Kitty Felde brings news story to stage

ONE episode from her radio reporting career that Kitty Felde couldn't shake was a tale of atrocity and remorse told by the Bosnian Serb Drazen Erdemovic. In 1996, the host of KPCC-FM's "Talk of the City" was in the Hague covering the U.N. war crimes tribunal trying cases from the Bosnian civil war. But after she saw Erdemovic sentenced to 10 years in prison for his part in the Srebrenica massacre, she felt she had to bring his story to her other longtime medium, the stage.

The 24-year-old Bosnian Croat had admitted killing dozens, maybe scores, of Muslim men and boys in the July 1995 mass-execution campaign by the Bosnian Serb army. He testified that he had wanted no part of the killings but was told he would be shot if he didn't participate.

"It was a story that wouldn't leave you alone," says Felde, who has been writing for the stage since shortly after graduating from UC Irvine in 1976 with an acting degree. Her latest theatrical forum is Orange Coast College, where a student production of "A Patch of Earth," her drama about Erdemovic, is scheduled to close this afternoon. The questions about justice and morality the case raised for Felde have lately begun to interest other college theater departments as well. "A Patch of Earth" -- which premiered in 1999 at the Alleyway Theatre in Buffalo, N.Y., where she had submitted it for a new-play contest -- was mounted this year at Michigan's University of Detroit Mercy and at Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, South Africa.

Orange Coast College jumped on it after Felde sent it to drama professor Alex Golson, a fellow UCI theater alum. He directed the live staging and will oversee a taping for KOCE-TV's "Storefront Theater Live" to be broadcast Nov. 12.

Golson says he was struck by how "A Patch of Earth" engages questions that are pertinent to the Iraq war and the fight against terrorism. "It's a perfect show for a college," he says. "Large cast, good women's roles ... and it's topical."

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