Posted: 06/07/2012 By Lanie Zipoy
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, “human sex trafficking is the most common form of modern-day slavery.” Estimates claim that millions of girls and adult women worldwide are forced into the commercial sex industry.
A New York-based theater group, comprised of girls and young women aged 14 to 21, is shining a light on this growing worldwide problem. Project Girl Performance Collective is a 4-year-old theater company that has performed around the country and in two New York International Fringe Festivals and has presented at TedxWomen. Last fall, the company was commissioned by the United Nations’ ECPAT (Ending Child Prostitution and Trafficking) to create a piece on sex trafficking for its 20th Anniversary Gala. After presenting the work, the collective’s members were so moved by their research that they developed a full-length play about the issue.
That play — Trafficked — premiered at the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, New York’s premiere eco-friendly/socially-conscious arts festival, on June 4. Performances run through June 23 at the Bleecker Street Theatre. Prominent feminist Gloria Steinem and photographer-activist Nigel Barker are scheduled for post-show talkbacks on June 16 and June 21, respectively. What has drawn these celebrities to the show? In addition to the issue being a hot topic, PGPC’s Artistic Director Ashley Marinaccio is a dynamic theater practitioner, who revels in the connection between theatre and social justice.
“Theatre is an imperative tool to use in the fight for social justice because it is not separate from our social conditions or relationships,” enthuses Marinaccio. “All theatre is socially relevant. Theatre holds a mirror up to our society and allows for us to critically engage in dialogue that will move the human race forward.”
Trafficked offers a first hand look at how 15 young women — the play’s writers/performers — are taking a stand against sex trafficking and giving a voice to those who do not yet have one. The play tells the stories of 15 exploited girls, all located in New York City, and the relationships they have with each other and their pimps. It features narratives, poetry, music and multimedia to expose the devastation of the sex trafficking industry and also to provide solutions.
“In Trafficked, theatre allows us to humanize the devastating statistics and numbers of girls forced into sexual exploitation here and around the world,” Marinaccio explains. “These facts, figures and numbers which are cited in discussions about this issue are replaced by names, faces and stories.”
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