La Maestra tells the story of Artemisi Gentileschi, a Seventeenth Century Italian artist who is known not only for the dramatic brilliance of her work, but also for the infamy of the Vatican trial (during which she was tortured) of her rapist and teacher, Agostino Tassi.
Sadly, the themes addressed in the play remain painfully timely. La Maestra is set in a drama department of a modern university. Jennifer Hartnett, a young student, and her drama instructor, Hal Falcon, enact Artemisia’s story (as a play-within-a play) in preparation for possible production.
La Maestra progresses with the parallel stories of the developing relationships between Artemisia and Agostino, and Jennifer and Hal, culminating in the rape of both Artemisia and Jennifer. The transcript from the Vatican trial from 1612 served as a resource for character, setting and, to some extent, text for this play. As such, La Maestra is, in part, a courtroom drama. The play also briefly depicts the Biblical story of Judith, the subject of Artemisia Gentileschi’s most powerful work.
La Maestra explores themes of gender inequality, abuse of the role of teacher/mentor, violation of power and trust, and the importance of courage, creativity, and friendship in overcoming trauma.