La Maestra tells the story of Artemisia Gentileschi, a Seventeenth Century Italian artist known not only for the dramatic brilliance of her work, but also for the notoriety of the Vatican trial of her teacher and rapist, Agostino Tassi. Artemisia was tortured during the trial, ostensibly to determine if she was telling the truth.
Sadly, the themes addressed in the play remain 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.
The play progresses with parallel stories of the developing relationships between Artemisia and Agostino, and Jennifer and Hal, culminating in the rapes of both Artemisia and Jennifer. It also depicts the Biblical story of Judith, the subject of Artemisia Gentileschi’s most powerful work.
The play explores themes of gender inequality, abuse of the role of teacher/mentor; violation of trust; and the importance of courage, creativity, and friendship in overcoming trauma.