Children of Killers, Revisiting A Massacre

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The psychology of being part of the killer's web

Having researched and written about the events that led to the 100 day massacre in Rwanda and after interviewing filmmaker, Kimberlee Acquaro, regarding her film “God Sleeps In Rwanda,” this writer had some knowledge of the Rwandan genocide (spurred on by the Belgians), that took place between the Hutu and Tutsi people, when I ventured to see Castillo Theatre’s latest offering “Children of Killers,” running until November 4th. The Castillo Theatre is located at

543 West 42nd Street
in Manhattan.

I cannot say that those who go to see this play will not be affected. I was. It’s powerful and gives another spin on the 100 day massacre that transpired in Rwanda in 1994 when the Hutu population picked up machetes and killed up to a million people. When one sits in contemplation of this catastrophe, one can only speculate on the blind rage that must have possessed the Hutus, who at one time lived under the reign of the Tutsi, to murder in such a personal way people whom had been their friends and neighbors; in some cases even killing their fellow Hutus who had married Tutsi people. The blood and gore of slaughtering women and children, young men and old, had to leave a rent upon the souls of both Tutsi and Hutu.

“Mountaintop” and “HurtVillage” playwright, Katori Hall, authored “Children of Killers,” which was directed by Emily Mendelsohn and starred Sisiki Fofana, Melech Meir, Terrell Wheeler, Khadhim Diop, LaTonia Antoinette, Suzanne Darrell, Raphael Agburne, and Naja Jack. Supporting cast include Edgar Casinos, Kimarra Canonnier, Franceli Chapman, Rain Jack, Lorenzo Jackson, Lauryn Simone Jones, Niara Nyabingi, Andrea Rachel, Mariel Reyes and Starshima Trent. Via her play, Hall sought to revisit the massacre through the eyes of the children left behind to face the music of their father’s heinous crimes. Through these children we see the psychology of the coping mechanism that plays out via this very real human tragedy.

The production takes the viewer to a village in Rwanda where the children of the Hutu men await their fathers' return home. Their fathers had been imprisoned for crimes committed against the Tutsi people. Many of the children did not remember their fathers so romanticized about them, even bragging about the number of innocents their father’s killed. Living under the shame, led to a twisted survival mechanism that had the children making heroes of their fathers in order to assuage their guilt. That is, all but 18 year old Vincent (Terrell Wheeler), who had assumed his father’s role as the man in the family. He felt the wound of his father’s crimes deeply, especially since he was attracted to a young Tutsi woman played by LaTonia Antoinette. Brooding and worried where his father’s return to the household left him and his sister (Naja Jack), who was not conceived until after his father’s incarceration, Vincent was not as joyous of his own father's return as were his friends Bosco (Melech Meir) and Innocent (Sidiki Fofana) of the return of their fathers.

A machete sat on the family hearth serving as a symbolic mirror, as well as a reminder of their father’s crimes. Vincent’s mother, (Suzanne Darrell), found herself having to take up the mantle of family provider; a role unknown to her prior to the massacre. Prior to the killings, Rwandan women had few rights. Yet it was due to the unfortunate genocide that the village women gained the rights to property and even secured roles in government, since the massacre resulted in a large percentage of Rwandian men's death and/or imprisonment. How was she to explain her daughter’s birth to her returning husband? Could she be the wife she once was before her husband became a killer? Time had passed, but shame and dishonor hung over the household like a funeral dirge entrapping the family in a time warp. Haunted by the dead spirits of the murdered Tutsi who plagued their dreams and waking hours.

Tormented, the children of these killers rationalize their predicament via resenting and hating the reminders of their father’s crime. Bosco in particular, blamed the one-armed Tutsi, Esperanza, for living through the massacre to remind him that the father hero he wanted so badly was not the hero he fancied. Bosco taunted Esperanza and her brother (Khadhim Diop) every chance he got. However, the sensitive and regretful Vincent wondered how he could ever meet Esperanza's eyes or look into the face of his father -- a killer whose act of violence left him filled with shame and branded Vincent for life. Yet in the end, Vincent has to face a reality and make a choice that painfully pulls the viewer into its regrettable conclusion.

This play is not easily forgotten. No one escapes or can leave this play without being impacted or without recognizing the affects that hatred and violent deeds have on the victims as well as the perpetrators. No, it’s impossible to escape being marked by the murderous crimes of killers. Their actions form an energy of fear, hatred, and violence that remains -- haunting and taunting its killers, touching all, even the children of killers.

 

 

 

 

 

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