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VALLEY WEEKEND | THEATER NOTES

Retelling of Abuse as Aid to the Process of Healing

Georgia Jody Flosi says she hopes her play 'The Family Game' will help others in rebuilding self-esteem through creativity.

August 22, 1996|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

This Sunday, American Renegade Theatre is presenting another staged reading in its series of pieces concerning abused women.

These performances, which occur on the last Sunday of each month, are the opening shots in founding the group's new outreach program, Theatre of Hope for Abused Women (THAW). Performances will be held in the theater's interim space on Lankershim Boulevard.

The reading this Sunday is of a new play by Georgia Jody Flosi, a screenwriter and award-winning playwright. The play is called "The Family Game," and recounts Flosi's own experiences as a child being abused and molested by her late stepfather.

After confronting her mother with the facts years later, Flosi discovered that the stepfather had also molested her younger brother, and for a much longer period.

It took the playwright a long time to be able to deal with her memories.

"I'd been avoiding this major conflict in my life," said Flosi, "and that translated to the page. I found it difficult to face conflict in my writing."

The experience of abuse, said Flosi, skews your entire attitude toward who you are, what you're worth and what your sexuality is. "Whatever you're told verbally," she said, "you're told by someone's actions that you are an object to be used, that your value is in your body, that you have no autonomy."

For Flosi, putting the story on paper has been an important part of the healing process. And that is fundamental to what THAW is about, said artistic director David Cox.

The program to aid abused women, he said, began with a conversation with Renegade supervisory board member Leslie deBeauvais. Soon the two were joined by another Renegade director, Wendy Clarke, who is working toward a therapy credential, and specializing in abuse cases. Because of what Cox calls the "touchy situation," Clarke has assembled a professional clinical board made up of area professionals to evaluate participants.

The basic purpose of the program, said Cox, is to be a next step for women who have been to shelters or gone through recovery programs.

"They move on to nothing," Cox said. "We thought if we could lure them into a program where they can learn to write, learn to act, learn to do lights and stage craft, and direct--that maybe it would give them some kind of a feeling of self-esteem. It would provide a continuance to go on and help themselves. We didn't want it to become a psychological therapy session. We wanted it to be fun."

The clinical board was set up, Cox explained, because he, deBeauvais and Clarke realized that "these people are so fragile that we needed to evaluate them even before we brought them in, and to guide them while they're in this.

"We're going to have to integrate the classes with clinical people so that we stay in fair territory, safe territory."

Beyond that, Clarke said, they believe that tapping into the natural creative force of the women will help the women rebuild their lives.

"They finally find themselves in a shelter, or in therapy, or some form of recovery, and then they begin to notice this hollowness and emptiness," she said. "Then a lot of times, when they begin to discover their own creativity, they can begin to find themselves again. That's what our program is all about: finding your creativity and rebuilding yourself."

* "The Family Game," a staged reading at American Renegade Theatre, 5303 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. 4 p.m. Sunday only. Suggested donation, $5. (818) 763-4430.

*

Renegades in NoHo: While Cox and American Renegade's THAW program continue in their interim venue, Cox is also going ahead with the rebuilding of the company's new space on Magnolia Boulevard, one block east of Lankershim. After solving the city-imposed requirements for parking at the site, which Cox said took a couple of months, Cox is ready to forge ahead.

At last report, the new theater's opening date was to be January 1997. "But I've said that for months," Cox said with a smile. "The target date is now March."

Meanwhile, Cox and company are anything but idle. For the past month or so, he, Leslie deBeauvais, and Gary and Cecilia Collier, have been preparing for another opening.

This is a new small space, just around the corner at 11050 Magnolia Blvd. It's what might be called eclectic, but will be called The Bitter Truth. Cox refers to it as a "performance gallery."

"It will be an art gallery, a sculpture gallery and a small theater space," he said. "It should be open probably in early September."

The NoHo Arts District and the Renegade march on.

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