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Taboo Topic Of Domestic Violence To Be Center Stage At San Diego Library Performance

A poster for

Photo by Tarryn Mento

Above: A poster for "The Fire In Me" play is shown, March 5, 2019.

The pivotal scene in a play about domestic violence portrays the lead character grappling with the trauma of her past abuse. Cast members chase actress Reanne Acasio with funhouse-style mirrors that distort her reflection and block her from escaping a room. "You did this! You knew!" they shout, blaming her for the violence her character endured.

Acasio said the effect is intense.

"They just keep repeating those lines culminating in, 'It’s all your fault. It’s all your fault,'" she said.

The sequence in "The Fire In Me" depicts the inner voice of a domestic violence victim. The production is based on experiences of local survivors and aims to raise awareness around the physical, sexual and emotional abuse by an intimate partner.

Playwright Thelma Virata de Castro said it gives attention to a subject that often stays hidden.

"If we don’t talk about it, then nothing’s going to change," de Castro said.

The play, including its title, is inspired by de Castro's interviews with abuse survivors from San Diego's Filipino community. De Castro connected with them through a women's empowerment workshop organized by Access Inc., a nonprofit that helps immigrant abuse victims, including those in San Diego's City Heights neighborhood.

However, de Castro said abuse and violence by a significant other is not limited to one cultural group.

"I was concerned about giving that impression, and my answer is: domestic violence is in every community, and we all need to address it," de Castro said.

The live performance is a step toward that, but de Castro warned it can be overwhelming for audiences. She encouraged attendees to take breaks, like at a recent showing at the Skyline Hills Branch Library.

"I saw people at the performance doing that, taking breaks, going outside when it was too much and I saw someone come right back in and get a hug from the person next to them," she said.

The next performance including a panel discussion is March 10 at the San Diego Central Public Library. It’s not recommended for those under 18, but those who are at least 16 years old can contact the production organizers or the library for approval to attend.

A third performance is scheduled for March 16 at the Scripps Mirimar Ranch Library. The play is supported by grants from California Humanities and the San Diego Foundation.

"The Fire In Me" tells the story of a domestic violence victim and is based on real experiences from members of San Diego’s Filipino community.

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