Since the late nineteenth century playwrights in North America and Europe have been producing plays on themes concerning the sexual abuse of males. Authors range from well-known professionals to newcomers writing plays for the first time, and include both men and women. Nine survivors have written plays (Martin Moran has written two), and among these we include Vinnie Nauheimer, who is a father writting in support of his son, who was abused by a Catholic priest. Some look at the problem from the point of view of the victim, while others pose questions concerning abusers.
Approaches range from comedy to tragedy, and only one play (Stephen Fry's Latin!, written when he was a student) fails to take the subject seriously. Abuse by both male and female perpetrators is covered, and incest, child prostitution, and institutional abuse are well represented. Only one of the 47 plays (Charlton’s ecstasy + GRACE, 2001) deals with “stranger danger,” which, interestingly enough, reflects the low incidence of abuse cases of this type. In these plays the connection between sexual abuse and other social issues is often explored. It is worth noting that already in 1951, de Montherlant was raising questions concerning sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, which becomes an especially prominent theme after the Boston revelations in 2002. Most of the plays are in English (from the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, and Ireland), but there are also works in German, French, and Danish.
The date immediately following the title of the play is the date of the first public performance, which can differ significantly from the date of publication of the script.
Bylott, Richard J. (1962- ). Lemon Meringue (2010). Hauppauge, NY: unpublished, 2010. In this musical following the playwright through the various stages of his recovery, a successful Long Island family man struggling to come to terms with anger problems finds his answers – and challenge – in a part of his past he has so far tried to ignore: at the age of nine he was repeatedly sexually abused by his pediatrician, while other adults in his life looked on but saw nothing. His recovery work is complicated by frustration and his increasing awareness that he has a lot to be angry about. But then, following the advice of a therapist who has gained his trust, he begins writing letters…to himself as a young boy and as a teenager.
Capozzi, Joe (1970- ). For Pete’s Sake (2008). New York: unpublished, 2008. In a powerful example of “survivor humor,” a thirty-something man named Joe struggles with a failing marriage and an increasingly difficult secret: as a teen and young adult he was sexually abused by his pastor. But the crisis becomes unbearable when Joe suspects that his eight-year-old nephew may soon fall victim to the same predator, who is not only still in the active priesthood, but also a trusted family friend. In real life Capozzi did report to the police, leading the Archdiocese of Newark to reach financial settlements with him and several other of the abuser’s victims.
Crowley, Mart (1935- ). For Reasons That Remain Unclear (1993), in his 3 Plays (Los Angeles: Alyson Publications, 1996), pp. 261-350; also published individually, New York: Samuel French, 2003: and in his The Collected Plays of Mart Crowley (New York: Alyson Books, 2009), pp. 323-83. Patrick, an American screenwriter on an all-expenses-paid trip to Rome for a film project, meets an older man, an American priest named Conrad, and invites him to his hotel for a drink. There it gradually emerges that Conrad is the cleric who sexually abused Patrick at the age of nine.
Mack, Michael (1957- ). Conversations with My Molester: a Journey of Faith (2012). Boston: unpublished, 2012. Sexually abused by his parish priest at the age of eleven, the author has found over the years that this has profoundly affected his life, in particular his understanding of sexuality and spirituality. When he finally searches for the man’s name on the Internet and finds that he is not only still alive, but living less than an hour away, he decides to visit him.
Moran, Martin (1960- ). All the Rage (2013). New York: Dramatists Play Service, 2013. In the wake of the staging of his earlier play (The Tricky Part), the author finds it difficult to come to terms with his conflicted and erratic feelings about anger, fearing that had he been in touch with his anger as a boy he could have protected himself from the abuser. The problem follows him wherever he goes, but so too does the answer. The subject matter of this solo play, which won the 2013 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Solo Show, was subsequently covered in far greater detail in the author’s memoir of the same title (Boston: Beacon Press, 2016).
Moran, Martin (1960- ). The Tricky Part (2002). New York: Dramatists Play Service, 2005. In this one-man show with a very sparse set, Martin, a 42-year-old actor in New York, writes a confrontational letter to the camp counselor who sexually abused him from the age of twelve to fifteen. Much to his surprise, the abuser calls him and agrees to meet him: the results are not what Martin had anticipated. As Moran tells his story, his audience is invited to join him and consider their own journeys. The subject matter of the play, which won an OBIE Award, is covered in far greater detail in Moran’s memoir of the same title (Boston: Beacon Press, 2005).
Nauheimer, Vinnie. The Predator Wore a Collar. Unpublished. A play by the father of a boy abused by a priest, loosely based on his experiences dealing with the Archdiocese of New York. Further details not yet available.
Sandford, Patrick (1952- ). Groomed (2015). London: unpublished, 2015. In this solo play an adult survivor, struggling with guilt, shame, and anger, confronts the schoolteacher who groomed and sexually abused him as a nine-year-old boy, as well as the establishment that turned a blind eye to the abuse. What is a boy – and the man he becomes – to believe in, or trust, once experience shows him that he can count on his world to respect nothing, not even the sanctity of a child’s innocence?
Spikes, Jonathan (1987- ), and Shanteria Griglen. I Know What I Am and I Am Not What You Call Me: Stage Play (2016). Miami, FL: unpublished, 2016. In this coming-of-age play, based on Spikes’ book bearing the same title (Miramar, FL: JSS Publishing, 2010), a young African American faces a host of questions as he struggles with the reality of who he is, how he appears to others, and his relationship with God. His task is complicated by sexual abuse, family chaos, racism, homophobia, and cancer. The author is the founder and president of a foundation that sponsors youth outreach programs in Florida.
Wolff, Herbert. Sins of the Father: Reassigning Abuse (2004). Ebook: Very Best Publishers, 2004. Second edition, 2011. In this play the stage is split into two scenes. In one, a reporter interviews a bishop about a priest in his diocese who was convicted of molesting boys; in the other, taking place ten years earlier, the ex-priest is being deposed in prison. The action alternates between the two settings. The bishop makes excuses, and the convicted priest, only vaguely aware of his guilt, recalls a litany of crimes so disturbing that at one point the session has to be recessed so the stenographer can compose herself.