Covenant College Hosts Erin Layton's "Magdalen"
“Magdalen,” the critically-acclaimed vignette of Magdalene laundry “slave” laborers, as featured in New York and Edinburgh’s Fringe Festivals and Off-Broadway, is coming to Covenant on March 16.
Praised by The Huffington Post as “the performance” of FringeNYC and “breathtaking” by Female Arts (UK), Erin Layton’s one-woman, one-act show unearths the stories of women and children who were forced to labor for nuns under harrowing—and at times lethal—conditions throughout 20th century Ireland.
“The play explores the stories of the different types of women that would've labored in these institutions—the fallen, the orphans, the disabled, the prostitutes—in addition to representing the voice of Irish society and the voice of the church at the time,” says Layton.
After a week of exhaustive character research in Dublin streets, laundry sites, and the adjoining mass graves in 2010, Layton felt compelled to channel the voice of the victims through a short story or choreographed dance. What she didn’t know is that ”Magdalen” would compel her to travel the world in a one-woman show under the direction of Julie Kline, embodying an array of characters from a hard-shelled priest to a hostel-owning narrator to a child who hopes to earn her salvation by working in the laundries.
From the 18th century until 1996, in Ireland and the United States, Anglican, Presbyterian, and most notably Catholic churches built for-profit “Magdalene Asylums” where women and children who were shunned from their communities due to non-marital births, mental handicaps, sexual assault, and “flirtatiousness” were sent to labor in prison-like laundries. Numerous babies were forcibly severed from their mothers and sent abroad for adoption, and hundreds of children died from maltreatment and starvation.
Layton wants the piece to shine a light on the psychological impact of all forms of abuse, both in the past and present. By bringing her powerhouse production to Covenant, Layton hopes to “open the floor for our own responsibility and complicity in gender violence, especially as it pertains to the church.”
“This isn't just happening in the Catholic Church, it’s not just happening in the #metoo movement—there's so many victims of abuse,” says Layton. “At the hands of people who get high on their own power, how do we as a church hold our leaders accountable and how do we continue to keep that dialogue open? We just need to break the secrecy.”
Layton will perform “Magdalen” on March 16 at 8:00 pm in Sanderson 215. Tickets are $5 for general admission and free for season pass holders. To reserve tickets, please contact the box office at email@example.com or 706-419-1051. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.covenant.edu/theatre or at the door as long as seats remain available. Due to the subject matter and language that some audience members may find offensive, parents are strongly cautioned.