GROUP S.O.S. by Bonnie Culver, consists of two versions of the same play, which run about an hour each. The plays are male and female explorations of a therapy group for survivors of sexual abuse in which the characters meet, clash with, and eventually work to heal one another. The language and delicacy with which the subject matter is handled makes it accessible to high school and college students, a number of whom, statistically, have probably experienced some of the situations in the plays.
Both the playwright, Bonnie Culver, and its first director, Adam Hill, recommend that the play be done in conjunction with an existing school counseling program.
From the Play
(in order of appearance)
ANN Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse Group counselor, middle thirties.
LISA late twenties, single mother of two small children. Wears cowboy boots and jeans.
MARIE late thirties. Dressed for success, overachiever and workaholic.
DELORES late forties, heavy-set, prim. A nurse at local elementary school.
MONEE(pronounced Mon nee) late forties. Belongs to several self-help groups. She dresses in layers and in clothing mostly from the Salvation Army. Carries most of her belongings in large satchel.
J.J. Eighteen. Slim, small for her age. Child-like.
THE SCENE: A group therapy room, either at a mental health clinic or a classroom in a local school where such sessions occur. This play can be performed in the round or on a thrust stage to add intimacy, so that the audience members themselves feel as if they are part of the therapy sessions. If flats are used, they are painted a flat, pale color and hold institutional wall paintings of calm, peaceful landscapes in pastel colors.
AT RISE: Slide photographs of actors as small girls are shown briefly on a screen above the stage. They are innocent, smiling children. As lights dim, ANN enters. She carries some pamphlets, a tape recorder, and manila folders. LISA enters. She is in her twenties, slim, and dressed in faded jeans and baggy sweatshirt. MARIE enters with lighted cigarette in hand. She is dressed well in an expensive business suit with pants. When she sees LISA, she puts her cigarette back outside doorway.
MARIE: Lisa ? Right? (LISA looks up and nods) Early, too, huh? (LISA nods again) Since it’s just you and me, do you mind if I finish this in here?
(MARIE brings cigarette into room.)
MARIE: I hate sitting out there. In the lobby. You don’t know who you might see, you know? All those windows and people coming in. . . . (Holding up cigarette again) So. You mind? (LISA nods again seriously, still silent.) Is that a yes I can, or a yes, you mind. I need more than a head signal here.
LISA: This is a no smoking room.
MARIE: ( backs out of room) Sure. Sure. No problem. (MARIE pauses, then stepping back in again, speaking conspiratorially.) It isn’t just the people coming by. . . . Some of the people in the hallway, well, you know. . . . (Quickly) I don’t mean anyone from the group. . . . Makes you wonder what’s meeting down the hall, huh.
(LISA studies MARIE, but offers no response.)
MARIE: (MARIE exits, mumbling) Right. Back out to the lobby
(ANN enters, carrying coffee decanter filled with water. She crosses to coffee maker and smiles at LISA.)
ANN: Lisa. You’re early.
LISA: I had to get a ride.
ANN: (Nods at papers LISA clutches in her lap.) Is that your letter for this week?
LISA: You want it? (LISA stands and offers papers to ANN.)
ANN: No. No. We’ll read them later when everyone else is here.
LISA: Out loud? In front of everybody?
(LISA shrugs and stuffs letter back into her handbag.)
MARIE: (MARIE enters, followed by DELORES.) And . . . the one by the elevator. . . .
(MARIE sees ANN and approaches her.) What group meets down the hall?
ANN: Why would you need to know that?
MARIE: (Laughing nervously) Curious, that’s all. No big deal.
DELORES: (Sits near LISA, but addresses ANN.) Monnee asked me to tell you that she’d be in shortly. She’s in the ladies room.
ANN: (Glances at her watch) Good. We can start soon.
(ANN sits up center.)
LISA: Monnee only needs one chair. There are two chairs.
ANN: We have someone new joining the group tonight.
DELORES: But this is our third week.
DELORES: Her name is J.J.
LISA: What’s J.J. stand for?
DELORES: We’re in our third week already. . .
ANN: She didn’t tell me.
MARIE: You don’t have to know everything, Lisa.
DELORES: But it’s our third week!
MARIE: (Curtly) So Ann can give her a make-up exam. Jesus Christ!
DELORES: I don’t like it when you swear.
MARIE: And you. (Stops when she sees Ann watching them.)
(MONNEE enters. She carries her satchel.)
MONNEE: Sorry. Sorry. I’m so sorry. Had to walk all that way. So sorry.
ANN: It’s all right, Monnee. We haven’t started yet; we’re waiting for someone.
DELORES: (Under her breath) It is our third week.
LISA: (Impatiently) Ann, my ride will be here at nine sharp.
ANN: (Checking her watch) Well . . . all right. (Opening her manila folder) I asked each of you to write a letter for tonight’s session.