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News Herald on “Princess Cut” at the Lyric Theatre in Loudon

“When Kerri Koczen and Danielle Roos of Knoxville first met a victim of human trafficking … they were compelled to join the fight and raise awareness about the crime.” – Jeremy Styron, News-Herald

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Human trafficking focus

Posted: Tuesday, September 9, 2014 10:49 am

By Jeremy Styron jeremy.styron@news-herald.net

When Kerri Koczen and Danielle Roos of Knoxville first met a victim of human trafficking and learned that some of the worst offenses on earth are taking place in East Tennessee, they were compelled to join the fight and raise awareness about the crime.

The pair subsequently formed the Yellow Rose Productions theater company with the goal of producing “thought-provoking work that promotes empathy that gets the audience talking and not just something that they go, ‘Oh, it’s a nice evening,’ and then they just never think of it again,” Koczen said during a Loudon County Interagency meeting this past week.

Koczen, Roos and co-writer Kelsey Broyles created “Princess Cut,” a play to tell the story of “Sarah,” the fictitious name of the young woman they met in west Knoxville. Sarah, now in her 20s, was a victim of human trafficking between the ages of 5 and 13.

“I know that when I first heard about sex trafficking, I was thinking it only happened in Southeast Asia … but since learning more about this project, talking with this young woman I realized that it’s very, very close to home, and more so than I ever thought it would be,” Koczen said. “It’s scary, but that’s a big reason why we decided to use her story in a way that could enlighten and tell other people about this issue.”

Roos and Koczen debuted the play in May in Knoxville, and the production company plans to bring the play to the city of Loudon. The play will be shown at 8 p.m. Oct. 3-4 at the Lyric Theatre.

Sarah grew up in west Knoxville in a middle class family, Roos said. When she was 5 years old, an older cousin babysitter molested and raped her with a couple friends, and the abuse continued to happen over the next year. Sarah was later brought into what is known as a “real estate ring,” in which a local Realtor partners with criminals to secure a house to conduct the illegal activity.

“It wasn’t a ring where she was physically kidnapped and taken for long periods of time,” Roos said. “It was something that she was taken by a family member, her cousin, to a house that was specifically open for this kind of activity.”

The girl was subjected to this type of abuse 100s of times up until she was 13 years old, Roos said.

“She was a normal girl going to school, going to church,” Roos said. “Her family was part of the community, and then on the other side she was living this very secret life and really her cousin was the only person who knew about it.”

The first half of the play will tell Sarah’s story as a victim of human trafficking, while the second part will feature a question and answer session with a panel of experts, including Jerry Redman, chief executive officer of Second Life Chattanooga, an organization that raises awareness about human trafficking and serves as a liaison between governmental and law enforcement agencies in the state.

“We thought it was very important to not leave the audience with this sense of just hopelessness after the show, so we decided that a panel discussion would not only be great but also integral to our project,” Koczen said. “So, we don’t call it a post-show discussion. We actually include it in the program.”

Kimberly Girbert, who serves on the Crisis Center for Women-Immediate Vital Assistance Services board of directors, said Loudon County residents should be aware that human trafficking is happening in East Tennessee.

“I think it’s one of those dirty little secrets like child abuse and spousal abuse,” Girbert said. “We all want to duck our heads in the sand and say it doesn’t happen here, it doesn’t happen in my town, but it is. It is happening.”

Tickets to the play cost $15, with proceeds going toward IVAS.

“This is beautiful play about a very ugly topic that none of us want to deal with,” Robert Harrison, with the Lyric Theatre Company, said.

Nick Coker, with Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Loudon, said he became interested in raising awareness about human trafficking after speaking with Harrison about the play and the crime. Coker said he thought the church has a role to play in raising awareness about the problem.

“It was just like a lightning bolt to us,” Coker said. “We as a church can no longer continue to ignore what’s happening.”

For more information on the play, call 865-458-9020 or email yellowroseproductions@gmail.com.

View the News-Herald article here: http://www.news-herald.net/entertainment/human-trafficking-focus/article_8178b368-3830-11e4-acd0-001a4bcf887a.html 

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