David Heron's AGAINST HIS WILL Shatters Record For Playreading Series At Billie Holiday Theatre
David Heron's Against His Will, a legal drama about a young Jamaican man who accuses his female boss of sexual assault and decides to file charges against her, has broken the record for playreading attendance at the renowned Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn.
On Monday September 17, nearly 75 industry insiders, producers and audience members poured into the new Restoration Plaza Community Dance Studio adjacent to the theatre, to witness the first ever staged reading of Heron's newly revised play, which first premiered in his native Jamaica nearly two decades ago.
According to Heron, the workshop's monthly readings generally attract 20 to 30 persons at most, meaning that the attendance for Against His Will easily doubled that of any other playreadings in the series to date.
"The readings are generally held once per month on Monday evenings at 7pm at The Billie," he says, "Which can be a challenging time for some patrons to make it out to Bed Stuy if they're not Brooklyn residents. Director of the workshop, Garland Thompson Jr, informed me that on good nights, the average attendance was generally in the 20 to 30 range. So we are extremely pleased that we were able to attract the audience that we did. I think it proves that with the right ingredients and good marketing, bigger numbers are possible."
Heron believes that certain key elements played a significant role in the increased attendance for his reading.
"I think for those who don't know the play, the subject matter and the tagline in our marketing- 'Does an Erection Imply Consent' - was a huge magnet. And then there are others who still remember the play from its world premiere production in Jamaica years ago. I also think that having such a highly respected, Tony nominated leading lady as Pascale Armand in our cast helped as well. Marketing and publicity is something I did and continue to do for a living even now, and I think all those factors helped to create the success we had."
Heron stepped in to direct the reading of his play at the last minute when originally announced director Timothy D. Stickney had to bow out due to a scheduling conflict. He believes that the reading, originally scheduled for the Billie Holiday Theatre itself, benefitted enormously from being in the smaller and more intimate dance studio, where closer proximity to the actors drew the audience further into the drama.
The cast- including Tony nominee Armand , as well as Nixon Cesar, Nyanda Cammock, Dianne Dixon, Marsha Ann Hay, Candice McKoy, David Stallings, Carlene Taylor and Karl O' Brian Williams - received a rousing and prolonged standing ovation from the capacity audience at the end of the reading.
An intense and often fiery talkback followed- moderated by award winning actress Aixa Kendrick- during which members of the audience enjoyed a passionate debate among themselves and with the playwright and the actors about several of the play's issues. These included whether male sexual arousal is a sign of consent and how our society views men who come forward to take legal action against their sexual aggressors.
"It was refreshing to see that the issues first raised when I wrote this piece over fifteen years ago are still so fresh- and even more appropriate in 2018," Heron says. He also stated that several doors are now opening for the further development and future of the play.
Caribbean cuisine for the post event cocktail reception was provided by Golden Krust Restaurant and Grill.
PHOTO: David Heron and the company of Against His Will