Stop trafficking

Glendale News Press

Members of Soroptimist International of Glendale are planning to educate the public about human trafficking through live theater.

"Body & Sold" will be produced June 19 at Glendale Community College. It is a staged reading of a documentary play based on interviews with survivors written by Deborah Lake Fortson. The play will be followed by a panel discussion with two human-trafficking experts and two members of the cast.

In 2007, Soroptimist International of the Americas came up with the program "Stop Trafficking."

The Glendale club made the first donation, $25,000, to the program, said member and co-producer Jill Lewis of Glendale.

A couple of the Glendale chapter's board members saw a few scenes performed at the national convention and were inspired to bring the play to Glendale, she said.

Sandy Schultz, a past president, led the charge, and approached Lewis to co-produce the show, Lewis said.

"It's been a really exciting project," Lewis said. "We're both very moved by this project."

Jim Holmes, adjunct professor of theater at Loyola Marymount University, is the director. He is also an actor, appearing in TV commercials and shows like "Judging Amy" and "Law and Order," Lewis said.

"This is a staged reading, and there are a variety of ways to produce it," Lewis said. "I think people will be amazed at what they see."

Holmes is inspired by this project because it's about real people struggling to find health after a traumatic event in their lives, he said.

"One of the challenges is guiding people who have not had these tragic situations to connect with these real people," he said. "Artistically it's inspiring that the victims find help and then help other people in similar situations."

When auditions were held May 15, 25 actors came from Glendale Community College, Loyola Marymount, Glendale High School vying to fill 15 parts, including the eight main teenage characters, Lewis said.

Actress Laura Seay is playing Dora Peterson, who is drawn into prostitution after running away from home, and her deeply religious mother mistakenly believes her daughter is being promiscuous.

"Laura has a particular skill at being believable, and that's very helpful in this piece," Holmes said.

Relating to her character has been a challenge, Seay said, because she hasn't had the intense sexual experiences Dora has endured.

"But as an actor, you try your best using your own experiences that were difficult for you and substituting those to reach the emotionality that is necessary to portray what she went through," Seay said.

What makes the piece most compelling, Holmes said, is how normal kids can easily be caught up in the prostitution scene.

"We are telling stories of human beings and not statistics," Seay said. "You can't help but feel honored on their behalf to speak on something that is so important and bring a better awareness of the issue."

Ryan Robbins of Burbank is in the role of Jason, 15, who left home at 8 and has been living on the streets. Jason, a homosexual cross-dresser, is suffering from drug addiction and pays for it by prostituting himself, Robbins said.

"His dad beat him and his sister when he was a child," Robbins said.

"He is continuing rehabilitation and therapy sessions to become a better person."

His struggles are breaking away from his comfort zone, drugs and hanging around drag queens, he said.

"[The play] is a good way to raise awareness that this is happening right next door," Robbins said.

"Human trafficking and slavery are still happening in America. The fact it's still happening now is a shocker, and the cast is working its butts off to give everybody out there an illustration of what's going on, and I think everybody is doing a fantastic job with it."

No one is being paid to produce the play, Lewis said.

Ten percent of the proceeds go to the playwright for marketing the play for future productions, and the balance will go to human trafficking prevention and domestic violence services.

Infobox What: "Body & Sold," a staged reading of a documentary play on human trafficking and exploitation of women and children, based on interviews with survivors written by Deborah Lake FortsonWhen: June 19: 7 p.m. performance; 8:10 p.m. interactive panel discussion with two human trafficking experts and two cast members; 8:45 p.m. debriefing receptionWhere: Glendale Community College Auditorium, 1500 N. Verdugo Road, GlendaleCost: $25Contact:

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