Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A song that lingered

This week, I attended a showcase for new composers and lyricists of musical theatre and one of the songs that was performed was from a show in development called The Boy Who Danced On Air by Charlie Sohne and Tim Rosser. The song I heard, "A Boy of my Own" was a beautiful ode from two young men that is ultimately about their desire for their future sons' lives to be better than their own.

Guiseppe Bausilio & Jamen Nanthakumar  


The song stayed with me, long after the singing ended, and I found the documentary that inspired the musical on YouTube.

In 2010, "The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan" aired on PBS. It chronicled the lives of men involved with bacha bazi, a form of sexual slavery and child prostitution in which prepubescent and adolescent boys are sold to wealthy and powerful men for entertainment and sexual activities. They are taught to sing, play music and dance like women in order to perform for these rich men.  This ancient practice has all but disappeared in the world, except where it's thriving in Afghanistan. Many men there keep dancing boys as status symbols, even though it's illegal under Afghan law.

Beyond the apparent backwards mentality of both slavery and child prostitution, what I found so cripplingly painful was the fact that these boys are being raped and taken advantage of by rich men, in the name of entertainment. As someone who has first-hand experience of male-on-male rape culture, I didn't have to try very hard to put myself in these young boys' shoes. It's the type of pain that takes a very long time to move past and, that's if you have a support system that allows you to grow past it. If you are young and alone, as a piece of property, I can't imagine what that does to them.

The documentary states that the police treat this like just another taboo subject and they pay little attention to it, which has enabled it to spread. There are organizations like Hope for Justice who are working to end human trafficking, but this just shows how much more there is to do.

Watching the documentary, I couldn't help but feel glad that there's a team of theatre writers who are working to bring this story to the stage. In a culture that seems to only champion the film-turned-musical genre, having a new work written about something topical and timely is more important than ever. In the way The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is illuminating a human story on stage, I hope this will as well.

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