A Jamaican-American playwright is revisiting her dark past in a new stage play set to make its New York city premiere at the American Theater of Actors on Oct. 4-6. “The Wounded Soul” is a story based on Sheryl Hatwood’s life as a survivor of abuse and overcoming struggle. But even when she started writing the play several years ago — she encountered roadblocks because writing about her past required a lot of self-reflection that would take a few years to write.
“I created ‘The Wounded Soul’ as a basis of my life story because I wanted an audience to understand who I was as a person, but as I started to write the script I stopped because it’s really takes a lot to make yourself feel transparent,” she said.
When she premiered the show at her church in Westchester County, she said the initial version was so touching and unmistakably intense — it needed some revision for viewers.
“It was really raw that they asked me to tone it down,” said Hatwood. “This show is about understanding abuse and the psychology behind it.”
At a young age, an entrusted family friend molested Hatwood, and that occurrence was the start of a downward spiral. Soon after she became a teen mother, and entered a relationship with a partner who turned out to be violently abusive. Overtime she started to accept abuse as normal and faced her share of mental health disorders such as suicidal thoughts, drug abuse, and depression, according to Hatwood.
But while working on the project, she found it therapeutic because she was able to see her improvement, and feeling confident in her story to share it with others.
“I really pummelled from there, and it led me to negate values of myself and the path of wrong choices I was making,” she said. “In the show, I put my whole life in there and I’m naked — I’m free. And once that shame was gone, it helped me and encouraged me to do many other things and I couldn’t stop there.”
In her play, she revisits the life-changing situations in an autobiographical, and somewhat comedic show.
She said her faith and religious beliefs greatly influenced her journey towards self-recovery. And despite having an idyllic upbringing, she found herself aware of how anyone can become victim to abuse in spite of being raised differently.
“I grew up in a Christian home, which was totally opposite to what I knew,” she said. “Everyday is a continual health reassessment and thought process, and it was only then I began healing and restoring my faith, and realized that I deserved better.”
Hatwood said the show will resonate with a lot of people who either suffered abuse, or knows someone close to them who has.
“It speaks to an issue that a lot of people are silenced in and its embedded a lot in the black community because historically women are always viewed as weak,” she said. “It’s very necessary to understand the psychology of it, and I acknowledged mine and I also want some people to start addressing this so they can start to heal.”
“The Wounded Soul” at American Theater of Actors [314 W. 54th St. between Eighth and Ninth avenues in Hell’s Kitchen, (212) 581-3044, www.endle