St. Louis Playwright Uses Theater to Help End Cycle of Violence

From The Color Purple’s Celie to Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead,” the entertainment world has shined a spotlight on the issue of domestic violence, raising awareness through the eyes and voices of the women who live it every day.

Yet few ever get inside of the minds of the men who commit physically and sexually violent acts to explore why they believe violence is acceptable and how they justify their terrible actions - Information that could help stop the cycle of abuse. 

Here in St. Louis, schools and nonprofits alike have welcomed actor and playwright Tim Collins to their stages. Through his one-man performance, The Script, Collins is using his heartfelt words to assist in ending dating and domestic violence before it starts. And on December 1st, he’ll perform this celebrated play, along with his new work, the anti-bullying Standing By, Standing Up, at the Regional Arts Commission for a night of art and awareness

The Story behind The Script

Like most individuals, Collins was aware there’s an issue of domestic and dating violence in this country, but it wasn’t until he began discussing the topic with the women in his life did the enormity of the epidemic take shape. Every female friend, every female family member had a story that hit close to home, whether it affected her acquaintance, her roommate or even herself. 

Explained Collins, “No man I knew would say to me, ‘I wouldn’t feel safe walking by myself or running in this park.’ Men have a sort of privilege; they feel safe all the time. Women have to have a battle plan even if they’re just walking out of their house. They always have to have something prepared just in case – that’s a horrible way to live. I thought there surely must be something I could do to help.” 

As an actor who studied at Marlboro College and Arts ED UK, Collins decided to direct his talents toward advocacy. Putting pen to paper, the playwright crafted The Script to target domestic and dating violence. The 40-minute play goes inside the minds of four young men in the wake of a sexual attack on a female classmate. Through his characters, Collins exposes the misconception of blaming the victim and explores how one’s inability to handle challenges to his masculinity can set him on a dangerous course toward violence. 

In the past two years, The Script has not only struck a chord with theatergoers, but has grown into a critical teaching tool for a network of schools, nonprofits and other agencies across St. Louis. Collins regularly performs The Script for a variety of audiences, including students as young as eighth grade, as well as adults who themselves have been abusive to their partners.

Collins believes exposing the flaws of his characters is what has turned a passive theater experience into a passionate and educational conversation between himself and the audience. “I like portraying misinformed characters who say – this is what I believe – to get the audience to react and disagree with me. By showing all levels of understanding across the spectrum – from ignorance about domestic violence to some kind of enlightenment on the issue, that’s where the dialogue happens. I want my characters to change their limited viewpoints and hopefully the audience will learn alongside them.”    

The Next Show in a Series

With the success of The Script, Collins decided to expand his reach in Fall 2011 with Standing By, Standing Up, which targets the reasons behind and consequences of today’s bullying epidemic. While Collins initially created the show to target middle and high schoolers, agencies encouraged him to expand it to children as young as fourth grade – a sad realization about the severity of the issue. 

Yet, through Standing By, Standing Up, audiences discover ways to end bullying in their organizations. “I hope I created a show that lets kids look at the system of violence in their schools, and think, ‘Can I step in?’ ‘Can I identify people who are being bullied, but don’t have the skills or emotional knowledge to stop it?’ ‘Can I help create an environment where people are helped instead of hurt?’” 

On Thursday, December 1, Collins will perform both The Script and Standing By, Standing Up at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Blvd., at 6:30 p.m. The night will also feature a Resource Fair and Panel Discussion featuring local violence prevention agencies. There is no cost for the event, but donations will be accepted. Organizations who wish to have Collins perform at their facilities can contact him through www.timcollinssoloperformer.blogspot.com

Moving forward, Collins is continuing to affect social change through his work on two new performances examining mental illness and sex education. “There are so many issues out there, from suicide prevention to heroin abuse,” he remarked. “There’s an infinite amount of shows, and an infinite number of agencies in St. Louis. I am so excited to be sharing my work with them to help others.” 

By Nicole Plegge, Lifestyle Blogger for SmartParenting

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Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL 

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