INSIDE THE HAZE
On May 16th, 2010, I went to San Francisco’s annual city-wide race called Bay to Breakers. There, I was drugged and raped by a stranger. I had a rape-kit examination done and I was assured my kit would be processed and that I would hear from the SFPD in 14 to 60 days. Then the SFPD put me in charge of trying to find and apprehend my suspect by myself because my rape “was not a good enough rape” to merit a proper investigation. 2010 came to an end and I had heard nothing from the SFPD. I called to follow up and was tersely told to “put it in my calendar to follow up with them in 3-6 months.”
Prior to this life-changing event, I had recently moved to San Francisco to pursue writing and performance. So while I was "waiting" for the SFPD, I decided to make a play about it to call attention to my untested rape kit. I compiled all of the writing I had been doing about this whole ordeal and I wrote and performed initial workshops about my mishandled rape case. It was funny, horrifying, and quite frankly, it left my first audience stunned.
As a result of my 2012 San Francisco workshops, I was approached by Jim O'Donnell and Dan Noyes of ABC7 news to do an interview about what had happened to me.
Several supporters of my work encouraged me to jump on this media opportunity but, as an artist, I was more interested in a performative space as a means to communicate.
However, I conflictingly agreed to be interviewed and clips of my workshop were shown as part of an investigative report about the rape kit "backlog" in San Francisco. As a result of that story, the SFPD was pressured to audit their rape kit "backlog."
In December 2013, after working in NYC with the now late Gabrielle Roth, I presented another four self produced workshops of my play at Boxcar Theater in San Francisco. In these workshops, I grew tremendously as a performer and actor but the script still needed a final overhaul.
In the 3 years time that had passed since the incident, the tone of the story I wanted to now communicate had shifted. There was little if any "preciousness", "sympathy", or "emoting" that needed to be included now. I had experimented with including these tone in certain sections in earlier workshops, and while it was perhaps important to include as the person who went through this, it absolutely did not work artistically.
Director Jean-Michele Gregory and monologist Mike Daisey were fantastic collaborators for the latest version of my script. Together we pared down and nuanced the language, interwove a B story, and punched up the absurd humor that had been in the script all along but needed that extra edge to really cut through.
Jean-Michele Gregory directed and staged THE HAZE’s first 12 date self-produced run at The Costume Shop at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, CA. With every performance date, I was able to connect more and more deeply with my audiences. I was able to look out and make direct eye contact with them. I was able to feel when I needed to pause longer in between lines for the text to land with them. I was able to let go of any expectations for how an audience “should be” responding and just be in my performance. Some audiences roared with laughter, some audiences barely took a breath, and some audiences were furious. Some audience members wrote me and told me to be funnier, some audience members wrote me and scolded me for being “too funny about rape”. I learned to be ok with all of these responses and let my audiences feel however they needed too because I was confident I had arrived at an artistically solid place with the project.
THE HAZE, while first and foremost a piece of stand alone solo theater, has became a fulcrum for the issue that it shines a light on: how victims of rape are ignored and re-victimized within in our legal systems and how these systemic failures have resulted in our country having hundreds of thousands of ignored rape cases.