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Fantasy and Reality Create Backdrop for Play About Prostitution

“Deep Calls” is an urban fairy tale filled with menace, darkness and small glimmers of hope.

The play, premiering Feb. 7, tells the story of Carson, a young woman attempting to leave a life of prostitution. She journals about her experiences, framing certain events as fairy tales to ease her trauma. The play moves between two worlds, one of fantasy and one of harsh reality and is populated by characters, including a pimp named Porcupine, woodland creatures and a woman helping her heal and build a sense of self-worth.

Kendra Phillips, a Master of Fine Arts candidate in theatre arts from Renton, Wash., wrote “Deep Calls.” She was already working on the script when she undertook volunteer training at “The Genesis Project,” a Sea-Tac, Wash. drop-in center for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation.

“While the characters had been pestering me for years, but I’d given up on their play,” Phillips said. “Getting involved with the Genesis Project showed me the vehicle for their story.”

Breaking Down Misconceptions

Misconceptions surround prostitution, Phillips said. Too often, the life is portrayed as glamorous in the media like in the movie “Pretty Woman,” but this depiction is far from the reality.

“Deep Calls” incorporates music, vivid imagery, metaphors and fairy tale elements into the story, so the characters and audience “don’t have to look straight on,” Phillips said.

“The fairy tale elements give some distance.”

Director KT Turner agrees.

“Phillips takes elements from Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm and puts them into Carson’s world. It helps to lighten the situation so it’s easier to deal with,” Turner said.

A Welcome Challenge

It’s a very exciting project for a director, said Turner, a Master of Fine Arts candidate in theatre arts from Hammond, Louisiana.

“You don’t get to see fantasy a lot in theatre,” she said.

Because this production is the play’s debut performance, Turner is the first director to interpret the world of “Deep Calls.”

“I don’t like doing easy plays, the ones that are simple to understand,” Turner said. “It’s taken some time to figure out where this world is and what the choices in that world mean.”

Thankfully, Turner has a strong crew to help.

“I’ve got a team that’s as ambitious as I am,” Turner said. “We’re all pushing ourselves to think outside of the box.”

The “Deep Calls” cast features Department of Theatre Arts’ graduate students Emma Pace, Tanya Thompson and Luke Holt; Megan Woodward from the College of Science; and Taylor Telford, Victoria Zenner and Emma Nixon from the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences.

Article by Kelly O'Neill, Department of Theatre Arts
Published Feb. 2020

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