Collateral Bodies

First Foot Theatre Productions Inc. presents the World Premiere of   Collateral Bodies

April 2010  15th, 16th, 17th @ 7pm  18th @ 2pm   45 street theatre   354 west 45th street

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presented in partnership with The Michael Chekov Theatre

Collateral Bodies, has been awarded the Jane Chambers Student Playwriting Award for 2009

The student judges concluded that your piece best addresses feminist concerns and that the dramaturgy of Collateral Bodies was the most successful execution on a thematic and structural level amongst the 60 plus student submissions. Your interrogation of questions surrounding human rights violations of women around the world is compelling and filled with the spirit of feminist activism-”  Coordinator of the Jane Chambers Student Playwriting Award

The Play:
Collateral Bodies is a play that investigates human rights violation that happen specifically to women around the world.  While human rights violations are universally atrocious, they always seem to be just a little more so for women and for most part, we evaluate “rights’ though a western feminist context. This play seeks to subvert those assumptions asking what is a human right, why do we violate them, and investigates the role of sex and gender as a tool for empowerment, procreation, violence, defeat and commerce as it applies to different cultures around the world.

The purpose of this performance is to open a discussion about the role that human rights (or the lack thereof) play in the lives of women in five specific cultures; American, Mexican, Indian, Arab, Somali and Eastern European, and in five specific instances that are representative of a larger and more universal disregard for the lives and bodies of women.  This play investigates what specifically is a human right and critiques the Western scope through which we often view human rights. In essence, it is about our universal humanity despite inhumane circumstances.

Hope, an American woman finds herself entrapped in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend and after days of rape, abuse and torture escapes, only to have him corner her in her own home.  In an effort to save herself and their infant child she kills him- and soon find herself incarcerated and the victim of more sexual violence from within the walls of the prison.

Esperanza, is a young hopeful girl leaving her small village in Mexico for the Ciudad Juarez on the El Paso, Texas border.  She works for a few measly dollars a day under the watchful eye of boss who would like to have a “special friendship” with her.  Despite the 16 hour work days without breaks for food or bathrooms, Esperanza is determined to make the best of the situation.  Until one night, walking home she is chased into the desert by strange men who assault her, gang rape her, and burn her alive.  Esperanza becomes one of the over 500 “Disappeared Women of Juarez.”

Asha, a newly married Indian woman falls in love with the man of her dreams, but she soon finds that married life isn’t always easy.  Her mother-in-law wants a greater dowery to be paid to her and her son and begins verbally and physically abusing the now pregnant Asha.  When Asha’s family finally run out of money to pay additional dowry, Asha is burned alive in her kitchen by her own mother-in-law.  Every hour and forty minutes a woman in India is burned alive.  She never thought it would be her.

Raja was a happily married young women in a small village in Saudi Arabia.  Once fateful day she accepted a ride home from her cousin.  On the road home their car is ambushed.  Her cousin knocked unconscious with no one to help her, she is dragged to a small building off the dusty road and gang raped.  The men take photos of her face and threaten to tell her husband.  When her family find out she is ostracized and threatened, but still she remains strong that wants to find the men and bring them to justice.  At her trial each of the men are given 50 lashes and Raja is sentenced to death by public stoning for committing the sin of adultery.

Rajeey is a bright young Somali woman who loves nothing more than to dance.  She is “different” from the other girls in her village because she is not circumcised.  After struggling with the decision she chooses to be “done.”  Despite the horrific pain, it is a lovely ceremony and she is glad with her decision.  She misses the sensations, however, that she used to feel in her body, but trusts that she made the right decision.  While giving birth to her first child- a baby girl, Rajeey’s bleeding will not stop.  The damage to her body from the circumcision has made it impossible for her body to stop bleeding.  She dies, looking into the face of her newborn, Berhane (my light).

Nadiya is young, independent and hard-working.  Her mother and brother are sick with tuberculosis and the wage she makes serving table isn’t nearly enough for medicine.  She is introduced by a friend to a couple who tells her that working abroad is a surefire way to make more money.  She agrees and boards a boat with the couple, and a girlfriend.  They ask to see her passport and say that they will keep it safe for her.  When the boat arrive they are introduced to man and the nice couple leave.  The man says, “that woman sold you to us for $5000.”  Nadiya becomes one of the over 1.75 million people who are bought and sold as sex slaves across national borders.  With no passport, no money and no where to go Nadiya wrestles with life, sex and the child she has lost.

This performance is grounded in research taken from various news articles, published interviews, documentaries and scholarly essays on topics such as; sex-trafficking, rape, female circumcision, bride burning, domestic violence and issues of incarceration. Although no personal interviews could be conducted due the transnational nature of this piece, its purpose and structure are inspired by the work of artists such as Anna Deavere Smith (“Twilight Los Angeles,” and “Fires in the Mirror”) and Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen (“The Exonerated”) in that each woman’s story is presented as a personal interview, all of which are interwoven to create a unique presentation of text, movement, and poetry.

For more information on production and performance opportunities please contact me @

MA Educational Theatre In Colleges and Communities
Steinhardt School for Culture Education and Human Development
Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions
New York University

“Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”
Bertolt Brecht

I chose to write this play because, for me, theatre is about opening heads, minds and hearts. People should leave a theatre thinking, wanting to know more and because of what they see, wanting to do more.

This play is a call to action and I was inspired to write it because even though we woman have come so far, we have quite a ways to go. Martin Luther King Jr. said that where they is injustice somewhere, there is injustice everywhere. As long as women are beaten, strangled, raped, brutalized, burned and murdered- we all are. Those of us who know have a responsibility to talk and those who don’t have a responsibility to listen. Knowledge is a weapon and once you hold it in your hand you have no choice but to use it and to make the world a better place.

The women in this play have died and moved on, but they have children- daughters- and we have a responsibility to save them.

“Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”

Bertolt Brecht

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