The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts September 30, 2005

Step inside: play takes viewers behind actions
From the Inside: (left to right) Seniors Maggie Keenan-Bolger, Marielle Solan and Diona Reasonover give viewers insight into self-mutilation. Personal experience and interviews were the basis of the play. 

There are always going to be things that people do not want to hear about. Eating disorders have parents running for the hills. Oral sex has conservative old folks turning down the volume on their hearing aids. Drugs make your sweet mama cry. And then there is self-mutilation, perhaps the most disturbing of all.

With touchy issues such as these, it takes a bold person to bring them up and force people to confront them. Senior Maggie Keenan-Bolger is pioneering an effort to spread awareness about self-mutilation, an issue she believes has been largely ignored.

“The act of self-injury is so surrounded in shame and secrecy that the topic is not often discussed in our society. Because of this silence, there are many misconceptions regarding self-injury and people who self-injure,” she said.

A theater and gender and women’s studies major, Keenan-Bolger has turned to theater as a venue for opening up the dialogue on self-mutilation and educating students about the issue, stripped of all its myths and misconceptions.

Last semester, she interviewed 26 men and women, ages 16-26, about their struggles with self-mutilation. From those interviews, she wrote the play From the Inside, Out, using their experiences and her own, as well as hard facts about the issue. It is written in the same thread as works such as The Laramie Project and The Vagina Monologues.

Some people wonder how Keenan-Bolger was able to find willing people to interview for her project. It is usually assumed that victims of self-mutilation want to keep their practice private and their identities hidden. While this may be true for many, Keenan-Bolger was clearly able to find willing participants.

“I did quite a few things to try to find self-injurers and friends of self-injurers. I sent out an email to pretty much everyone I knew...I posted on Facebook, Friendster and LiveJournal, and last semester I postered the campus with signs looking for interviewees.

The posters drew a pretty amazing response; within two days ten people wrote me emails saying they would like to be interviewed,” Keenan-Bolger said.

But the people who came forward with their experiences were not the only brave ones involved in From the Inside, Out. Keenan-Bolger is a former self-injurer herself. In her play, she bares her soul, so to speak, basing some of the scenes on her own struggles with self-mutilation and the process of coming to terms with that part of her past.

“It’s scary, because... I’m really putting myself out there. I’m telling an entire audience of people four nights in a row, things I didn’t even talk to my closest friend about for four years,” Keenan-Bolger said.

Keeenan-Bolger described what inspired her to take action.

“I worked for a camp... for three summers...While I was working there, I noticed a trend among my teenage campers. A lot of them had the same chunky bracelets that I had worn and they were wearing long sleeves in the middle of the summer, all to cover up cuts on their wrists and arms...I figured I should find some way to open up discussion and dialogue about the subject.”

From the Inside, Out will run from Oct. 6-9 at 8 p.m. in the Little Theater.

It is a performance to which all people can relate, even if they have not personally encountered self-mutilation.

It is an opportunity to become educated about self-mutilation and to spread awareness about the issue to others.

She said, “To anyone who doesn’t think self-injury has affected them, chances are at some point in your life it will, and the more you know about it now, the easier it will be when it comes up.”

This play can give audiences the tools they need to deal with these difficult circumstances.


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