‘Something’s Missing’ Gives Survivors Hope

El Vaquero Features Editor

A 6-year-old boy is kidnapped and raised by a pedophile for seven years before he manages to run away and get to safety. That’s when the play “Something’s Missing” begins; it’s about the war a mother wages to save her son’s life from his own self-destruction.

“I swore that I would not let this hate destroy me or my son; I swore I would not hate, not even [the] person who had … abducted my son.? I promised I would somehow learn to forgive even him … that promise is harder to keep,” says the character Barbara Russell, played by Sarah Cross, the abducted boy’s mother.
“Something’s Missing,” is one of the two plays that are currently being performed by the theatre arts department; it is running in repertory with “Hayfever.”

“Something’s Missing” was written by one of GCC’s very own theater arts professors, Ken Gray, and is being directed by a theater professor from the University of Central Florida, Lani Harris, who directed the play in 2004 when it was performed at her college.
“This is a very serious play and is not light-hearted,” said Gray. The play contains adult language and subject material.

“I heard about [“Something’s Missing”] from Ken awhile back, about last summer, and I went to the site where it was at and printed it out, one of the earlier versions of it, and I fell in love with it,” said Carlo Morelli, 20, who plays Ryan, the boy who was abducted. “I felt like I had to be a part of it when he did it.”

The play begins when Ryan returns home as a teenager and his parents, Barbara and Roger, played by George Mackey, try to reconnect with their son and the person he has become.

Ryan however does not want to be coddled; he is very sullen and ashamed of what he had to do in order to survive the past seven years with Preston, played by David John Morris, the man who had abducted and molested him.

His mother though will not accept that she has lost her little boy, and she refuses to stand idly by as he seems intent on destroying the rest of his life, even as his father pulls away when he learns the truth of what happened to his son.

“After this play opened in Florida, I was literally overwhelmed (and many times brought to tears) by the number of young men between 18 and 25, who knocked on my office door, or stopped me on campus to say that they had been molested, and how much this play had helped them,” said Harris. “They had never spoken about the abuse and never asked for help for fear they would be ostracized, their parents might reject or not believe them, or that their peers would believe they had ‘become’ gay as a result of the abuse.”

This is one of the reasons Gray wrote the play. He had met someone who had been abused and basically saved himself.
Originally Gray was going to have a female as the abducted child, but then changed it to a male because men are ‘stronger’ and they don’t usually admit to being molested.

Gray did approximately two years of research for this play and has some very definite opinions about child molestation and the parents and society’s role in the aftermath.

“Our culture is infantile about sexuality,” said Gray. “As parents we’re ashamed that our children are victims. That shame about the human body is what destroys these children. We are so shocked they were molested and they are ashamed of it.”

According to www.wikipedia.com, “A wide range of psychological, emotional, physical, and social effects has been attributed to child sexual abuse, including anxiety, depression, obsession, compulsion, grief, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms such as flashbacks, emotional numbing, pseudo-maturity symptoms, and other more general dysfunctions such as sexual dysfunction, social dysfunction, dysfunction of relationships, poor education and employment records, eating disorders, self-mutilation …”
And in Gray’s opinion the media doesn’t help, “the media reaches for the most prurient element, to a criminal extent. On one hand we make everyone ashamed of sexuality and on the other we use it to sell.”

Don’t be afraid because this play discusses a taboo. This is a taboo that happens far too much in the world and needs to be confronted.

“In the same way that audiences might have avoided ‘Anne Frank’, if it had been described as ‘the story of a child who is killed by the Nazis’, it is important to focus on the fact that Ken’s play is so much more than just the story of a child who was molested,” said Harris. “Instead, it deals with the recovery and redemption of the boy [into manhood], and his family. It is an inspiring story of human survival under very difficult circumstances.”

“The story itself; it’s controversial, but it’s something people can relate to in a general way, even if it didn’t happen to you. There’s media about it, but it’s not really talked about that much,” said Morelli. “It seems like a very good eye opener.”

The thing that Morelli likes most about the play is that “It’s satisfying. It starts out and people are taken back by its subject matter. Then people grow with the characters and then at the end when you’ve already gotten to know the characters and you’ve gotten to know the story you don’t know what’s going to be happening, then it has a satisfying result.”

“In the end, the play celebrates the indomitable spirit of this one family, the determination of the boy’s mother to save her son’s life when so many abducted children succumb to drugs, alcohol, suicide and other forms of self destruction,” wrote Gray on the theater arts department Web site about “Something’s Missing.” “It is her spirit, her sense of humor, and her love that reaches out and heals the man, his father, and, in some ways, the man who took her child.”

Harris and Gray are taking “Something’s Missing” to the 60th Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland in August. “Something’s Missing” opened April 20 in the Glendale Community College Auditorium Studio Theater.