Mary Bonnett’s world premiere play, MIA “WHERE HAVE ALL THE YOUNG GIRLS GONE?” opened at Greenhouse Theater Center March 12, 2023 . It is compelling and tells a story that a viewer will not quickly forget. Statistics about women reported missing are staggering. In 2020, 268,884 women were reported missing, according to the National Crime Information Center, with nearly 100,000 of those being Black women and girls. It is easy to shut down when faced with these statistics but when MIA “WHERE HAVE ALL THE YOUNG GIRLS GONE?” tells the story of one girl’s experience I was mesmerized, as was the entire audience.
MIA “WHERE HAVE ALL THE YOUNG GIRLS GONE?” is taken from interviews and research on girls and women who have vanished into the world of the “Missing In America”. Bonnett, as director of her script, created a story with perfect timing and staging that was relatable and moving.
We meet MIA, a fifteen year old girl obsessed with Tick Tock and social media. She and her mother don’t always see eye to eye. Suddenly she is gone. Jamise Wright is mother and daughter and into their story is woven police, neighbors, and many other characters portrayed by Tristin Hall. These women were remarkable for their intense portrayals of many characters, but also for dancing, singing, seamlessly moving props and for leaving the audience moved and exhausted. Another character in the play was the computer monitor bring information and revealing beautiful, young women who have disappeared.
This play is in response to these issues. “How can so many young girls go missing with so little response? Where are the 6000 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and the thousands of missing and murdered girls from the south, west and north sides of Chicago? Who took them? Why don’t we have systems in place to protect women from this form of Femicide and abuse? Why isn’t more being done to find and protect them?
The crisis is especially acute among the African American community. In 2020, 268,884 women were reported missing, according to the National Crime Information Center, with nearly 100,000 of those being Black women and girls. While Blacks account for just over 13% of our U.S. female population, they made up more than one-third of all missing women reported in 2020.”
Though minimal, the set design was very effective as designed by Mary, herself. The lights and sound enhanced the action as did the music and dance. The production team includes Blake Cordell (Lights and Sound Design), CCDM (Music Design), Melinda Wilson (Choreography), Sean Smyth (Stage Manager), and Genevieve Swanson (Assistant Stage Manager).
Playwright and director, Mary Bonnett, generously agreed to answer some questions related to the play:
You have focused on the topic of human trafficking over many years and through several plays. What was it that initially drew you to this topic?
It’s another branch of trafficking and domestic violence but the trigger was when I presented a workshop on domestic sex trafficking for middle and high school Ojibwe students in Northern Wisconsin and from that I interviewed the Ojibwe women and girls…and heard these astounding stories and numbers of the missing and murdered indigenous women on their reservations.
And that led me to do the research. Chicago popped up. I knew about the organizations of mothers in Chicago searching for their daughters…and thought it was gut wrenching. Her Story’s mission is to shine bright lights in dark places on women and children in need of social justice and community support…so this subject fit perfectly into that mission.. To help raise awareness and advocacy.
Over the time that you have been involved with the problem of human trafficking what kind of changes have you noted if any?
Many new laws in place to protect the survivors…new laws in place to go after the traffickers…some new but necessarily acted upon laws to go after the Johns/Buyers of the young girls.
That’s where the real problem lies. More organizations fighting trafficking and more people aware of the issues surrounding it. On the other hand….the internet is a beast and due to the many apps and accesses to youth and the public…domestic sex trafficking has increased. Our youth are also exposed to more explicit material through music, games, movies, and a shift of social mores..
What changes would you hope to see as a result of the information shared in this play in terms of audience response?
Ours is always about getting people to be advocates..speak up, volunteer, share the information with others…donate money, time…political activism. It does take a village..and we know we need to unite to create change.
Deputy Chief Dion Trotter, Special Victims Unit with the Cook County Sheriff’s Department shared information about how the department pieces puzzles together to find “stolen” individuals and save their lives during the play’s after talk. How did you first meet and work with Deputy Chief Dion Trotter?
I met him through a former sex trafficked survivor who was on a mission to rescue the girls. She was working with the Cook County Sheriff Department and Sargent Trotter at the time (he is now a Chief Deputy) was working with her. I needed folks to speak for Shadow Town post show productions..and he showed up. He was invested in what we were doing and that was in 2013 and has been with Us for each production and is now helping me with a piece on child exploitation for 3rd-6th graders.
Are you aware of any reason for the increase in the amount and range of human trafficking?
Greed and easy access. In addition, the increased sexualization of our society, especially our youth…accompanied by an increased access to any kind of porn involving any age group Or gender— easy access for youth, men, women to watch. Unfortunately, porn is addictive.
Television, film, music play a role in the seduction of our youth and society – making it “okay” to lower sexual standards and behavior…People (youth) are influenced from every angle…it’s grooming —-big big money behind it.
Her Story Theater is seeking professionals in the field for our post-show discussions of MIA. For more information or to volunteer, email: Mary Bonnett at HerStoryTheatre@agerber
Photos are courtesy of Her Story Theater