This year, is my first year attending The Cincinnati Fringe Festival. I entered MOTR Pub where “All We Have Borne” is staged and had no clue what to expect. As people grabbed their beer and wine and we were ushered down the steps, I couldn’t believe the 60-minute performance was being held in the basement. I walked in and notice the steel fold out chairs. There were only two rows of them, about 16-18 chairs in each row. I found a seat in the back, and that is when I saw her.
Victoria Hawley, a member of the 2016-2017 Ensemble Theatre Professional Acting Apprentice Company, sat against the wall facing the front row of chairs. There could have only been 5 feet in-between them. Her clothes were dirty and hair stuck to her face from sweat. Her eyes were glossy and kept wandering around the dim lit room, not really focusing on anything or anybody. I was in awe that she was already in character. She didn’t let the clinking glasses or chatter for the audience affect her. It was like we weren’t even there. Because of her, I sat still and quiet.
Soon, the lights are off and I can only hear movement. Footsteps, chains, light talking. Then the door opposite the entrance opens and the lights came on. A woman with a very country accent walks in offering her food. The girl withers at her touch but takes the food, asking when she can be let go and how long has she been in the basement. It turns out, she has been kidnapped by the southern woman’s husband and has been beaten and abused.
The southern woman admits she has never held a woman captive before. She simply does whatever her husband wants. She has been married to him since she was 15. It was her goal to get married and leave her daddy’s house. Before she even said this, I sensed she was brainwashed by her husband. It turns out he beats her too.
A few of my friends and family members have been in relationships that led to domestic violence. None have ever been kidnapped, thank God, but to have these scenes acted out in front of you, in such a close space with the actresses and physically being in the basement with them, it presented an eerie feeling. I started coming up with my own ways to help her escape. In my head I’m screaming for her to fight and run.
As the story continues, it comes out that the girl is being raped as well (this is not physically acted out). This little 20-year-old girl, who was kidnapped walking home from her interview at a university, is now pregnant against her will. I began to cringe realizing this actually happens to people, and if I were watching it on HBO, I would have been provided a more disgusting scene.
Now, don’t think this performance was nothing but sadness. If you like laughing at inappropriate times, you have gone to the right place. Dark humor brought smiles throughout the audience in the weirdest moments. Whether it was joking about butter sandwiches, or the southern woman expressing her love for the Lord and how you must put your faith and trust in Him, you crack a smile and slap a knee.
In the end, the kidnapped girl and southern woman develop a bond. The friendship strengthens them and saves their lives. Not many women who really live these situations have anyone to help them out. Most go through it alone and some never make it out.
At the end of the performance, both ladies came out and gave their gratitude and collect donations for the Cincinnati organization Women Helping Women. This amazing group is dedicated to crisis intervention, prevention advocacy and helping survivors of gender-based violence. In your program you will read that 1 in 3 women have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. Sexual assault or rape occurs in approximately 40-45% of abusive relationships. So please donate before you leave the performance. Also, read the front of the program, you will be surprised at what you see.
Marissa Staples is a Cincinnati published author and writer for The Voice of Black Cincinnati. She developed her love of arts from her mother, Kandi. Being a native of Cincinnati, she loves to travel. If she is not traveling, you can find her reading, writing, volunteering or drinking wine. Wine always brings smiles, friends and creative dialogue.