Deborah Lake Fortson, the artistic director of THE BODY & SOLD PROJECT, has been making plays for twenty-five years. In 1994, she wrote The Yellow Dress, a play about abuse in a teenage dating relationship that results in the death of the girl involved. Since then, schools, colleges, and conferences all over the country have used The Yellow Dress, presented by Deana's Fund, as an educational tool to help young people identify situations where they may be in trouble. Over 350,000 young people have seen this play.
In 2000, Fortson formed Tempest Productions with two long-time theater collaborators, Meri Jenkins and Andrea Petersen, to create and produce works that would deal directly with cultural issues that affect women and girls. Fortson is no stranger to the life issues experienced by inner city youth. Tempest Productions is the non-profit sequel to Brookside Theater, a group established by Fortson and Magalie Neff to produce Dream Action Youth Theater. This multi-lingual group from diverse communities in Boston wrote and performed its own plays from 1994-96. They collaborated with the Boston Teen Theater Network, and were supported by the Haymarket Peoples' Fund and the Mayor's Safe Neighborhoods fund.
In 2002 Fortson saw an exhibition assembled by Myrna Balk, Boston artist and social worker, about girls in Nepal who had been trafficked into prostitution. Fortson traveled to India to hear those girls’ stories firsthand. She visited shelters that rescue girls who have been sold into prostitution against their wills. These nongovernmental organizations house the girls and train them in reading, micro-banking, and marketable skills such as hairdressing and printing cloth.
Back in Boston, she formed a multicultural ensemble to create the theater piece, BODY and SOLD: Southeast Asia, telling two real-life stories, one from Nepal and one from India. Lured by false promises, two girls are abducted to Bombay and sold to a brothel.
Boston activist Carol Gomez saw Part I and told Fortson that American teens are also being kidnapped or seduced and held in prostitution. This conversation inspired Fortson’s research in the United States. BODY & SOLD USA was the result. The script is based on interviews with survivors in Boston, Hartford, New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles.
In 2005, Deborah Lake Fortson conducted interviews in five cities with young American survivors of sex trafficking. She wrote the play BODY & SOLD based on eight of these stories. With Tempest Productions, Fortson produced and directed the play at Roxbury Community College and ROCA in Chelsea, collaborating with the Department of Social Services, Boston, Belina Mizrahi, Olinca Briceno, Risa Mednick, and Latifah Hassan from Dimock Community Health Center.
From 2007-2014, BODY & SOLD was presented in over thirty American cities, London, and Japan.
Discussion with community leaders follows each performance.