A 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner, Lynn Nottage's Ruined is a difficult story - to watch and certainly to perform. The production, directed by Tom Stell, is in the last week of its run at Obsidian Art Space. The story takes place in a bar-and-brothel in the Congo. There's the no-nonsense madame, Mama Nadi, and the prostitutes she oversees, their customers and the soldiers and guerrillas fighting for control of the region. There's also smooth talking, happy trader Christian who stops in the bar as he makes supply runs ... and who happens to be in love with Mama Nadi. Actor Atseko Factor plays Christian.
Read our review of Ruined.
Christian is a complicated character. He appears happy-go-lucky, but he is well aware of the unstable situation of the region. He traffics in more than just dry goods; he also sells "ruined" women. (Rape survivors in the Congo are considered to be ruined and rejected by their family and friends. The outcasts often end up in brothels, such as the one seen in the play.) The play starts when Christian arrives at Mama Nadi's bar and sells her two traumatized women.
Factor, whose father is from the Congo, found Ruined echoed the stories he heard in his family. "Growing up, I heard my father talk about the Congo, about how he wished we could go back home but couldn't because it was so chaotic and dangerous." In building the character of Christian, Factor used his father as a starting point. "He's the epitome of a Congolese man to me."
Ruined has received positive reviews with both critics and audiences singling out Factor's performance, along with that of co-star Qamara Black who plays Mama Nadi, for its excellence.
What He Does: Factor graduated from Prairie View A & M University with a degree in drama. He later attended Texas A & M University/Commerce where he worked on his master's in theater (his thesis is all that stands between him and graduation). "If someone asks me what I do, I tell them I'm a substitute teacher by day and a performer by night. That's my life these days, teaching to make ends meet and working in theater at night."
Why He Likes It: "Growing up I had an older brother who was a superstar athlete. I wanted to do something like that, to stand out and to do something really well. Acting, once I found it, did that for me. It lets me express myself; it's what keeps me grounded."
What Inspires Him: " I find inspiration in my co-actors, in the script. When I'm on stage I'm acting for my co-actors and my director. I want to give [the actors] something to play off of. If I'm acting just for myself, then every performance I could change things however I wanted and the other actors would be thrown off."
If Not This, Then What: "I'd be a mathematician. I minored in math in college."
If Not Here, Then Where: "I'd like to be in New Orleans or Atlanta, because of the television and film industry there. I'm a father so I have responsibilities and living in Houston lets me both teach and act."
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What's Next: "Next I'm auditioning for a new show. I'm understudying for The Old Settler at the Ensemble. This summer I hope to be doing some more children's shows with Express Theatre. Got to keep auditioning."
See Ruined at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Through March 22. Obsidian Art Space, 3522 White Oak. For information, call 832-889-7837 or visit obsidianartspace.org. $20.
More Creatives for 2014 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
John Pluecker, writer, poet and language justice worker Ricky Ortiz, painter, tattoo artist Rabēa Ballin, artist David Wald, actor Lisa E. Harris, performing and visual artist Stephanie Todd Wong, executive director of Dance Source Houston Pamela Fagan Hutchins, novelist Heather Gordy, artist Mark Nasso, comic artist Shelbi-Nicole, artist Marian Szczepanski, novelist Jonathan Blake, fashion designer Doni Langlois, interior designer Kat Denson, dancer Blame the Comic, comedian Margaret Menchaca Alvarez, artist Jacquelyne Jay Boe, dancer Rene Fernandez, painter Teresa Chapman, choreographer and dancer