SAFE: What Is Real Danger?
A play is created with images. An empty baby carriage abandoned by a park bench. A rap song and two girls in Catholic school uniforms dancing by themselves by Belvedere Castle. A man in his forties who would come to the same Starbucks near the school where I taught every afternoon and write in a notebook and ogle the girls who were very aware of his observation and would hook up their skirts a little higher. I write about teenage girls because I was once was teenage girl and I taught teenage girls. Times have changed since I started teaching in 1990. There was no Internet bullying or images of perfect bodies in bikinis posted on Instagram. The pressures on these young women to look like the airbrushed models in magazines are completely suffocating and destructive.
Liz, one of the teenage girls, is obsessed with her abandoned baby niece. Nina, the main character, spent her early adolescence taking care of her alcoholic mother and now must face an unloving father who is a stranger. She is bullied because of her weight. These two best friends who act like tough urban girls are actually more vulnerable because of parental abandonment. Nina meets a kind older man named Phillip who wants to make her feel good about herself. Yet who is Phillip, and what is his true motivation?
This is the third production of this play and the greatest difference is the viciousness and intensity of on-line bullying and the ever-increasing rates of teenage suicide, particularly among young women. We are a society obsessed with protecting our children but we are not doing it well.
SAFE plays in repertory with CHOKEHOLD by Anthony Pennino at the 14th Street Y Theater from September 17th. Both plays began at Planet Connections Theater Festivity and won awards. I am happy they both have new productions.
–Penny Jackson, playwright
Tickets and performance dates at http://bit.ly/2abl7gm