Prof. Chris Cragin-Day’s ‘No One Owns Me’ Produced as a Virtual Staged Reading
‘No One Owns Me’ is a two-person play about the sex trafficking industry in Houston. The play was produced as a staged reading at the Virtual Metzler New Works Festival this June.
Prof. Chris Cragin-Day’s play No One Owns Me was produced as a staged reading at the Virtual Metzler New Works Festival this June. Cragin-Day is an associate professor of English and theater at The King’s College.
Co-written with Pia Wilson, No One Owns Me is a two-person play about the sex trafficking industry in Houston, one of the largest hubs for human trafficking in the United States. It was commissioned by A.D. Players in Houston. Stori Ayers directed the virtual reading.
Macy (played by Ari Notartomaso) is a 19-year-old with dreams of becoming a singer-songwriter. As the play opens, she is beginning to realize that her “boyfriend” is actually her pimp. Carla (played by Johnique Mitchell) is a survivor of sex trafficking who now works as a counselor at a center for trauma and recovery. Much of the play takes the form of conversations between Macy and Carla as Carla assists Macy with finding a job and preparing for the G.E.D. test.
The play underscores how the world of sex trafficking creates an illusion of control. When she was in the game, Macy would sometimes bring in $150 per hour. But Carla observes that she was just the “product” being sold: she wasn’t earning and keeping that money. At another point, Macy comments on how an intimidating pimp can provide protection from buyers who might turn violent, but that same pimp “could kill me if he wanted to.”
While Macy is the one seeking help, Carla faces obstacles of her own. She is still in contact with the man who used to be her pimp, and when interacting with him she has to remind herself, “You can’t be talked into things you don’t want to do anymore.”
A recurring theme in the play is recognizing the characteristics of real love. Early in the play, Carla introduces Macy to the idea that “bad love” can keep you loyal to a person who doesn’t have your interests at heart. Carla contrasts this with a “good love—the only real kind of love there is” that she describes with a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient and kind. . . Love loves the truth.” By the end of the play, Macy returns to this idea, describing the possibility of a love that is freeing, instead of manipulative.
Cragin-Day says she had immediate interest when the Artistic Director at A.D. Players approached her to write the play. “There simply aren’t enough plays that address the many ways our country’s legal system fails to protect, and even punishes, vulnerable women. The fact that the people that benefit from prostitution—the pimps and the buyers—face no consequences while the women being trafficked in the system are sent to prison angers me to no end.”
She continues, “I hope that this play does its part in educating people about the realities of prostitution and sex trafficking in America so that legislators can change the systemic sexism and racism that perpetuates the suffering these women endure.”
Dr. Joshua Kinlaw, chair of the program in Media, Culture, and the Arts, said, “The MCA Program—and King’s students generally—benefit from having an actual playwright as a faculty member. Further, Prof. Cragin-Day’s play shows the importance of the dramatic arts to our national conversation about significant, troubling issues.”
No One Owns Me will be produced live by A.D. Players in Houston in January 2022. Watch the trailer from the virtual reading.