The subject matter is dark: female genital mutilation, abuse and neglect.
According to Lynchburg playwright and actress Royal Shiree, it’s a tale that deserves to be told, and it will be told in downtown Amherst as part of Second Stage’s Thursday lineup.
A television news broadcast documenting a mother’s appeal to end the practice of genital mutilation — and later, the discovery of several thousand never-investigated rape kits in Detroit — was the impetus for her one-woman play, “Clippings.”
In the play, Shiree portrays three women who have lived through — and survived — challenging, and at times, horrific circumstances.
This Woman is a survivor of rape, while Lexi suffered through domestic abuse. Afrika is a victim of genital mutilation.
The play is layered and brings to light the debilitating effects of post-traumatic stress syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder, she said.
“The thing that ties all three things together is they had … abuse at an early age.”
Using recorded and improvised music, each character has her own theme song “which is another important aspect of the play, because they have their own identity,” Shiree said.
Shiree, too, said she understands what it means to be faceless after being the caregiver for her father.
The work was tiring and isolating, and Shiree said she received little outside support.
The experience, however, fueled her creative drive.
“I refused to be silent, and I refused to be invisible,” Shiree said. “I may have been the underdog, but I wasn’t under.”
Shiree’s desire to be the voice for the voiceless is the bedrock for her creative ventures.
When she wrote her first piece, the actress and playwright said she had no idea how profoundly she would be affected by the experience.
“Still to this day, people cry,” Shiree said. “It’s very evocative, and I kind of liked it.”
Shiree hopes “Clippings” will be just as cathartic for theater-goers.
“I think if it helps a young lady or a young man or a young child, then I have done what I aspired to do,” Shiree said.
“These characters should be praised because they survived. … That’s the strength of women.”
If you go
» What: “Clippings” by Royal Shiree
» Where: Second Stage, located at the former Amherst Baptist Church, downtown at Second and Washington streets, Amherst
» When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29
» Cost: Free, but donations requested