A local author who writes powerfully about social justice issues has his sights set on another creative outlet – that of playwright.
Andrew Kooman is thrilled to see his newest project, a play entitled She Has a Name, reach audiences in the new year. Winner of the Scripts At Work/Alberta Playwright Network Award in 2009, She Has A Name provides profound insight into human trafficking in South East Asia.
“I wanted to tell a personal story to come to terms with the reality of trafficking,” he explains. “They say a million children are trafficked every year, so how do you come to terms with that? I think it comes through telling one story, and imagining one life.”
Calgary-based Burnt Thicket Theatre, in partnership with Raise Their Voice Against Injustice are presenting the world premiere of She Has A Name Feb. 20 to March 5 at Calgary’s Epcor Centre and in Red Deer from March 9-12 at the Scott Block Theatre.
“I’ve been connected to trafficking issues for about six years, and the more I learn the more overwhelmed I get,” explains Kooman.
“Plays I’ve written so far have come to me with vivid images, and they’re also really connected to a sense of feeling. With this one, I had this picture of a river about to burst. It became a sustaining metaphor for justice breaking forth on the earth. One of the questions the play asks is justice possible in world like the one we live in?”
Kooman said She Has a Name is based on an incident in Thailand where a storage container transporting more than 100 people ran out of gas and was simply abandoned. Ultimately about 50 people lost their lives.
That tragedy was a kind of a trigger for the plot which is the story of Jason, a young lawyer who is fighting to build a legal case against a human trafficking ring in Thailand. His investigation focuses on ‘Number 18’, a prostitute working in a Bangkok brothel whose testimony could make or break the case. Can he win the trust of 18 and convince her to risk her life to testify for the sake of justice?
Kooman started work on She Has a Name in 2008, and the play has since been work-shopped and garnering increased attention as word of its message and poignancy has spread.
Directed by Stephen Waldschmidt, the two-act production has also landed solid feedback from audiences who have attended readings both in Alberta and the U.S.
“People have been responding really deeply to it. Some are overwhelmed, some say they want to dedicate their lives to addressing trafficking issues.”
For many, it’s a critical awakening to an all-too-prevalent scourge they find themselves wanting to fight against at some level. Through all of his work, Kooman welcomes the opportunity to challenge folks to get engaged in the battle to help the oppressed.
“I think once people find out how unbelievable and unspeakably evil the issue is, and realize that young children are being exploited and terrorized all over the world, it’s just the right response.”
Meanwhile, Kooman can’t wait to see the play reach a broader audience. He couldn’t be happier with cast and crew, who he describes as an “incredibly creative, professional group of people.” And he hopes to see it tour beyond the province next fall.
“I feel protective of the story, but also excited to trust people to bring it to life in a powerful way. It’s an amazing process.”
Kooman regularly travels internationally to write and partners with non-profit organizations to teach on writing, creativity and identity. He has a gift for showing the harsh realities many in the world face while pointing readers to practical ways they can help make a difference.
Earlier this year, a book was released featuring stories by Kooman chronicling the plight of migrants and refugees in Malaysia. He wrote 26 pieces for Disappointed by Hope: 30 Days of Prayer. Although the stories are fictionalized for confidentiality reasons, they are based on actual accounts, case studies and interviews of refugees.
For more information about Kooman’s work, check out www.andrewkooman.com. For tickets for either the Red Deer or Calgary performances or more about corporate sponsorship opportunities for She Has a Name, visit www.burntthicket.com.