Silenced Auction: 27 Million Voices
Last weekend I attended Eastern Mennonite University‘s student-run play Silenced Auction: 27 Million Voices. Some of my best friends were acting in it and I wanted to support them, so I went. I knew beforehand that this play was about human trafficking and sexual slavery, but I didn’t think it would affect me so much. I went in expecting a good show, but I came out with my head reeling and my emotions numb.
Silenced Auction was written by EMU’s very own Elizabeth Gannaway. She started writing it a few years ago in a theater class and it has evolved into this beautifully written and emotionally taxing show. Liz has been to 18 countries (including the U.S.) and has been traveling since she was 16. Her travels are where she got the inspiration and stories for her show. While none of the stories within Silenced Auction are real, they are all based on situations that she has seen first hand.
“I wanted to experience people in a different way; on the streets, the hill tribes, inner cities… I wanted to show what I’ve seen,” Gannaway said at the talk-back following the opening night of the show.
Silenced Auction tells the story of Natya, a 13 year old Indian girl tricked into prostitution. Natya, portrayed by Holly Solomon, tells the story of how she got to where she is and her struggle to escape. It also tells the stories of 5 other girls and boys tricked into the trade from Russia, South Africa, Virginia, and Burma. This is how it is with most cases of sexual slavery: the victim is tricked into it. There are an estimated 27 million people in some form of slavery today and their voices are being silenced by their oppressors.
Each actor was asked to research their role so they would be able to properly portray and understand their character. Elisha Keener, who played the pimp in Natya’s story, said he found it difficult to find information from the point of view of a pimp. He did find a quote by a retired pimp that went something like this, “Everyone is either a pimp, a bitch, or a john.” This quote really struck me when I heard it. It made me realize how many people it really takes to sustain a business like sex trafficking.
By the end of the play I was pretty emotionally drained. The actors were phenomenal and made the sex trade (something I’ve always thought of as far away) more real than I’ve ever thought of it. Watching the play made me want to help people who are in this kind of situation or similar situations. There are plenty of organizations out there that are trying to do just that. Safe Horizon, YWAM, the Polaris Project, and Not For Sale are just a few that are trying to help. This play moved me to want to take action, which is what any art form should really do. Art should move you or change you, otherwise it’s not art.
This short film was made as a companion piece to the play. It was created by 2 members of the cast and crew which I think gives it more of a voice. Aren’t the shots beautiful?