership card and ID.