The story takes place in 17th century Mexico, at a time when the Spanish were the colonizers, the Aztecs and other native people the colonized. We first meet Juana in the convent, happily studying and writing poetry. But that's taken away from her when some of her poems are published, causing the church to feel threatened. Padre Núñez, previously her friend and supporter, orders that all of her books, as well as her paper and pen, be taken from her. Ordered to cross-stitch with her fellow nuns, she still finds a way to write, stitching the words of one of her poems:
What wild ambition drives usWho knew cross-stitching could be so revolutionary? Juana refuses to remove the stitches and goes on a hunger strike, causing her to hallucinate scenes from her life. The present morphs into the past and back again, as we learn how Juana came to the convent from the Viceroy's court. Hint: it involves betrayal by a man she loved and believed loved her (and maybe he did). When offered a compromise by the Padre, she refuses, swearing to never write again. She will write free and uncensored, or not at all.
To forget ourselves, our past?
|Sor Juana (Thallis Santesteban) and her fellow nuns|
(photo by Paula Keller)
|the Vicereine (Sun Mee Chomet) and Juana|
(Thallis Santesteban) at court (photo by Paula Keller)
An important element of any TTT show, musical or play, is sound and music. Joining TTT for the first time in this role is Robert Everest, singing and playing beautiful Spanish ballads and adding the soundscape to the story.
Sor Juana was a women ahead of her time (and another example of a radical feminist nun). But maybe all women are ahead of our time, maybe that's how time advances - by women demanding that their voices be heard. We need this message now more than ever. And BTW Sor Juana's "sin" is pride. i.e., being a strong, smart woman who isn't afraid to speak up. A sin women are still paying for (see any woman running for president).
The Sins of Sor Juana continues at Open Book on Washington Avenue in downtown Minneapolis through June 9. (Pro tip: get there when doors open for seating 30 minutes prior to showtime to save your seat, then go get a coffee or other treat at the coffee shop downstairs.)