Written by Debra Walsh, HartBeat Ensemble member and co-playwright for Project: Turnpike:
Four years ago last May, I was at an event with many good folks who are involved in ending or combatting homelessness in Connecticut. I met a person who was talking about the plight of young women brought to the USA with prospects for working to send money home, only to discover they had been sold into a sex trafficking business, which is thriving in CT.
This person spoke of a network working to help these women escape. I can’t go into details here. However, one outcome was to propose an idea to Hartbeat Ensemble (of which I am a member) to address the sex and worker slave trade for our next New Play.
I began researching international sex trafficking and thinking of a play that would involve puppets, movement and the audience as participants: the theater space would represent the holding place where they awaited their fate.
I did research on and off for two years, and then in May, 2011, I met Ray Bechard, author of the Berlin Turnpike: A True Story of Human Trafficking In America.
I am so grateful to Naomi Gallagher who told me about his book signing at a restaurant on the pike. Read his book. It is haunting. It is too real, interesting, vivid and the most important piece of Connecticut’s dark history I think that has been written.
After this interview, we had a focus for our next play: the rampant human sexual exploitation in our neighborhood. I was shocked to learn the first ever pimps incarcerated for domestic trafficking under the international laws were Hartford icut based.
In the Summer of 2011, with Ray as a resource and much additional research, the writing of Project: Turnpike began. Cindy Martinez, another ensemble member, is now lead writer with Steve Ginsberg at the helm as director.
We had a week in February with actors for script development, and another three days next week. This will culminate in a reading at Capital Community College on Wednesday, April 25th at 7:30.
I hope you join us there to see the very first public reading of our new work.