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What this actress built from ‘Ruined’

January 20, 2011
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Published by Metro

It’s an ugly truth: We know that atrocities are occurring in Africa, but most of us spend little time dwelling on it. At least, Tonye Patano knows she didn’t.

“I was aware enough to know that it was happening, but I was able to very clearly put it aside,” the actress admits.

After taking the lead role in “Ruined,” a play about women in the midst of the Congo’s civil war, Patano had a new perspective.

“Especially in Western society, we tend to not touch upon things that are very deep. We have ways of escaping, because we can,” she explains.

In the show, Patano plays a business-savvy brothel-owner who gives her war-brutalized girls a refuge. “Ruined” is a survival story, full of courage and even humor — but set against a backdrop of rape and destruction.

“This is an extremely hopeful story,” Patano insists. “It’s not something that makes you go ‘Oh, it’s horrible, I can’t believe it’ when you leave. You leave feeling a sense of championing these people. You leave wondering: ‘Why didn’t I know this?’”

Patano on her role

“Men get ‘King Lear,’ they get ‘Hamlet.’ It’s very rare as a person of African descent, a woman, particularly in my age category, to have a role written in this way. A chance to dig in deep,” she says. Audience members may also recognize Patano as Heylia in the Showtime series “Weeds.”

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