I get lots of contacts through this website from readers. I try to reply to them all, though it can take while to find the time to write a meaningful response. So… last December a comment appeared on the Becoming Unbecoming page that led to a long and interesting correspondence:
“Hi Una! I’m a brazilian girl, and I admire you so much, and your work too. Well, me and 13 another girls (and 3 boys) made a play, a theater play inspirated in your book, and it’s our dream to show it to you. 500+ persons have seen this play, and we want to show it to you. If it’s possible, please, return on my e-mail and we go wherever you are! Thanks for all. Really. For all.”
How amazing! Now it’s not the first time I’ve heard from people in Brazil. Becoming Unbecoming was translated and published by São Paulo based Nemo in 2016 as Desconstruindo Una and has gathered a small but dedicated following, but it’s the first time I’ve heard from a theatre group that have developed a play from my work. Now, I admit to some alarm, because it’s clearly an infringement of my copyright, but also great pleasure because the group were clearly young people and likely not profit making. It’s humbling to know my story has reached so far. I also thought ‘what a coincidence!’ as •fanfare• I’m actually developing a (sound work) play based on Becoming Unbecoming too. (Don’t get too excited, it’s in the early stages). Here’s my initial response to Mileny:
“Hi Mileny, thanks for you kind words about my work, it’s always great to hear from people who have appreciated Becoming Unbecoming. I’m glad it has meant so much to you. How wonderful that you’ve written a play inspired by it! I assume you are at school? It’s not clear how old you are. I’m not sure how I would see the play as I am in the UK, though I’d love to visit Brazil. I know my Brazilian edition Desconstruindo Una is doing very well. Perhaps you have a video you could put on Vimeo and email me a link, using the contact page. For future reference, you are supposed to get permission from an artist before you made a work inspired by their work, otherwise you infringe their copyright. However, I think you are students, in which case it’s fine in this case. Thanks again and good luck with your artistic activities. Una”
Fast forward to February and a fuller report drops into my inbox, titled ‘A Gratefulness letter for you’ it is written by Mileny for the group, who are Ana, Allie, Amanda, Ester, Heloísa, Julia, Kamila, Laís Soares, Laís, Larissa, Micaelly, Mileny, Bruno, Felipe, Marcos, Matheus, Guilherme Maniezo, Guilherme.
“Dear Una, We are a group of acting students from a small town called Mauá, in São Paulo, Brazil. We have free acting lessons taught by public teachers and financed by the city hall, in a place called “Oficinas Culturais”, to practice and develop our artistic abilities.”
In 2017, in an advanced acting class we formed a group and our director introduced us to the book “Becoming Unbecoming”, in order to encourage the reflection and discussion about the tematics related to feminism, sexual abuse, and violence against women.
So, we started a reading and researching process and a day came we had no words, only tears in our eyes, and we felt the need of telling this story to people, especially, to girls. It had to be told.”
Now, I often get messages that tell me I have made people cry but it’s not often I get a message that makes me cry. The play is called “UNA”.
“Little in the length of your name, but a giant in what it represents for us.”
“Because Una always moved forward, and so did we. For her and for all the women whose lives are so brutally taken everyday.”
Mileny apologises for her English but I think it is fantastic and that maybe she has a bright future as a writer.
They ask for my ‘blessing’ for the production saying:
“In 2019 we want to do more public sessions of the play. We believe in it as an special project to the moment our country is going thorough. The statistics show us that one woman is raped each 11 minutes in Brazil and this number should grow now that guns were released by the new misogynistic government.”
And they invite me to Brazil for a visit, how could I say no?
“We consider important to highlight that our play wasn’t created aiming for money, as the most of professional plays. For now, our only need and goal is to go deeper in this work in a social perspective, trough free presentations and/or without wanting to profit from that.
As you said, we just want to be heard. We want your story to reach and change people.
And one day, if you want to, we invite you to watch us. It definitely would be for us an unforgettable honor.
I think the honour is mine.
So, I’m planning two projects. A trip to Brazil to work with young people on issues relating to sex and relationships (as I did in Italy recently) and to help reflect on and promote the play “Una”. The theatre group have big plans for my visit, so I hope it comes off. It’s mainly a matter of funding it and finding space for it in my busy schedule. “But you said you had two projects?” Yes, yes, I’m getting to that — well, this group have given me the nudge I needed to make sure my own performance piece happens here in the UK. It will be for radio and live theatre. I’ll keep you informed as to my progress. In the meantime, here are some images from the São Paulo play dedicated to my name. I have to say, I think the red dresses are a genius touch.