A People's Light play inspired by commercial sex exploitation in our neighborhood
The presence of this dirty little secret is one reason People’s Light is hosting the premiere of Project Dawn by acclaimed playwright Karen Hartman on June 7. The play is inspired by the work of Project Dawn Court in Philadelphia, an innovative court program designed to transform the lives of women trapped in the commercial sex industry.
Based on Hartman’s first-hand research, the play is full of deep empathy and humor. People’s Light Artistic Director and director of the production, Abigail Adams, notes, “[Hartman] bridges the gap between what we might currently know about sexual exploitation and what we could know—what’s actually happening in our own backyards”—even here in Chester County.
The play provides something of a wake-up call, as prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation are not just a big city problem. And it portrays victims of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking as real women worthy of care, dignity and respect.
As Shea M. Rhodes, Esq., Director of the Villanova Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation, explains, “Sexual exploitation exists wherever there is demand. … You don’t need a street corner any more; the Internet is the street corner.”
Project Dawn is part of the New Play Frontiers, a groundbreaking program in which playwrights embed themselves in local communities to draw inspiration from the people and their stories. Hartman began work with the program by exploring the history of the Underground Railroad in Chester County. Her research led to the modern day equivalent of slavery—human trafficking.
Linking first to Dawn’s Place, a safe house for formerly exploited women, then to Project Dawn Court, Hartman focused on the thin lines between freedom and slavery, activism and obsession, for women on both sides of the law.
The resulting play, Project Dawn, inspired a crowd-funding campaign, #ProjectDawnCommunityInitiative, to underwrite tickets for those who could benefit from seeing the play but might not attend—social workers, first responders, law enforcement officers, students training in these fields. The subsidized tickets help expand the production’s reach and foster empathy and understanding among service groups.
According to Rhodes, “Ms. Hartman’s play has the opportunity to further a national dialogue and address the root causes of commercial sexual exploitation in a way that’s both educational and entertaining. Audiences won’t leave this play without changing their perspective of prostituted persons and how the criminal justice system can be an agent of change.”
Come see for yourself.
If You Go:
Where: Steinbright Stage, People’s Light, 39 Conestoga Rd., Malvern
When: June 7th to July 9th
Tickets: $28 and up, available online and at 610-644-3500