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56. 8/14 From Aria Vasbinder (nee, Markijohn), Former Student

Updated: Aug 21

First and foremost I want to make one thing abundantly clear - this is not and NEVER has been a movement about one singular situation. This movement runs so much deeper than the past 8-12 months or a “smear campaign.” At least for me, involvement in speaking up comes from a place of true trauma that still affects me to this day.

I attended Stage Right! from 2005-2013 as a student until I fizzled out and integrated into my high school theater and chorus programs. At the time, I thought I was chasing a boyfriend or better chances at getting leads, but looking back as an adult I think I was running from the rampant mistreatment and unprofessionalism there.

In all honesty, it has taken me this long to come forward because most of my memories from this time seem to be trauma blocked and I can rarely recalls specific situations or arguments. It’s all one painful blur. One incident I do recall, but in no level of detail, was one day at summer camp in my preteen years. I and 4-5 other students were called upstairs privately with the Artistic Director. I couldn’t tell you what precipitated this event, what I or others may have done to deserve this, or even if it was warranted but I was 11 years old, a child. We were berated for what felt like hours to my child brain - again I don’t even remember why. Told repeatedly how horrible our attitudes were and how disappointing our behavior was. All I can really remember is crying so hard I almost threw up. I was 11 years old.

When trying to explain this story to people who weren’t there at the time, like my husband and coworkers, I can’t even find the words. I wasn’t always the subject of the outbursts, but every time they happened was another layer of trauma. My relationships with these people in authority have shaped the way I interact with authority figures even now. The constant fear of disappointment, retribution, or loud outbursts affects most of my relationships to this day. Being constantly left out, or pitted against my closest friends like some kind of game, affects my sense of worth and what I feel I deserve. Being a child basically raised in that environment was deeply traumatizing regardless of if I can articulate why or not. I wish more than anything that I could say more. More things come up with every therapy session, every bad behavior of mine somehow always traces back to my experience here. To this day I can’t bring myself to get back into the world of theater, no matter how much I may want to. It’s too painful.

My goal is not to dismantle this establishment - as others have stated. It’s not bullying, or a hate campaign. I’ve been silent for 8 years now and it feels incredibly empowering and freeing to finally speak my mind.

Believe survivors. I ask you to support us however you can, even if it’s just sharing our stories. Though I may be 250 miles away, and living a totally different life, I want to improve this organization for the future children to come and I hope sharing my story can help do that. Feel free to reach out to me at any time!

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