Theater has many applications. It can entertain. It can provoke intellectual debate. It can serve as a temporary distraction from the grind of everyday life.
But Delaware County resident Michael Broussard uses theater to help him cope with being a victim of childhood sexual abuse. And he hopes his one-man production, "Ask A Sex Abuse Survivor," being staged this weekend in Elkins Park, may help others who have suffered this most heinous of crimes to deal with its often emotionally debilitating aftermath.
"The show is storytelling," explained Broussard, 50, during a recent phone conversation. "It is my experiences as a sex-abuse survivor. It also is my journey of how I found a path toward healing, toward getting better, toward getting stronger, being able to manage that kind of trauma.
"I wanted to play to my own strengths as a performer. I also felt the show needed to somehow help get a conversation going about sexual abuse. To get people talking in real time . . . I think that is a very rich and powerful thing."
The program's format is unconventional. It's divided into seven segments: four feature Broussard - who was sexually molested by his stepfather when he was 7 and 8 and subsequently by that man and three others who lived in his hometown of Clinton, Mass. - recounting his experiences. There are audience-participation interludes, during which each presentation is discussed and questions are asked and answered, including those about where victims of abuse can find help.
The content of the final three "performance" sequences is determined by what was discussed in the breaks. "The feedback I get from the audience has a direct impact on the way I continue telling my story, where I go with it and how I share it," he said. "The whole idea is to make it into a conversation."
Broussard, an actor who has been staging "Ask a Sex Abuse Survivor" for about a year, said that adults who have survived childhood molestation suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, not unlike war veterans.
Thus the show's subject matter could trigger a flashback for audience members who are survivors, and clinicians are on hand in case someone becomes distraught. However, Broussard said that this had not happened at any shows and suggested that this was "because the presence of the clinicians makes people feel safe."
Lest anyone assume that "Ask a Sex Abuse Survivor" makes for a relentlessly downbeat evening, Broussard insisted that humor plays a large part.
"Humor is the thing that keeps us alive when things are at their darkest," he offered. "There's a lot of humor [in the show] - about me, about my mom. But there's never humor about the abuse."
He continued, "When you go to something that dark, I think the audience needs a release, I know I need the release. So there's a good deal of humor."
White Plains Place, 7908 High School Road, Elkins Park, 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. next Sunday, $15, sexabusesurvivor.com.
Fantastically funny 'Forbidden'
We can't speak to the long term, but through June 28, at least, Ambler reigns as the Delaware Valley's funniest locale. That's where Act II Playhouse is staging "Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits."
There is so much talent and entertainment running amok on the Act II stage that it's almost embarrassing for the suburban theater company. The fun begins with the program, about 75 minutes of always dead-on, frequently brilliant song parodies from the astonishingly fertile mind of lyricist Gerard Alessandrini.
We would need more space than we have here to enumerate all the laugh-out-loud moments. Among the funniest: the "Fiddler on the Roof" sequence, sung to the tune of "Tradition," which is not only hilarious but possibly the best delineation of what motivates people to become performers ever written; the "Chicago" send-up (based on "Razzle Dazzle") that eviscerates the late Bob Fosse's signature choreographic template; the potshots taken at Stephen Sondheim's predilection for tongue-twisting verbosity; and, best of all, the nuking of that most tempting target, "Les Miserables."
Alessandrini's way with words aside, "Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits" would not be the joy that it is without its small ensemble of extremely gifted artists. The quartet of principals - the ubiquitous Tony Braithwaite (Act II's producing artistic director), Tracie Higgins, Jeffrey Coon and Elena Camp - impress with their vocal prowess, comedic chops and prodigious impersonation abilities (e.g. Higgins as Liza Minnelli, Camp as Barbra Streisand, Braithwaite as Carol Channing). And pianist Sonny Leo gets into the act with a delicious takedown of actors who go feline in "Cats."
While "Forbidden Broadway," whose run in Ambler has been extended, is aimed squarely at musical-theater buffs, this iteration tosses its humor-tipped darts at only the most familiar Broadway totems, making it equally enjoyable for passionate devotees and casual musical theater fans.
Don't miss it!
Act II Playhouse, 56 E. Butler Ave., Ambler, through June 28, show times vary, $34-$40, 215-654-0200, act2.org.