I was standing in my kitchen with a baby on my hip, and a toddler on the floor, making brownies, as I watched the Twin Towers fall. I felt sick. But that’s not the moment I decided to do this play.
I decided to do it once I realized that even my lone voice mattered. At least, it mattered to me.
It began many years earlier when I was watching coverage of the conflict in Serbo-Croatia. I couldn’t believe that after the tragedy of the Nazi Holocaust, the world could still tolerate ‘Ethnic Cleansing.’ What kind of madness does it take for a group of people to decide to slaughter one another?
I witnessed 9/11, Boco Haram, ISIL and the wars that followed; I experienced the barrage of seemingly endless media coverage on CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, CNBC, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and others, which created the perceived reality of a world constantly plagued by horrors.. I felt completely and utterly impotent. When 9/11 happened, I decided I had to do something, anything.
I began small, donating money or used clothing or shoes, helping at food banks. I said Yes to as many things as I could. None of these things had a direct link to 9/11 or the wars currently being waged in this world. It did not matter to me. I was learning that every small thing that I could add to the goodness of the world makes a difference. I was beginning to have faith in humanity again. I was walking toward my sanctuary. I was evolving.
I could not help but wonder about the feelings of other women and children, who were closer to the conflicts I watched unfold on television. It was the nagging feeling of, “That could be me” which compelled me to write Sanctuary. By the Grace of God, karma, or the luck of the draw, I ended up in the suburbs in the United States, with the luxury of worrying about such trivial things as my skin and what kind of car I drove. How did the women on the other side of the screen handle their day to day existence? What role did they play? Who were the men they loved? What happened to the soldiers who were their sons and husbands?
I created the play from the perspective of different women, in different plights, in different times throughout history, viewing the horrors of war, with the underlying premise that if we brought our feminine and masculine energies together, we could do better. Three main female characters emerged: a mother bombarded by endless television broadcasts of destruction and death, an emotionally detached war correspondent, and a prisoner of war who both longs for her mother and is desperate about being separated from her own children. All three characters are deeply affected by the brutality and senselessness of war. Each seeks Sanctuary from the violence , whether physical or emotional. And all of these characters are filtered through the lens of the 24 hour news cycle.
The message of Sanctuary is so important now because we are at a pivotal point in our society. Negative media images bombard us every day; after all, peace doesn’t seem to garner high ratings. The power of the media perpetuates fear and feelings of helplessness, polluting our thoughts and feelings. Conversely, whether we realize it or not, our own personal beliefs can ultimately effect what’s really going on in the world. It is our collective conscious evolution that has moved from historically glorifying war and violence to finding it abhorrent. This seemingly small shift has made the Western world a much more peaceful place to live.
Think about it; Would you really prefer to live in a different time or place? We are evolving.
If you take a look at a Professor Steven Pinker’s bestselling book “Better Angels of our Nature”, you will be surprised to learn that we are actually living in one of the most peaceful times in history. He statistically proves that through human evolution, the time we are living in now is actually the most peaceful time on the planet. This, according to Pinker, is due to the spread of government, literacy, trade, and cosmopolitanism. What is most important to me, however, is that Steven Pinker’s research shows that the status of women in different countries directly affects the state of peace in that country. Specifically, women with a voice can speak out and effect leadership, while women in repressed cultures cannot impact the level of violence in their countries.
However, as history has shown us, it is possible that we could escalate into another time of world chaos; (for example, the insidious rise of Nazism and Fascism after the “Great War” was termed the “War to end all Wars”.) My hope is to use my voice and ask others to pose the question, “How can we do better this time?”
I have learned so many things over the years as this play has evolved. Here are a few of them:
Don’t be afraid to speak up.
Start small, it will make you braver.
Be kind, at least it will make your world better.
Believe in the ripple effect.
Most important of all: never give up on the power of love. Begin with love and the answers will come.
Where I started is with compelling powerful theatre, because that’s what I do best. Where will you start? Come join me!
It’s all about evolution not revolution!
July 9 — Aug 2, 2015
Sanctuary at Atlas Performing Arts Center, Lab II
starting July 17
Capital Fringe 2015
1358-60 Florida Ave. NE
Washington, DC 20002
and other locations
Fringe details and Tickets
SUSANNE SULBY (Performer and Playwright) An established actor, designated Linklater voice instructor, dialect coach and voiceover artist, Ms. Sulby has performed for over 20 years. Favorite roles include Gertrude in Hamlet with Rev Theatre, Aunt Bobbie in American Sligo with New City Stage Company, Yelena in Black Russian with InterAct Theatre , Molly Bloom in A Dublin Bloom based on James Joyce’s Ulysses , directed by Gregory Doran of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Queen Elizabeth in Richard III with Novel Stages. Her first film role was playing opposite Billy Crudup in the 2000 award-winning Evenstar feature film, Jesus’ Son. Her film credits also include the recent feature film, Silver Linings Playbook (nominated for 8 Academy Awards) directed by David O. Russell, starring Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver. Susanne lives in Yardley, Pennsylvania with her husband and two teenage children.