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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Theatre and Dance

HERCULINE AND LOLA at the Center for Performance Experiment | Nov. 15-21

This epic love story about two people, separated by a century, who are united by the power of their imagination and by love, will play at the CPE Nov. 15-21. Playwright Dipika Guha has been at the University to assist in the play's first-ever full staging.

The UofSC Department of Theatre and Dance

Herculine and Lola

by Dipika Guha
Directed by Steven Pearson

November 15-21, 2015

Center for Performance Experiment
718 Devine St.

Show Times:

Sunday, November 15: 8pm
Monday, November 16: 8pm
Tuesday, November 17: 8pm
Wednesday, November 18: 8pm
Thursday, November 19: 8pm
Friday, November 20: 7pm & 10pm
Saturday, November 21: 8pm

$5, available only at the door

Herculine and Lola contains adult content and may not be suitable for children. 

Dipika Guha’s inventive script, which is receiving its first full staging with this production, centers on two characters living in different time periods who are both dealing with issues surrounding their intersexuality.  Herculine, a schoolteacher living in nineteenth-century France, is based on the real-life figure, Herculine Barbin, whose diary expressing her troubled life as an intersex person was published in 1980.  Her counterpart, Lola, is a present-day American who has travelled to Amsterdam with her parents, and there finds herself struggling with her gender identity.  The three-act play blurs the lines between past and present, as the two characters seek comfort and safe haven in a world that offers very little understanding.   Herculine and Lola is being directed by theatre professor Steven Pearson.

A protégé of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel (How I Learned to Drive, The Baltimore Waltz), Dipika Guha has received accolades nationwide through readings and stagings of her work at prominent theatres like The Roundabout (NYC), Playwrights Horizons (NYC), and Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Guha says it was Vogel who encouraged her to pursue the writing of Herculine and Lola, which began as a short play called Habeas Corpus

“It featured the same American family who had an intersex daughter, raised as a girl, and it was spliced with scenes from Guantanamo Bay,” says Guha.  “It was my effort to look at the connection between the way we view political prisoners and the way we view our bodies and gender — a ’for us or against us’ kind of attitude.  I think I spent a whole summer trying to expand that play and just couldn’t do it.  Paula found me at the end of that summer and suggested I read the diary of Herculine Barbin.  The next thing I knew it was showing up in pages.”

The up-and-coming playwright has traveled to the University to be part of the first-ever full production of Herculine and Lola.  She’s even making on-the-spot rewrites to the script’s third act while here.  “It’s thrilling to be involved for this production," she says.  "[The creative team] have given me this great, generous gift of staging what’s on the page.  Usually playwrights are asked for rewrites long before staging happens, and the truth is you only get to understand a play once it’s on its feet.”

Guha says it’s been just as great watching director Steven Pearson visualize her text.  “What Steven does is not quite ‘blocking’ {the pre-determined movement of actors around the stage}, but something I’ve never seen before.  I don’t have the vocabulary for it.  He seems to be tracking the actor’s intention and what that looks like physically and aesthetically.  He’s molding what feels to me like physical drafts and then settling on a form.  He has such a comprehensive and intuitive understanding of the text that all of that, the pictures he’s painting, feel very fluid and interesting to me.”

It was a  personal connection to Pearson and theatre professor Robyn Hunt that brought Guha and her work to the University of SC.  On the suggestion of a mutual colleague, she participated in a physical acting intensive offered by Pearson and Hunt in New York.  The intensives, which teach skills in the Suzuki Method of actor training, as well as the slow tempo technique of Shogo Ohta, are presented by the duo several times each year at locations around the US.

“I took {the intensive} in January, and really loved it,” says Guha.  “There was something about the kind of training that was happening through slow tempo that I was drawn to as a writer.  Happening in that room was kind of presence and consciousness of the physical body that is missing from a lot of theatre.”

A talented cast of UofSC students and guest artists will bring Guha’s poignant script to life.  Included are second-year MFA Acting students Rachel Kuhnle (as Herculine), Carin Bendas (as Lola), Matthew Cavender, Benjamin Roberts and Dimitri Woods,  undergraduate theatre major Brooke Smith, and guest artists Melissa Reed (an MFA Acting alumna) and Lindsay Rae Taylor.  The production’s scenic, lighting and sound designs are being created by Steven Pearson.  Costumes are by graduate costume design student Vera DuBose.

For more information on Herculine and Lola or the theatre program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at 803-777-9353 or via email at