A woman’s relationships with her mother and girlfriend show that those closest to you are not always the most understanding.
The effects of war on personal relationships is the focus of “Unseen,” which runs from Thursday until March 2 in Macgowan Hall. The play follows war photographer Mia and her girlfriend Derya in Istanbul after Mia is found unconscious at the location of a massacre. When Mia’s mother, Jane, rushes from America to her daughter’s aid, the three women must manage their personal connections amid the ongoing war. Director Jean Carlo Yunen, a second-year MFA student, said the play shows how war can cause tension and misunderstanding among people who perceive it differently.
“The core of (the play) is about these three women who have a hard time connecting to each other, and how to make someone really see you – how to go beyond all this hurt that you might have,” Yunen said. “To me, it is a love story and it’s about how to truly, truly connect with someone.”
In the play, Turkey serves as the gate between the Middle East and the West, with Mia herself teetering between the safety of being a photographer documenting the imminent danger surrounding her but not directly partaking in it, Yunen said. The three women’s nationalities – Mia and Jane hail from America, whereas Derya is Turkish – affect how each perceives the conflict in Turkey because of their upbringings and understandings of privilege, Yunen said. This causes turmoil between the three women as they try to comprehend each person’s perspective, Yunen added.
Fourth-year theater student Eliza Faloona, who portrays Mia’s mother, said one of the play’s major conflicts occurs between Mia and Derya. At one point, Derya tells Mia that the people of Istanbul don’t need white women telling them how oppressed they are, causing Mia to grapple with justifying her purpose in Istanbul as a war photographer, Faloona said. Mia experiences guilt because of the suffering she witnesses as a war photographer, which Yunen said leads her to shield herself from what she sees, which makes it harder for her to accept others into her life.
Faloona said much of the play also focuses on how Mia is impacted by the suffering around her. Yunen said “Unseen” mostly centers on how Mia’s experience of photographing war affects how she feels as a person who has the privilege to be able to leave behind war-torn areas and the people she photographs.
Meanwhile, Jane reflects the stereotypical tourist who is thrust into an unfamiliar culture, said first-year theater student and stage manager Tatum Anderson. There are moments where Jane learns new information about cultures she is unfamiliar with, such as Arabic poetry, which makes it harder for her to understand Mia’s circumstances in Istanbul, Anderson said. Jane has difficulty comprehending the violence in Istanbul – a world so separate from her own – which Faloona said makes it difficult for her to understand why her daughter willingly puts herself in such danger.
“I hope that audience members will take away the message of acceptance and being able to accept love and think that you are deserving of love as a person, as well as awareness of your surroundings and your privilege and your background,” Anderson said.
“I think that the director, (Yunen), has done a great job of really fine-tuning each character and their motives and their circumstances and where they’ve come from in life,” Anderson said. “I think that’s always something that is a challenge but really hits the audience hard when you can see these characters’ backgrounds without it being in the dialogue and the text.”