A sci-fi story in my red Junior Great Books paperback has haunted me since the sixth grade. Bradbury, maybe? The main character is on a time-travel adventure and is told that under no circumstances is he to leave the path but he does and he steps on a butterfly. It dies. He gets back to his real time and place and is horrified to discover it’s a different world. A single occurrence has the power to change the course of the universe.
There were a series of events and confluences that led in this direction, but in 2001 I wrote a play that took on sexual violence and relationship abuse. It was not autobiographical but I have an up-close-and-personal understanding of the issues. As the script left workshops and test audiences to become a nationally touring production, I had butterflies in my stomach, the ones that say uh-oh, this is going to be big, are you ready? And it was big. You the Man made waves. One of those waves washed up on the shore in Victoria, Australia, where the play currently tours.
A few days ago I spoke to one of the Australian actors who told me, through tears, that a boy asked a post-show panel if the statistics in the play were true, could people actually die because of domestic violence?
Yes, he was assured, it was true. People can be sexually assaulted, physically and emotionally abused, humiliated, controlled, and tortured in myriad ways. Sometimes by a stranger and more often by someone that supposedly loves and cares about them. And yes, people die.
The boy tracked down the panelist in the parking lot, an advocate in the domestic/sexual violence prevention field. She thought she was going to get in her car and carry on with her day but this young man had frightening, shameful secrets to share. Quickly, she snagged the police officer who had also been on the panel.
The officer took the boy home.
The father was arrested.
The mother was brought to the hospital. Apparently, literally in the nick of time. If the police had not brought the boy home when they did, the mother would have died from her injuries.
Now I’m crying along with the actor.
It gives me chills to be a part of something that has helped change the course of a life. It’s the butterfly effect: I wrote play several years ago, it toured and got funding, it led to a research project, a woman attended my panel presentation in San Fransico, we adapted the play for use in Australia, actors were hired, the show was booked… and, one day several weeks ago, this kid was in the audience.
The actor, the producer, the advocates, me–we are happy that this boy and mother were helped although the recovery process for them has only just begun. Recovery is a journey lasting long after external wounds heal.
But I also feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach.
What upsets me is that You the Man is not being produced in the US.
You the Man is ready for an actor, director, and a producer.
It is a tightly written, juicy, meaningful acting adventure. It doesn’t blame or shame men. It connects people to their local resources and leaves a community stronger than it was before the play arrived. It can interrupt violence in the short term–like with that young Australian boy–and has planted knowledge and tools for taking action in the future. It works. You don’t have to take it from me. Quantifiable data affirms that the play You the Man and its accompanying program are effective, evidence-based tools for transforming hearts, minds, thwarting inertia and complicity. It toured the US and occasionally overseas for 13 years. I lost count but tens of thousands of people, mostly youth, saw the show in colleges, high schools, conferences, professional trainings, and community centers.
Four and a half years ago I left the university where Add Verb Arts & Education had been housed for the last 3 years of its 15-year existence and I temporarily moved to England with my wife who had landed a job. I stopped producing the play. My intention in this time overseas was to published and to launch an effective marketing campaign, maybe even find a new organization to run with it.
Life had a few other ideas. When I was finally poised to push the work out in the world, I got a concussion and I lost the better part of a year. The book was launched last year but I could barely manage to organize a bitly link to the Amazon page where people can buy the book.
What upsets me is that the play is published, ready to serve. Its raison d’etre is to save lives, and with a good actor and a small bag of props, it can make any 10’x15′ flat area a stage, no special lighting or effects required. Maybe a clip on mic if the venue is big enough.
I am not in a position to produce theatre (for a list of reasons, including Kara & I running Powering Nonprofits, a company that consults with nonprofit organizations and starting up a gin & vodka distillery are kind of all I can fit on my plate right now).
A life for an Australian woman and her child was changed. All because of a play.
This is incredible. Now, how the hell can we get You the Man on a stage, in a school, at a college, for a conference or training, or in a community center near you?
So I put this out there. Wanted: Butterfly wings to get You the Man out there. Just think what a flutter of us could accomplish.