| Portland-based actor Brian Chamberlain plays five roles in 30 minutes during “You the Man” and, “Within 15 seconds he has got audience in palm of his hand and you’re hooked for the whole ride,” according to Kris Hall, assistant director. (Contributed photo)
DEXTER – “You the Man” (YTM) has been making the rounds of high schools and communities in 35 states, Bermuda and Japan since 2004, but has never been to this region before. A series of small-town connections and grassroots efforts are making it possible for students and faculty at Dexter Regional High School to view the show during the day on March 20, and for the public to attend a free performance at 6 p.m. at the school.
The 30-minute, one-man play is “intended to help people not only recognize if a friend or family member is dealing with abuse or violence, but to know how best to support them,” said Cathy Plourde, who wrote and directed the production. Through the perspectives of five different men, the play “explores how difficult it can be to know what to do, but underscores that we must do something to help each other.”
Kris Hall, assistant director of the play, is a 1987 graduate of DRHS who went on to get a degree in political science at the University of Southern Maine before joining Add Verb Productions. Hall’s brother, Joel Hall, was a classmate of the late Amy Lake, who was killed in her Dexter rental home on July 13, 2011, along with her son Coty, 13, and daughter Monica, 12, by estranged husband Steven Lake, who then killed himself. It was Hall’s mother, Connie Hall, who brought the play to the attention of her fellow members of the Abbott Memorial Library Trustees. That group reached out to Womancare in Dover-Foxcroft, and together, the partners have gathered support from area businesses, organizations and individuals to sponsor a free evening showing of YTM.
“In a small town, you know that people have problems,” said Kris Hall. “You know that things go on, and it’s hard to have a constructive conversation about it. It’s hard to name it. And what Add Verb Productions does is to safely name it, safely discuss it, and safely present tools for people to use when forced by circumstances to cope with it. I hope Dexter will take the opportunity from the tragedy of Amy, Coty, and Monica to become known, not as the place where things like this occur, but as the place that took brave and community-changing steps to prevent things like this in the future.”
There is curriculum which accompanies the play for the students, and the presentation is followed by a panel discussion with advocates from Womancare and Rape Response Services, as well as local law enforcement. Members of the University of Maine’s Male Athletes Against Violence group may also sit on the panel.
“If it all works out, there may be some others, but not too big of a panel because the intent is to have a conversation with the community,” said Art Jette, Womancare’s community relations coordinator. And if that community conversation is particularly painful for any audience members, “part of the whole plan is to have an adequate number of trained advocates on hand to debrief and process with individuals, and safe places after both shows, to process individual issues that might arise as part of the experience of the show itself.”
Jette is no stranger to tragedy. His grandson, Treven Cunningham, 21-months, and family friend Mindy Gould, 20, were killed by Gould’s ex-boyfriend on December 3, 1999 in Dexter. Jette’s subsequent work with Womancare, and with Parents of Murdered Children, has helped him form a relationship with Gov. Paul LePage, who was a victim of domestic abuse during his childhood. Jette invited the governor to the Dexter presentation of YTM.
While LePage’s schedule is always subject to change, “The governor does plan to attend the evening showing of the play in Dexter on March 20,” said Adrienne Bennett, press secretary. “The ‘You the Man’ program is a great example of how students are standing up against domestic violence and the governor wholeheartedly supports their efforts.”
Grants from the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Maine Community Foundation are paying for YTM to appear in 20 high schools in Maine, but funds must be raised to cover the community performances. The Abbott Memorial Library Trustees are still collecting donations. Checks made out to the trustees may be mailed to: Abbott Memorial Library Trustees, 1 Church Street, Dexter 04930.
“We wanted to offer this free to the community so students would have the opportunity to bring parents back to see it, and so that other people could see it,” said Connie Hall, noting that sooner or later, everyone knows someone in a domestic violence situation. “We wanted to put those tools out there. This is what you can do so that you do not to stand by powerlessly and say, ‘I should have done something.’”