Opinions

Local playwright continues to garner attention for challenging production

It’s always terrific to see a local writer/artist/singer/entrepreneur from Central Alberta do well on the national stage with their given line of work. When someone from Red Deer takes their talent or project to a wider audience and lands considerable acclaim in doing so, it’s certainly something to celebrate. That’s the case with Red Deer’s Andrew Kooman, who wrote the powerful She Has A Name. The production, a partnership between Raise Their Voice and Burnt Thicket Theatre, portrays the horrors of sexual trafficking in Thailand. Inspired by an event in April of 2008 in which an abandoned storage container was found in Thailand containing 121 workers from Burma, 54 of them dead, Kooman’s She Has A Name dramatically gives human trafficking a face. It was introduced to local audiences last year and has been garnering plenty of attention as its been staged at venues across the country. Kooman envisioned the play hitting the road after its successful showings in Red Deer and Calgary. Audiences in cities including Halifax, Victoria, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton have been touched by the performance, and, as we all know, there is certainly a need for such awareness-bolstering projects with the prevalence of sexual trafficking. It’s a tragic and all-too-common scenario. Traffickers often take away victims’ travel and identity documents. Threats of murder, violence and sexual abuse also keep victims stuck in lives of degradation and hopelessness. Experts estimate that there are approximately 28 million slaves in the world today. This staggering number equates to more slaves than during the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade, an atrocity abolished over 200 years ago. One of the most horrific forms of slavery today is child prostitution. About 1.2 million of the world’s slaves are young women and children forced into some aspect of the sex trade worldwide each year. The number of child prostitutes has tripled in the developing world in the last three decades. Many live in inhumane conditions and are kept subservient through psychological and physical violence. These statistics are difficult to digest, but as Kooman has shown, society’s disgust doesn’t change the reality. At the heart of Kooman’s work in this area is the question ‘How do we come to terms with such overwhelming numbers?’ As the Raise Their Voice web site points out, one way is to tell and consume stories, both real and imagined, that remind us of the immeasurable value of human life. “It’s the first step of many to transform real world stories of injustice and tragedy into stories of redemption and hope. It’s a pretty grand statement, I know, and the way to realize it is, firstly, to be willing to go into the darkness and then to shine the light on the humanity of those trafficked and enslaved.” One of the most important things that Kooman is doing is he is showing the true power of one person to make a difference. I’m not sure if he imagined his play would receive the much-deserved acclaim and attention it now is getting, but he never gave up on the idea to create a riveting production – regardless of how widely it may or may not be seen. It’s really an inspiration to all of us – if one person gives their undivided time and attention to a single issue, the impact can be absolutely immense. And it can last for many years to come as well. And if you missed the production last year, the tour is returning to Red Deer this fall with performances set for Oct. 2-6 at the Scott Block Theatre. With all the momentum and success that has been shown over the past several months, it will be very interesting to see the impact a second showing here in Red Deer will no doubt have. editor@reddeerexpress.com
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