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Five plays to read for National Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Photo by Roma Kaiuk/Unsplash

In recognition of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day today and National Human Trafficking Prevention Month in January, the School of Dramatic Arts asked Associate Professor of Theatre Practice and playwright Paula Cizmar to share five plays that shed light on this issue.

Cizmar is an award-winning playwright and librettist, whose many works are concerned with the way stories get told in a culture and who gets left out of the discussion. Her plays have focused on the human story, looking at rights, class and diversity issues. The play Seven, which she wrote alongside six women playwrights, is one of the major plays focused on the issue of human trafficking — with more than 22 translations and produced in 30-plus countries.

Cizmar is also a member of the advisory board for SDA’s Institute for Theatre & Social Change; and is involved in a number of theatre actions, including Warrior Bards: Veterans Exploring Ancient Drama, Protest Plays Project and Climate Change Theatre Action.


by Paula Cizmar, Catherine Filloux, Gail Kriegel, Carol K. Mack, Ruth Margraff, Anna Deavere Smith, and Susan Yankowitz

A documentary play that is a collaboration of seven award-winning women playwrights. Seven is based on personal interviews with female human rights leaders who have worked to end human trafficking and violence towards women around the globe — often risking their lives in the process. In the seven interwoven stories we see the commonality of bravery, persistence, and enduring hope.


by Lynn Nottage

In a bar in a small mining town in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madame Nadi oversees a group of women who deliver more than whiskey and food, i.e., circumstances have forced them to sell their sexual services to miners and to soldiers on all sides of the civil war.

Note from Cizmar: Ruined … isn’t about human trafficking as we narrowly tend to think of it in the U.S. — but it really is about trafficking when you consider that women who are left with no options but sex work are really trafficking victims.

Safe Harbor

by Tira Palmquist

A look into the tangled web of underground sex trafficking through the eyes of the victims, the survivors, and the people who love them the most. Two teenage girls find themselves victimized by traffickers — and just want to find a way home, a safe harbor. But their dream isn’t as easy to achieve as it seems. This was the first play in Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble’s Cycle of Violence commission series, which was directed by SDA Professor Anita Dashiell Sparks.

Project Dawn

by Karen Hartman

Philadelphia is home to a revolutionary — and shockingly funny — treatment court for prostitute women. In Project Dawn, seven actresses double as staff members and court participants, probing the thin lines between freedom and slavery, activism and obsession — on both sides of the law.


by Saviana Stanescu

A play that uses dark humor to look into human trafficking, organ trafficking, and the nightmare of contemporary life as a morally challenged couple bring a young man to the U.S. in order to harvest his kidney.

Do you have a play you would like to suggest for our community to read during National Human Trafficking Prevention Month? Share it with us at