The Shot Review – The Complex Emotional Maze that is Domestic Violence

The Shot Poster courtesy of Skylight Theatre
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Skylight Theatre Company opens its 2021 season with THE SHOT. First developed at the Ojai Playwrights Conference in 2017, THE SHOT was inspired by author Robin Gerber’s book, “Katharine Graham, The Leadership Journey of an American Icon.” When activist attorney Robin Gerber decided to supplement her book with information from multiple interviews with survivors of domestic violence, the script for THE SHOT was born. A work of fiction, THE SHOT is based on some very personal stories by Katherine Graham and others. The video presentation was produced by SPARK Theatricals and is a joint project of Skylight Theatre and Violence Intervention Program, founded to protect and treat all victims of family violence and sexual assault.

Upper left: Vickie Scott, Sharon Lawrence, Teri Ball; upper right: Michelle Joyner (director); lower left: Robin Gerber (playwright); lower right: Laurie Bernhard (producer)

Tall, dark, and handsome didn’t begin to describe Philip Graham, the brilliant, charming intellectual who epitomized all of gentle Katherine’s dreams rolled into one. To catch his eye was unbelievable, and to finally become his wife was a miracle. Although Katherine Graham was raised in the lap of luxury and offered every advantage by her wealthy, successful father, she still felt that she wasn’t quite good enough to merit genuine love. As she grew older, she dreamed of an exciting career as a journalist – especially after witnessing the 1937 Striker Massacre and seeing how a major newspaper encouraged sympathy for the violent perpetrators rather than for the victims. She vowed that truth must always supersede other considerations when reporting the news. Then her post-college plans were derailed when she found herself deeply in love and trading her modern persona for a very traditional role as “the good wife and mother.”

Photo courtesy of Skylight Theatre

Four children later, she began to notice subtle – and then not so subtle changes in her husband, whose moods began to fluctuate wildly as he gradually became more and more abusive, both physically and emotionally. Even if he pointed shotguns at her and began to secrete handguns all over the house, she could never leave. After all, she loved him; and he was her world – even if that world shrunk noticeably depending on Phil’s mood and level of displeasure and her profound need for his approval. And so the cyclical pattern of domestic violence and abuse was formed and took root.

Sharon Lawrence in rehearsal – Photo courtesy of Skylight Theatre

THE SHOT is a fascinating compilation of domestic violence survivors’ experiences and motivations while touching upon the effects of mental illness in the family. It is also a very intimate and personal story of one survivor’s ability to overcome the cycle and free herself to become the publisher of the Washington Post and the first female CEO in a Fortune 500 company – receiving the Pulitzer Prize for the Pentagon Papers and uncovering the Watergate scandal which led to the resignation of a U.S. President. Solo performer Sharon Lawrence does a superb job of enacting Katherine Graham. A master of subtle changes in expression whose eyes tell everything, Lawrence seems to become Katherine Graham in all her fears, doubts, and successes. But THE SHOT is not so much about Katherine’s accomplishment as it is about her personal life. Kudos also to director Michelle Joyner, who manages to let the audience share in every ambivalent moment in Katherine’s life. Skylight Theatre and Violence Intervention Program have done an excellent job of converting cognitive concepts into real life events.

THE SHOT premiered at 5 p.m. (PDT) on Saturday, April 24, 2021. The performance is a fund-raiser for Skylight Theatre and the Violence Intervention Program. As such, donations are gratefully accepted. After the 5 p.m. performance, there will be a live Q&A with the people instrumental in putting together the production. On demand viewing of the performance and the Q&A will be available through Sunday, May 2, 2021. For information and reservations, go online.

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