By Byrne Harrison
Ashley Marinaccio is an activist and artist dedicated to creating theatre that challenges the status quo. Though a New Yorker at heart, she was born and raised in New Jersey and has traveled extensively throughout the world, most notably in the Middle East, where she lived in Beirut, Lebanon while studying Arabic and Middle Eastern theatre performance. Her interests include utilizing theatre for peace building, healing and empowerment in conflict zones and in marginalized communities both home and abroad. She has countless directing, performing and playwriting credits., most recently she was a featured speaker at TED. Ashley's directing work has been seen at the White House, United Nations, regionally, twice at TED and on tour. Ashley co-founder and Artistic Director of Co-Op Theatre East (www.cooptheatreeast.org) and Project Girl Performance Collective (http://www.projectgirlperformancecollective.org/). She is alumna of the Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics' EMERGENYC and American Theatre Wing's SpringboardNYC programs and member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab. Ashley holds her M.A. in Performance Studies from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and BA in theatre directing and sociology/anthropology with minors in women/gender and Middle Eastern from Pace University. She is a member of SAG-AFTRA. Visit www.ashley-marinaccio.com for more information.
How did you first get involved in theatre?
Some of my first memories are of writing scripts and directing the neighborhood kids in shows during summer vacation when I was 7 years old. When I run into the kids that I use to do this with and they ask what I’m up to now I tell them it’s the same thing I was doing back then.
Who are your biggest influences?
I have a number of influences in all fields, including theatre practitioners, journalists, academics and activists. To name a few -- Eve Ensler Nicholas Kristof, Rachel Maddow, Tony Kushner, Amy Goodman, Jane Fonda, Susan Sontag, Moises Kaufman, Judith Malina, Bertolt Brecht, Susan Sarandon, Rachel Corrie, Christiane Amanpour, Anderson Cooper, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn. The list goes on…
What is your show about?
Trafficked tells the story sex slavery and child exploitation through the eyes of fifteen young women. In an ensemble devised performance inspired by interviews, research and media, the cast puts a name and face to the thousands of undocumented girls and boys who are trafficked into the billion dollar sex industry each year.
What inspired you to bring it to the stage?
Project Girl Performance Collective is dedicated to empowering young women (between the ages of 8 and 21) to write and perform their own work. We have two components to our programming at Project Girl – personal development, where girls explore issues that are close to them in their lives, families and communities and the global component – where we teach girls about human rights issues affecting women globally through readings, film, guest speakers, field trips and partnering organizations. Trafficked came out of our global curriculum on sex trafficking that we’ve been working on since November 2011. The girls were so moved by what they had been learning in their workshops that they wanted to write a full length play about sex trafficking with the hopes that Trafficked will raise awareness and encouraging audiences to take a stand in ending child exploitation and human trafficking.
Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?
Jessica Greer Morris, the Executive Director of Project Girl Performance Collective and producer of Trafficked and myself have been working together since 2009. A few of the Trafficked cast members including Dominique Fishback and Deanna Alexandra are original Project Girls who have been part of the collective since 2008.
All of the artists who’ve written and will be performing Trafficked are members of Project Girl Performance Collective and the majority have been working on Trafficked since November, 2011. The cast is comprised of our senior girls, who are between the ages of 14 and 21. Trafficked has taken on various forms over the past months. We were originally commissioned to develop this work from ECPAT (Ending Child Prostitution and Trafficking). We debuted a workshop of Trafficked in November, 2011 for ECPAT’s 20th Anniversary Gala. We have been experimenting with form over the past few months and what the most powerful way to present this work would be - so, this will be our first time debuting it as a full length play.
Why was it important to you to be part of an eco-friendly theatre festival?
I have been part of Planet Connections in the past and have had wonderful experiences across the board with this festival. I thought it would be a great opportunity to expose our girls to a variety of high caliber performance that can be done while staying “green”. We have used this as a learning experience for our girls and a chance to teach them more about socially and environmentally responsible theatre. The staff at Planet Connections has been incredibly supportive and hands on with our production. We’ve had Festivity representatives attend readings and rehearsals to talk with our cast/crew.
Planet Connections donates a portion of the box office for each show to a charity. What charity has your production chosen and why?
We are splitting our funds between GEMS and ECPAT, two of our partners that inspired this piece. Over the past nine months while developing this piece we have had the opportunity to partner with some incredible organizations including ECPAT (Ending Child Prostitution and Trafficking) who originally commissioned this piece, GEMS (Girls Education Mentoring Services), United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, WITNESS, survivors and elected officials who have donated their time to help our girls understand sex trafficking. We wish we could support all of these amazing organizations and individuals.
What's next for you after Planet Connections?
Project Girls will be performing in the NY International Fringe Festival in August. We are planning on continuing to develop Trafficked into a site specific piece at a hotel this fall. We also have a number of planned performances scheduled throughout the summer. Visit http://www.projectgirlperformancecollective.org/ for the most updated schedule.
If you could do one thing to change the world, what would it be?
For more information about Trafficked, visit http://www.projectgirlperformancecollective.org/ or http://planetconnections.org/trafficked/.