Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=158838
Story Retrieval Date: 5/23/2013 4:51:27 AM CST
New technologies upend the idea of not talking to strangers by putting us in perpetual contact with people we don’t know.
“We, especially kids, live in a state of distrust,” said David Schwimmer, “[by] not knowing who you’re talking to on the other end, or not know what’s going to happen to the image someone just took of you.”
Who can teens trust – and who they shouldn’t – is at the heart of “Trust,” a new play co-written and co-directed by Schwimmer that debuts this week at Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan Ave.
Schwimmer, best known for his starring role in the TV series “Friends,” spent seven years working on the play, which examines the life of a Chicago-area family that is devastated when an online predator targets their 14-year-old daughter.
“It’s just such a vulnerable, transitional age for people, being mostly between 13 and 15 years old,” Schwimmer said, “It happens when kids are mostly having kind of an awakening in their sexuality, in their curiosity, a feeling of wanting to assert their independence for the first time.”
Schwimmer’s interest in online predators sparked a decade ago, when he began to notice more cases in which offenders were luring their victims online. A few years later, a victim’s father spoke about his grief at a fundraiser that Schwimmer attended, providing the basis for a character in the script.
Schwimmer became so engrossed in the issue that he shadowed an FBI agent who worked closely with the Rape Foundation in Santa Monica and talked to victims.
The play is having a special benefit performance for the Rape Victim Advocates on Thursday at the Lookingglass Theatre, which Schwimmer co-founded with fellow Northwestern University grads in 1988. The theater company contacted the advocacy group early on in the project.
“It was important to me that we not just create a piece of entertainment, but that there is a component of social activism tied into it,” said Schwimmer, who sits on the board of directors for the Rape Foundation in Santa Monica.
Co-director Heidi Stillman said that she expected the play to have a big impact on its audience. “There’s a lot of people who’ve been through situations like this or know somebody that has.”
In addition to the special benefit performance for the Rape Victim Advocates, there will be weekly post-performance discussions with experts and a trained counselor at each performance in case the show stirs traumatic memories.
“The play’s very powerful. We wanted to be able to have resources here as well,” Stillman said.
Counselors will be provided by Rape Victim Advocates.
“The partnership began because of [Schwimmer’s] involvement in Santa Monica,” Sharmili Majmudar, the executive director of the advocacy group, said.
Schwimmer’s commitment to anti-violence advocacy for women began around 14 years ago when Gail Abarbanel, the president of the Rape Treatment Center in Los Angeles, told him that he could leverage his celebrity to show men that they should care about violence against women, he said.
“I thought I could maybe give voice and give presence and get guys to see that it is their issue and it is their responsibility,” Schwimmer said. “I realized that these are our girlfriends, our wives, our daughters, our sisters, so it’s as much a man’s issue as it is a women’s issue.”
This breadth of people affected by sexual violence was clear when putting together the play, he said.
“In every stage of this script, I’ve had people come up to me at readings or crew members that they’ve never told anyone this, but they’d been victimized,” Schwimmer said.
“Trust” opens with previews Wednesday at the Lookingglass Theatre. Regular performances run from March 14 to April 25.
Schwimmer also directed a film version of “Trust,” starring Catherine Keener and Clive Owen as the parents of the 14-year-old victimized online. The film, which is set in Wilmette, is expected to be released by 2011.
Andy Bellin co-wrote the play.