Review: ‘Trafficked’ Explores how Teens Fight for The Sexually Exploited
The Project Girl Performance Collective sheds light on the issue of child sex slavery through a groundbreaking piece of theatre.
On her 16th birthday, wide-eyed Holly June was beaten, mutilated, and murdered by her pimp in front of three fellow sexually exploited girls. Though this brutal killing was a scene in a Project Girl Collective performance, millions of children are at risk of facing her fate. Sophie Walker, who played the part of this Southern belle turned sex slave in Trafficked, later told the audience that her character was lucky to have even made it to the tender age of 16.
Much like Holly, Love Our Children USA reports that more than half of trafficked children worldwide are under the age of 16. This means that many of the 1.2 million children who are sexually exploited each year haven’t even had a chance to begin their high school education.
Trafficked is an original play written and performed by New York City girls in their teens and early 20s. It’s a testament to public failure to get exploited girls off the streets. Produced by Jessica Greer Morris and directed by Ashley Marinaccio, the show’s final performance was staged on June 23, 2012 at the Bleecker Street Theatre. Feminist Gloria Steinem and photographer Nigel Barker participated in two of the previous talk-backs.
Opening with a horrific scene of Backpage.com ads come to life, 15 scantily clad teen actors attempt to entice the audience with promises of kinky sex acts and fantasies they wouldn’t dare live out with a partner.
Other painful stories revolve around foster care stints, rape, crippling poverty, and parents on drugs. But the message was blaringly clear: from Haiti to the South Bronx, children everywhere are at risk of being sold into sexual slavery. And when it appears that everyone from rappers in the music industry to the authorities treat child sex slaves as “lower than dog s**” in the words of Gul Makai Azizi, it can seem nearly impossible to break the cycle of abuse.
But perhaps the most touching act of solidarity is the friendship between Gul, an 18-year-old Afghan woman played by Aya E. Abdelaziz, and Safa, who have been thrown in the same jail cell together. Gul chides Safa for sticking to childish hopes, telling her, “I’m you later down the line.” Nevertheless, she allows an officer to rape her in the hopes that they’ll spare Safa a life behind bars.
So who are trapped behind bars? Minority girls. The teen writers impressively make several references to the 1975 feminist play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, a collection of poems dealing with the struggles of African American women. The girls rally around the work, proving that the crippling hardships facing minority women are still alive and well.
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