Local playwright Andrew Kooman’s powerful play about sex trafficking

Powerful play returning home

Local playwright Andrew Kooman’s powerful play about sex trafficking, She Has a Name, is returning to where it first began.

Local playwright Andrew Kooman’s powerful play about sex trafficking, She Has a Name, is returning to where it first began.

Having earned positive reviews from Victoria to Halifax, the dramatic production by Calgary’s Burnt Thicket Theatre is wrapping up a 13-city national tour a with an Oct. 2-6 run at the Scott Block theatre in downtown Red Deer.

“We just closed in Vancouver, where it was really well attended,” said Kooman.

“I heard a lot of people were impacted by the story. They enjoyed the play and were shocked and surprised by the issue.”

She Has a Name was chosen as a “Pick of the Fringe” in Victoria and earned Edmonton actor Sienna Howell-Holden a Spirit of the Fringe Award in Vancouver.

Kooman is pleased that his drama about a human rights lawyer’s encounters with a captive young prostitute generated a lot of feedback and discussion where ever it played.

“I can’t believe (the tour) is winding down . . . but it’s a real honour to have it close in Red Deer, where it all started.”

The play was written with some mentoring from the local Scripts at Work program, offered annually at Red Deer College.

Kooman approached the subject of sex trafficking both as a playwright and as a human rights advocate.

To raise public awareness of women who are being abused in Canada and around the world, he organized panel discussions after some of the play’s cross-Canada performances.

Such a talk will take place at about 3:45 p.m. after the Saturday, Oct. 6, matinee in Red Deer.

Kooman said the speakers will include a woman who was forced into prostitution in the Red Deer area and around Alberta, a human rights investigator, an awareness co-ordinator with the RCMP, and foreign aid workers.

The panel discussion and ensuing question-and-answer period is free to anyone wanting to attend. “You don’t have to see the play first,” said Kooman.

She Has a Name is a different drama than it was a year ago.

But it still begins with a tour-de-force encounter between a young Thai sex worker, known only as Number 18 (played by Vancouver’s Evelyn Chew), and a impassioned human rights lawyer named Jason (Vancouver actor Carl Kennedy).

Jason struggles to convince the frightened teenager to testify against her captors, while at the same time, realizing her anguish at being placed in such an impossible position.

Nefarious brothel owner Mama San, played by the awarded Howell-Holden, of Edmonton, still attempts to thwart Jason’s efforts. And tensions are further heightened by an atmospheric Greek chorus of ghostly women who fill Number 18 with more doubts and fears.

But Kooman said the latest version of the drama, directed by Stephen Waldschmidt, no longer gives audience members an intermission to recover from some of the emotional intensity of the first act.

The most significant changes concern scenes between Jason and his boss.

In the earlier version of She Has a Name, the two debate human rights issues on a philosophical level. But in the new version, Kooman said the boss puts definite demands upon Jason that he must try to deliver on.

“She’s really cracking down on him about getting (Number 18) to testify.”

Kooman believes the changes have ramped up the play’s impact.

After focusing on such difficult subject matter for so long, one might think that the playwright would be ready to write a comedy next.

But no such thing for Kooman, who has penned two new plays that similarly ask big questions about humanity’s failings.

He delves into Holland’s divided loyalties during the Second World War with Delft Blue and provides a window into a Soviet prison camp in the 1950s with We Are The Body.

Kooman, who hopes to stage both new plays someday, admitted he is repeatedly drawn to the dramatic. “It’s always about raising awareness and asking these big, human questions — such as how can somebody ever exploit another person like that?”


Just Posted

Willie Littlechild grateful for life in sports

the 74-year-old was inducted into the Canada Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday

Updated: Hunting Hills High School student sentenced for making online threat

16-year-old gets a conditional discharge with 12-month probation and 50 hours of community service

Butcher stabbed Johnston in self-defence, lawyer says in closing argument

HALIFAX — Nicholas Butcher was acting in self-defence when he stabbed Kristin… Continue reading

Federal government finalizes regulations to reduce methane emissions

CALGARY — The federal government said Thursday it has finalized regulations that… Continue reading

Man charged with sex offences aiming to resolve charges

Stuart Peter Hunt is facing more than dozen charges related to child sexual exploitation offences

WATCH: Thousands of high school students visit Red Deer College for CAREERexpo

The eighth annual CAREERexpo was held at RDC Thursday

High school students show off their skills at Red Deer College

Central Alberta students competed in the Skills Canada Alberta competition at RDC Thursday

Grief over deadly Toronto van attack sinks in days after rampage

TORONTO — Grief over the deadly van attack that took place on… Continue reading

Riggers looking forward to another trip to Nationals with season on the horizon

Season opens on May 15 against the Confederation Park Cubs

Update: Pilot likely disoriented in plane crash that killed former Alberta premier

CALGARY — The Transportation Safety Board says the pilot of a plane… Continue reading

What’s new on Netflix Canada, CraveTV in May

A monthly look at what’s scheduled to be added to the catalogues… Continue reading

Air Canada offers to help passengers stranded by a possible pilot strike

MONTREAL — Air Canada has turned the tables on WestJet by taking… Continue reading

Blackfalds drops front licence plate advocacy efforts

The Town of Blackfalds is no longer pursuing mandatory dual licence plates… Continue reading

How the government hopes to strengthen intellectual property in Canada

OTTAWA — The federal government has unveiled new measures on intellectual property… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month