"You never know how much you love something until it's gone. I'm so grateful that we're chugging it all back to life, figuring out a new paradigm, and figuring out how to be more inclusive. And, telling stories. It's a real seismic time in human history and never more important to have our artists and our best minds really grappling with the issues and really trying to show us the way that might lead to the right path...or to the wrong path...and keep us thinking and keep us talking and keep us in community."
Just prior to the pandemic, Bellamy Young, best known to audiences as First Lady Mellie Grant on the ABC series Scandal, returned to New York after 18 years in Los Angeles, hoping to return to her theatrical roots as well. She made her Broadway debut in 1997 in The Life, and is marking her stage return with a benefit reading of Tyler Martin's new play Bonded, presented by MenHealing and the Ruby Struve Fund, October 15 at 3 PM at Theatre Row.
"It really is an exploration of trauma bonding," he Martin, who wrote the play during his pandemic downtime. The story centers on Emmett, who is facing prison time following a second DWI, and his estranged sister Nellie who returns to their Texas hometown to try to keep him out of jail. As the two reconnect, they unearth old family trauma that will either bring them together or permanently tear them apart.
The reading benefits MenHealing, an organization that provides healing resources for men and male-identified sexual trauma survivors (age 18 and older) who have experienced sexual victimization during childhood or as adults.
"It was really important to me to base this play in community," says Martin, himself a survivor early in his journey to healing. "Conversation is wonderful, but if it only happens between ten people in New York, what does it matter?" The play, in addition to its live reading, will also stream live and include a talkback with the cast and creative team, as well as representatives from MenHealing, moderated by Ken Kirby.
"One of things I've learned as I've come to know Tyler and MenHealing...one in four women has this in their history, one in six men," says Young. We know less about the men because they don't have the emotional, societal support to speak on it. Men, particularly, heal more effectively in community. It's been astonishing to find that out, and then be a part of something in which that is so very much the goal has been very special."
Young, who also has family trauma in her past, and Martin have truly bonded over their short time working on the play. "Four days of rehearsal has felt like four years of therapy," laughs Young. The bond, though, comes not through sharing their experiences, but more through shared emotions.
"We've been so careful with each other about boundaries and having this be a safe space, and having it be a shared experience without having to go into any gruesome specificities. But it's all on the page. It's in the work," says Young. "That's the beauty of good writing. The more specific it is, the more universal it is."
"From a survivor perspective, it's a misconception that to share your story, you have to share all of your story," adds Martin. "We can just share what we're going through emotionally and how it is affecting our daily lives."
"It really plays the relationships instead of the themes and that just made it so crushingly human," says Young of Bonded.
Thomas Caruso directs the play, featuring Martin as Emmet, Young as Nellie, and Brian Thomas Abraham as James, with Laura Yen Solito reading stage directions.
In-person and virtual attendees can RSVP at MenHealing.net, with donations to MenHealing encouraged. Both the in-person and virtual performances will include ASL interpretation.