How do you like it so far? Nice, huh? This is my street.” This is an example of the beginning of each character’s monologue in 27 Million Voices, a drama written and directed by Senior Elizabeth Gannaway. Each character had an experience in the slave trade in their respective countries.
The girl from India (Natya) was taken from her home at a young age by a man named Raju, who promised her a job as a waitress. This young girl and her family were dallahs in India, which meant that they were the lowest class possible. After her father was killed, her family had to beg for water and food to survive. When the man promised her the opportunity to make money in the city and visit her family whenever she wanted, she agreed to go with him. Before she even reached the city she realized that she would not be getting what she had been promised. When Nayta verbally reenacted the first time the man raped her, I literally felt like throwing up. While I knew from the beginning of the play that there was no way that she would be able to get out of this business, I still found myself rooting for her.
Isaiah was a very lovable character. He was goofy and sweet, but a little naive. Isaiah went to a brothel in India, paid to talk to one of the prostitutes (Natya), developed a relationship with her, and tried to free her by notifying the police. Of course, the corrupt police notified the pimp in charge of the brothel beforehand, and he was never able to get her out. However, even though he failed to save her, he did add a lighthearted touch to a depressing play.
Raju contributed to making the play both depressing and riveting at the same time. He was nasty and vile, and I detested him from the first conversation he had with Nayta. At some points in the play I literally wanted to get up and kick him in the balls. In the play he openly talked about and even relished in the fact that he rapes his girls, slaps them around, and even kills a few of them. Not in one moment of the play does he show any type of compassion for these girls. At one point he even threatened to bring Natya’s brother or sister to the brothel if she wouldn’t act like a “good little whore.”
After getting past my conclusions about the horribleness of his character, however, I was able to make some realizations about the actor himself; he was amazing. Sophomore Elisha Keener played Raju, and it would be completely wrong of me not to praise the amazing job he did portraying a disgusting character.
The next character was a 17-year- old girl living in South Africa named Caroline. Her story included being molested by her stepfather, leaving her house, living on the streets, and finally turning to prostitution to feed herself. Her character was incredibly angry at her mother, step father, and the disgusting men that she had to sleep with to make money. The intensity of her anger made her a very real character. Instead of feeling bad for her, I started to feel some of the anger that she did.
Hearing from a boy from Thailand who had to sell his body on the streets just like some women also added more depth to the story. Ong was a young orphan who stole from tourists for a while but eventually became a prostitute because he wasn’t earning enough money. Ong became addicted to alcohol and seemed to use it as a form of medication for the shame and guilt that he felt selling his body to other men.
The character that had the most effect on me was Yana, the prostitute who worked on the streets of Virginia after coming from Russia when she was promised work in America. I don’t know if it was the fact that her character was set in Virginia, the state I live in, or if it was the pain that I heard in her voice during her narrative that made her effect me so much, but during her monologue I had goose bumps. When she was talking about being stripped naked and beaten with an aluminum pipe, I started crying hysterically. The men that kidnapped her shot her up with heroin and got her hooked on drugs. She was burned with their cigarettes, and recalled screaming until she lost her voice while she had been raped. The agonizing details of Yana being tortured for an undistinguishable amount of time made me feel as if my insides had been sliced like an apple. She was a powerful character with a terrifying story and gave me goose bumps that didn’t go away until the end of the play.
While each character’s story was important to me, the most significant part of the play was when they tied them all together at the end. All the characters were out on stage telling their stories at the exact same time. Hearing all of the voices mesh together, hearing the emotions in the character’s voices, and watching their faces as they spoke had a very powerful effect on me. During the entire scene I could feel myself go still. When it finally came down to only Natya retelling her story I found myself just as riveted as the first time I had heard it. This was a powerful play, a play not to be missed.
-Devon Fore, News Editor