An innovative fusion of monologue and dialogue, “Why Won’t She Leave?” is the riveting story of one woman’s experience in a turbulent relationship. The performance and workshop were developed as a result of Hodnett and Harris examining hetero normative gendered roles in family, intimacy, personal experiences, and their impact on personal expression. The performance vividly details her initial search “outside herself for love” and finally for restoration. The work explores relationships between men and women and the tremendous power of our words to hurt and heal. “Why Won’t She Leave?” weaves sections of dialogue and monologue together, giving insight into moments of choice with respect to the emotional and physical environment of the present and the influence of the past through memories and flashes of conversation.
The performance uses four women to tell the story of Woman in White and her relationship with her emotionally, and later physically abusive partner. As Woman in White begins her “search outside herself for love” her path leads her to Some Truth. The relationship becomes progressively more abusive, causing flashbacks of her father, White Collar‘s verbal abuse of her mother. In the end the safety and support of Woman in White’s friend ButWhyGirl, offers the only safe space she has for reflection and restoration.
“Why Won’t She Leave?” was written to answer that very question which is often asked of women experiencing intimate partner violence. It is a performance piece and educational tool used to illustrate the anatomy of choice; that our decision making ability is a result of stored sensory exchanges, memories that never leave us. Our collective experiences compound and calcify, becoming part of us, creating the mold into which our free will is poured and from which our reality is formed.
Excerpt from Why Won’t She Leave
Woman In White speaks…
“Then one day, in my desperate search outside myself for love I found exactly what that type of search would lead you to. HE seemed to be waiting for me, blocking my path such that I thought I was at the END of my journey. It was easy to paint the illusion of fulfillment and insert him into my masterpiece. I thought he was my reflection, my divine lover, the one I been conjuring most of my adult life. Like he jumped off the pages of my journals and presented himself to me as an ebo to my longing. He knew me – pieces of me that were so well hidden even I had forgotten their resting places. He could see me raw & jagged, and wasn’t afraid of my brokenness. And I wanted so badly for him to accept me as I was. I wanted his love. I wanted his approval. I wanted his touch. I wanted him to lovingly say my name. So when things started to shift I stayed put; because I was raised right – to be a good woman, and a good black woman, stands by her man when no one else will. So I justified all his actions and HE kept his manipulations cloaked in just enough truth that I accepted them as such. Why so gullible? Simple. He was a distraction from the silence, the nail biting and emptiness that woke me up and put me to sleep. It felt better to have him in my life loving me with all the chaos and fury he could summon, than not to have him in my life at all. I WILLINGLY threw my guard down and there I stood wet and addicted to the wanting.” © 2005
Length : 45 minutes; Additional time for questions and discussion
Props/Audio Items needed : 4 stools, 4 microphones(optional), and 4 music stands
Production Type : Staged Reading
How did the performance make you feel?
“Inspired to continue in the work of healing our community. Having seen it a number of times, I feel more compassion for the two abusive men.”
“compassionate toward the plight of the victims of abuse as well as the abuser.”
“sad, encouraged, powerful.”
“The performance dealt with the serious issue of domestic violence and renewed my passion to care and support this cause”
“At times I felt a little embarrassed because I have fallen ‘victim’ to some of the same lines. But ultimately felt better knowing that I was not alone.”
“To be quite honest, I was surprised. Going into this experience, I was expecting a great message with an old concept. Luckily, I was fortunate to witness the writer’s brilliant choice as to how to package such a powerful message.”
“It made me understand that in the future when I start dating to get out if I’m in a bad relationship.”
“Thank you for having a woman cast as the male character raises the subtle point that violence transcends sexual orientation.”
“Sometimes I personally find it difficult to sympathize better yet, understand women in abusive relationships. The lady in white’s character was so pivotal for me in comprehending this side of domestic violence.”