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Body and Sold - A Powerful Production On Sex Trafficking

Nirmala Garimella
06/04/2003

When one woman can be sold, none of us is free. A CIA study estimates that over 50,000 women are trafficked yearly into the United States and Sold.

Activism comes in many forms and takes many shapes and colors. In the work of Myrna Balk and Deborah Lake Fortson, it came in the shape of a powerful and stirring play cum exhibit called BODY & SOLD performed recently in the Boston area. The play is based on interviews from survivors of sex trafficking in Nepal, India and the United States and tells the tale of three such women who undertook this perilous journey.

The play was shown at the Boston Center for the Arts and the Cambridge Center for Adult Education and at a private showing at artist Neena Gulati’s house. The artists hope to raise awareness among student audiences and stimulate discussion about violence and abuse and conditions in the society which make young women vulnerable towards prostitution.

Deborah Lake Fortson, playwright and Myrna Balk, artist collaborated when Myrna invited Deborah in April to witness her paintings titled “Art as Witness”: Shattered lives, Unshattered dreams. During one weekend Myrna had a chance to see Deborah’s own play. Within a matter of three days, the two, deeply moved with each other’s work decided to collaborate for ‘Body and Sold’. Deborah then followed it up by visiting India in November and connected with people from Bombay and Calcutta and other rescue missions. After gaining a first hand knowledge, she wrote the play and chose her cast. Deborah is a celebrated playwright and is the author of The Yellow Dress, a play on dating violence, which has been produced in hundreds of schools across the country and has been hailed as effective education and an exciting theatrical experience. Ms. Fortson¹s works have been produced in Boston, New York and England.

In conjunction with the play, Myrna Balk presented an exhibition of drawings and statements made by young women in Nepal who were survivors of sex trafficking. A licensed social worker as well as an artist for more than thirty years, Ms. Balk has shown her work in Boston, New York, Cleveland, Kathmandu, Beijing, India, Hungary and at the United Nations in New York.

Some responses received from the audience:

This exhibit and production, with its distressingly beautiful artwork, its choreography, the believability of the actors, and the brutality and manipulation of the human interactions portrayed, enabled us to experience the wishful thinking along with the helplessness and horror of the world of these young women.

I think the play¹s very simplicity, no elaborate scenery, no costumes, just the voices of the young women, really girls who get tricked and imprisoned in brothels and later thrown away to die, are quite enough for the message to get through to your audience, a shattering message.


Late next fall, Body & Sold will be shown to colleges and produced again in a theater next spring. In summer the company will research stories of American teenagers from Minneapolis and New York who have been similarly lured or forced into prostitution



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