An Evening With JonBenét Ramsey
January 27th-February 5th, 2011
Boston Center for the Arts, Plaza Black Box Theatre
Written By: Walter A. Davis
Directed by: Vahdat Yeganeh
Art Director: Elizabeth Jacobs
Stage Manager: Harry Timmons
Lighting designer: John R Malinowski
Cast: Lorna Nogueira, Jared Wright, Hannah Cranton, Sam Perry, Elizabeth Jacobs, Harry Timmons.
“…there is a question of whether this is the work of the darkest evil imaginable or a more or less random act of malice and greed gone awry. Evil on this scale is impossible to comprehend. To know who murdered JonBenét Ramsey is to know what world we live in, where we are.”
So ended an editorial that appeared in TIME magazine shortly after the murder of JonBenét Ramsey. An Evening with JonBenét Ramsey is an attempt to know the psychological truth of what happened to JonBenét Ramsey and to use that knowledge as the basis for discussion of what the Ramsey case reveals about conflicts central to American society.
Sometimes literature offers the only way to understand a traumatic event. Sometimes it also provides the only Court where the violated can attain justice. Certain events leave a traumatic residue in our conscience. Resolution of the painful feelings that the event has awakened in us only comes with an in depth exploration of the human psyche. To that end the play imagines the life of an abused and murdered child as it might have evolved had she lived. The play explores the character’s experiences and her struggle to deal with the memories that haunt her, and employs a psychoanalytic framework to cast fresh light on the many issues raised by the Ramsey case: the sexualization of children, the voyeurism of the media, the failure of police investigators to bring to their task the psychological knowledge needed to comprehend what happened in the Ramsey household, and the inability of the legal system to provide a forum capable of addressing the widespread public concern for the social and moral issues raised by the Ramsey case.
As Walter Benjamin pointed out: “the dead remain in danger” — often because the social institutions called upon to bring them justice are paralyzed by their own inherent limitations. The Court holds, however, that it is then the duty of other public forums to provide other ways of reasoning capable of producing warranted conclusions. Tragic drama is such a forum. As Arthur Miller put it, “every play is a jurisprudence,” a place where those denied justice can seek it through that probing into the inner places of the human heart which is the hallmark of tragic drama. Theatre is that unique social institution in which audiences come together to witness the public airing of tragic secrets about our most intimate institutions — such as the family. That process offers us a way to confront the buried emotional conflicts central to our society and to achieve thereby a cleansing that is genuine because it derives from an honest confrontation with ourselves.”