A man who gained the trust of an entire country, while serving as an all-powerful voice in the underbelly of Liberia during a bloody civil war, has brought a story to the stage. Charles Taylor, who is now serving 50 years in prison on crimes against humanity, has had a hand in the torture and transformation of many of Liberia’s youths into child soldiers. “Liberian Girl” follows a child soldier through her ordeals with Taylor.
Under the debut direction of Diana Nneka Atuona, the story of unfolds with Martha, a 14 year old hoping for a better education and a way out of her small village, fleeing with her grandmother when rebel forces attack. She hides her identity and joins the leagues of other captured young boys who are force-fed drugs and hallucinogens and taught heinous tactics for murder and rape. Though they are essentially programmed to become grown men, they still view Taylor as a father-figure, calling him “the Papay.”
These atrocities typically make news retroactively, when it is too late for many of these children to return safely to their homes and families. Atunoa has cultivated a powerful telling in both worlds of war and gender, as Martha creates a 12th Night identity to allow her some semblance of safety.