Our first-ever production, Kenley Smith's MAIDENS, comes to the Darkhorse Theatre this July. Directed by Janet Jones, the play examines the aftermath of the 1946 Stutthof war crimes trial in Gdansk, Poland. Poster design by the incomparable Lee Moyer.
MAIDENS is inspired by actual people and events. Click below to learn more.
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.
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.
is a Nashville based actor, writer and director. She has also worked as an actor and director in San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, Tampa, and Orlando and served as the co-founder and artistic director of the Florida Academy of Performing Arts and the founder and artistic director of Take2TheStage in Tampa, FL. She is a graduate of Florida State University and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She has three favorite roles -- wife, mother and stepmom.
On directing MAIDENS:
I am thrilled to be trusted to direct this insightful, raw and tender piece of work Kenley Smith has created. I'm humbled and beyond excited about what we can bring to Nashville's already thriving theatre community with the world premiere of this play.
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.