I began working with The Still Point Theatre Collective in the fall of 2018. An actor in Chicago, I had been working for years to merge activism and my work in the arts, sometimes with success, but more often with frustration at the fact that not everyone in the arts shared my values of putting usefulness to other human beings and the society at large first. Then I saw a post on an audition website for The True Cost: Stories or Human Trafficking with Still Point. This documentary performance meant to shed a light on one of the greatest injustices in modern times was an opening from the heavens for me and has dramatically altered my life in the nearly four years since joining the project and the company.
January 11th is human trafficking awareness day, and we will be doing two runs of The True Cost online, one hosted in Northern California, the other in Wisconsin. It is a collection of speeches transcribed from interviews with real victims and service workers by Chicago playwright Jenny Magnus. I had no idea when I got cast in the piece as an actor that there are 40 million slaves estimated to exist in the world right now, and that no matter where you live, these people are being forced to work and have sex against their will right in your backyard and maybe even next door. The True Cost covers some the wide variety of types of trafficking there are: live-in “maids and nannies,” farm workers, garment workers in other countries, and the most commonly reported on, sex slaves, all being paid near nothing or nothing at all, unable to leave or flee their situation or having been groomed so thoroughly that they are not fully aware what is even going on. From children to the elderly, from people coerced into leaving their home country for another to the teenager getting on a website in a quaint suburban home in a wealthy country like ours, this problem is far more ubiquitous and local than any of us realize.
The 45-minute performance of these people’s experiences by professional actors is then followed up by a panel discussion with experts and advocates fighting to end these horrific crimes, making The True Cost much more a conference event with the possibility of effecting real change than just a play for entertainment’s sake.
Since joining as an actor, I have for nearly four years also been the piece’s booking agent, the moderator of the panel, and a facilitator of many workshops with The Still Point Theatre Collective’s, bringing the arts to marginalized communities in prisons, elderly homes, and with adults with developmental differences. While I still love doing comedy shows and screen work, acting and working in the world in other ways, Still Point helped fully found me as an artist and activist in the same stroke. I found a company that does not place the art over the activism or vice versa. I finish runs of The True Cost to people saying, “thank you,” instead of “bravo” (though sometimes both,) “God bless the work you are doing” instead of just “what a great show.” I consistently worry that I’m not doing enough, that there are always more effectual ways to help, but I never wonder if what I’m doing is right anymore. I rest easier knowing that I am part of something bigger than myself.
If you would like to discuss holding this powerful event on human trafficking in your community, email Nate at firstname.lastname@example.org