After visiting Croatia in 1996, just after the Serbo-Croatian War, thespian Rebecca Buric was haunted by two images. The first: a newsreel of a woman getting shot by a sniper while taking garbage to the curb. The second: a blouse that Buric's aunt had given her.
"[My aunt] probably never wore anything so beautiful herself," says Buric of the garment, which was red with black trim, buttons and a tie at the collar. For Buric, the blouse became a symbol of communal giving in a time of vast recovery throughout Croatia.
"I wore it till it was threadbare because it had so much soul, so much character," says Buric, adding, "when someone gives you something so completely from their heart ... there's so much beauty and meaning in the gift."
Then in her early 20s, Buric had gone to visit relatives in Lokve, Croatia, a place she hadn't seen since she was 3 years old. Touched by the news footage and the blouse, Buric decided to personify the shooting victim, whom she named Aida Ave, in a monologue.
At the urging of Maniatou Art Theater's Jim Jackson, she's expanded it into a full-length, one-woman play, Signature, that will premiere at the MAT this weekend.
Even as war rages around her and her son, symbols of transcendence provide Ave with a sense of miraculous hope. That's extrapolated by the setting, Medjugorje, Bosnia-Hercegovina, where in real life locals and tourists allege that the Virgin Mary has appeared daily to six "visionaries" since 1981.
"[Ave] is looking at all the sweet moments of her life and trying to come to terms with this inhumane act in such a sacred place," says Buric. "She wants to know how to stop this circle of war, because her son is part of the story."
Buric says that what she finds deplorable about war is the way it leaks outside of the military.
"Warfare between agreeing factions is one thing," she says. "You want to be in the army and he wants to be in the army go fight, go duke it out. But don't kill my child."
Buric speaks with the powerful inflection Jim Jackson heard when Buric auditioned for Ten Minutes Max last year. She had prepared an eight-minute monologue, but Jackson immediately saw the potential for a full-length show.
Buric, who lives in Boulder, has spent the year since then developing the story. For weeks, Jackson has been working with her to fit the story into a "solo dramatic structure" while his wife and cohort, Birgitta De Pree, directs. The pair have also constructed a circular set upon which props rotate in and out of Buric's scenes.
"What we're hoping for," explains Jackson, "is that more and more artists in the region will seek us out as a place to develop new work, and that [the work] goes on and has a life outside of here."
Masters at the MAT Workshop: "The Actor's Work"
Saturday, March 15,
10 a.m. to noon
Tickets: $30; call 685-4729
or visit themat.org.