Monday, April 27, 2009

Interview: Stanley Bennett Clay (and an "Armstrong's Kid" Giveaway)

Armstrong's Kid - the explosive new play written by and starring three-time NAACP Theatre Award-winner Stanley Bennett Clay, is running at Lucy Florence Village Theatre. Read Daood's interview of Clay after the jump (and we're also giving away tickets!)

Daood: Armstrong's Kid is about a school teacher falsely accused of child molestation by his best friend's 14-year-old son. Let's first talk about how child molestation became the subject matter for your new play?

Stanley Bennett Clay: I think that child molestation is very prominent on the table of social discourse, as well it should be. Children are our most precious treasures and to violate a child is beyond criminal. Today, child molestation is at the top of the list of morally reprehensible behavior, thank God, because there was a time when such behavior was routinely swept under the rug, during the children-should-be-seen-and-not-heard period. Now children are encouraged to report the slightest violation.

Now, having said that, often times in our zeal to protect our children and our encouraging our children to come forth, many adults have been falsely accused and successfully prosecuted for crimes they did not commit. All it takes is for a child to say 'he touched me there' and that adult is hauled off to jail. I wanted to examine that slippery slope and how a lie can destroy an innocent adult as much as molestation can destroy an innocent child.

Daood: What was the basis for creating the three main characters of the play?

Stanley Bennett Clay: Actually there are only two characters, the falsely accused school teacher Mr. Drake and the now-grown accuser Thaddeus Harris. The play actually takes place 11 years after the accusation was made and 10 years after Mr. Drake spends a year in prison before the truth is revealed.

The entire play takes place in Mr. Drake's cabin in The Catskills which he purchased with the settlement money paid out by his former best friend and Thaddeus' dad, Armstrong Harris (who is never seen but heavily discussed). Thaddeus contacts Mr. Drake and asks if he may come up and offer a formal apology, which Mr. Drake grants. It is during this meeting that emotions explode with anger, jealousy, accusations, and shocking revelations.

Daood: Being accused of molesting your best friend's child has to be right at the top of the list of horrific acts that you can be accused of and my curiosity begs the question, why did you choose the accuser to be a friend instead of a stranger?

Stanley Bennett Clay: Aside from the fact that statistically most child molesters are indeed friends of the family, or family members, there is a deeper emotional and dramatic impact when you believe that someone close to you has done such an awful thing to your child. There are all kinds of additional conflicts involved, some of the principle ones being trust and betrayal. You're always cautious about your children being around some pervert on the street, but your best friend in the whole world? The emotional drain is devastating, I would think.

Daood: Without giving away too much of the story about the child, impart his relationship to his father?

Stanley Bennett Clay: Since the audience knows walking into the theater that the kid lied, the whole question of the show is 'why?' And, yes, even though his relationship with his father is a part of it, it is certainly not all of it. Through many pyschological twists and turns, the truth of the matter, the answer to the 'why,' is ultimately revealed.

Daood: Is the child's relationship with his father's best friend the accuser of duplicity being bad and good?

Stanley Bennett Clay: That is something that audience members must determine for themselves as they watch the play.

Daood: People attending the play, you're hoping that they will walk away with what perspective?

Stanley Bennett Clay: Those who are familiar with my work, particularly my play "Ritual", know that I'm deep into knock-down-drag-out psycological "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" type of theatre. I don't believe in putting an audience to sleep. You will certainly not be bored when you see a Stanley Bennett Clay play.

You will be emotionally gripped by things you may not have thought about before, or even things you have supressed. What perpective do I wish them to walk away with? Their own individually unique perspective, their own examination of personal demons, denials, discoveries, and the healing force of facing even the darkest challenge. I want my audience to be provoked and entertained, like the scary thrill of a rollarcoaster. If I don't provoke and entertain my audience, if I don't give them something to think about and a show that they can snap their fingers at, then I need to get out of the playwrighting business.


Armstrong's Kid runs until July 2009. is currently running a giveaway for the May 23rd show. Giveaway ends May 7th. To learn more about show, check out

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