Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Tricky Part

This weekend I attended the Male Survivor conference held at John Jay College for Criminal Justice here in New York City. I had been at the conference when it was last held in New York, back in 2001. This conference has become extremely important to me, as I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. This year there were attendees from all over the world, and the movement to raise awareness and advocate support for this most difficult of topics is finally beginning to gain some momentum.

Part of the conference this year was a performance by Martin Moran of his OBIE Award-winning one-person show The Tricky Part. I had read about this show when it was first presented at Second Stage and I'd always regretted not seeing it. So I jumped at the opportunity to finally catch it, especially in the context of the conference, and in the company of other men who share the experience of sexual abuse.

I had no idea what I was in for.

I really wasn't expecting a whole lot. I thought oh this will just be a straightforward narrative play about one person's experience of sexual abuse. Nothing too theatrical, but it might inform my own work.

This play completely rocked my world. I've never, and I mean never, had the experience of sitting in a theater and being completely overwhelmed with emotion. Tears were streaming down my face and my entire body was convulsing in uncontrollable sobs. Needless to say...the play struck a chord.

It was almost an out-of-body experience for me. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It was if someone had entered my own life, crawled around in my brain, figured out exactly what I have been feeling for twenty years, and expressed it beautifully, poetically, eloquently. This was by far the finest performance of a first-person narrative that I have ever seen, and that includes every show I had ever seen by Spalding Gray.

Now, of course I am not an entirely impartial critic. Martin's story so closely parallels my own experience of sexual abuse that I could be nothing but a fan of his bravery. But I definitely went into the theater that night expecting far less than what I got. I was rather hoping, in fact, to be disappointed because I too have been working on a show about my own journey through the quagmire of betrayal. I didn't want to see someone else beat me to punch. But Martin did. And I'm so grateful that he blazed this trail.

There is this part of me that thinks now my own story is completely irrelevant. What could I possibly add to the narrative that hasn't been expressed more poetically by Martin. But then I think that's just another excuse for not getting on with the work. It's terrifying terrain, and that means it's ripe for exploration. How do you tell a story like this? Well, that's the tricky part.

I only can say thank you to Martin. Thank you for sharing your journey. Thank you for sharing your strength and courage. And thank you for simply surviving. It was truly a cathartic experience to watch your work, and I bless you for making that happen.