For this year’s National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, MT space and the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region (SASC) collaborated to present a virtual presentation and talkback of Chelsea’s Story.
“Of course, we are self-producing this with SASC every year around human trafficking awareness day, because we want to raise awareness, but our ultimate goal is to be able to bring this show in front of youth,” Pam Patel, artistic director for MT space, said.
The play was written by Sean McGrath from the UK in 2010.
“I was originally commissioned to develop the play back in 2010. Several trafficking gangs had been busted in the UK, exposing an issue that had been going on for years,” McGrath said.
This brought light to the ongoing issue and in an attempt to raise awareness, this play was born. Since then, it has been present across years and across countries. McGrath and his team review the play together with charities every year to maintain its relevance.
“I spent 6 months researching, talking to survivors and the families, as well as professionals, resulting in the development of the play. Each year we work with charities and agencies to review the script and make sure it’s up to date and relevant.” McGrath said.
In Canada, MT Space collaborated with SASC and took on production of the play because of the positive response from the audiences and their requests for tours, to spread the word. Pam Patel, the artistic director at MT space said that their theatre regularly does tours, so it worked better for them to continue producing and presenting this show.
“Because of the response that we got from, particularly like parents, there were some teachers who were really interested and the community saying that we should take this show on tour and take it to schools,” Patel said.
The play is intended for youths as young as aged 12 as well as adults. SASC discovered that human traffickers are taking advantage of young people as young as eleven.
“In an ideal world we’d love to get this in schools, senior elementary schools, we’d love to get it in front of youth, we’d love to get it in front of people in the hospitality sector too because like, a lot of this happens in hotels and motels and they could at least see some of the warning signs,” Patel said.
The purpose of the play is to introduce a sensitive topic to the target audience and allow a conversation to be opened.
“Seeing the narrative played out in a sensitive manner has proven to be a great way of kick-starting conversations. One of the greatest weapons that perpetrators have is young people’s (and adults’) ignorance that this issue even exists,” McGrath said.
Each performance is followed by talkback, which are conversations in a safe space to help the audience unpack the meaning of the play.
Presenting Chelsea’s story in different countries is just the beginning of solving the global problem. McGrath said that just by presenting the play and raising awareness can help prevent sexual assault, but more must be done.
“It’s important to note though that the play is not a panacea. It’s an early-stage intervention as part of a whole system approach,” McGrath said.
MT space aims to reach a much larger audience by being inclusive of those who may have language barriers. At this current moment in time, one of the showings of the play is also offered in Arabic, this can be captioning or dubbing. All non-Arabic showings can also be captioned to improve accessibility.
Patel said that they hope they can reach even more people in the future by eventually offering more translations.
“We’re hoping that okay, now that we’re kinda developing this skill, we’ll be able to offer the show in other languages online too. We were thinking maybe Spanish would be our next one, or French,” Patel said.