David Perez-Ribada, left, and Michael Stewart Allen in "Stalking the Bogeyman," the opening of the 2017 Stage III series at Florida Studio Theatre. Matthew Holler photo/FST

“Edgy Theatre” returns to Stage III at FST

Florida Studio Theatre caused a stir in 2005 when it launched a new series of productions meant to be a little more challenging than the typical sparkles and sunshine seen in the mainstage and cabaret.

They’ve played on and off for a few years with shows such as “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “The Exonerated,” “Occupant” and “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” among others.

This month, Stage III is returning with a new season of three shows, beginning with “Stalking the Bogeyman,” running Jan. 4-Jan. 20.

The theme of the stage is to “take the audiences to the edge,” but not to push them over.

It’s a difficult balancing act on the line between exploration and exploitation of a heavy topic: the sexual assault of a child.

“Stalking the Bogeyman” is a powerful and true personal story about how journalist David Holthouse, at age 7, was brutally raped by a neighbor boy he thought was a friend. The play follows Holthouse’s recovery and spans 25 years as Holthouse deals with his trauma and pursues revenge.

The original magazine article was published in 2004 in the Denver weekly newspaper Westword. You may have heard of it when Holthouse read it on the public radio podcast “This American Life.”

David Perez-Ribada approached his role (Holthouse) as an especially heavy fictionalized character, with “the added responsibility that this is real.” Allen deliberately is making his character (the Bogeyman) “just like everybody else.”

“Nobody ever thinks of themselves as the Bogeyman,” Allen said. “ One important thing the play talks about is that he’s a camouflaged predator. He blends into the crowd; you would never suspect this guy to have done this horrible thing. I think it’s scarier if the audience views him as more human — it’s more effective than playing him like a twirly mustache kind of guy.”

The play’s director, Jason Cannon,  recognized that statistically speaking, there will be other survivors of sexual assault in the audience.

But, statistically, there will be molesters and rapists there, too.

The topic of the show is so dark that Cannon said it has rarely been produced since its premiere in 2013 and its off-Broadway debut in 2014. He has faith that word of mouth and a subconscious craving for edgy theater will bring audiences to the show.

He also hopes that “Stalking the Bogeyman” can help open up conversation about child rape and encourage victims to come forward with their stories.

“If we can provoke other people to take the baton and run with it, great,” he said. “We don’t have to fix it, we just have to make sure people have the light shone on them. We are bringing the audience to the edge of the line, but we’re not going to push you over. Otherwise the message and themes — and hopefully change in the community — would be lost.”

Find out more about the Stage III season here.

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